Andrew Chen ’97 didn’t initially plan on becoming an orthopaedic surgeon, let alone one that specializes in treating professional skiers.
But after earning his medical degree at Johns Hopkins, he decided to pursue a fellowship in sports medicine in Vail, Colorado — the unofficial skiing capital of the United States. There, he worked with Richard Steadman, one of the world’s foremost orthopaedic surgeons at the time, and Richard Hawkins, a giant in the field of shoulder injuries.
Many prospective and current U.S. Olympic ski team members train and undergo medical procedures at the Steadman Clinic (formerly the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic). “That’s where I got interested in working with elite skiers,” says Chen, who since 2020 has been the chief medical officer for USA Nordic, an organization overseeing Nordic combined and ski jumping athletes.
Chen’s fellowship gave him significant training and experience in treating common ski-related surgeries — rotator cuff problems, shoulder instability, ACL reconstruction — and introduced him to the importance of the work.
“The Olympic movement is the purest form of sport,” he says. “Olympians do it for the glory of the sport and take it to the highest level for the knowledge that at some point in their lives, they were the best in the entire world.”
Chen would go on to work with many professional and Olympic skiers, as a team physician for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, head team physician for the U.S. Ski Jump Team from 2008 to 2020, and as a member of the United States Olympic Committee during the Vancouver (2010), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022) Olympics.
He says he became interested in medicine as an undergraduate when he collaborated with Johns Hopkins orthopaedic surgeon David Hungerford on developing a laser-based quality control system for the manufacturing process of hip replacements. Their project was eventually purchased by a major manufacturer. “It was an almost existential moment where I thought, ‘I can actually have some impact on this world,’” he says.
In recent years, especially with USA Nordic, Chen says his work has evolved. During the pandemic, for example, he turned to policymaking, contributing to what organizational measures should be put in place to keep skiers healthy and safe.
Currently he is leading the charge to establish nationwide medical safety standards for ski disciplines at the club (development) level. “By protecting our young athletes, their home hills and clubs, I know that despite the fact that the vast majority will never make it to the elite level, we are promoting their safe participation and the future of Team USA for generations to come,” he says.