The Skiing Doctor: Ben Ward
Posted on 24 August 2017
Orthopedic surgeon moves to Flathead Valley to pursue outdoors
By JEANNE TALLMAN
Love of skiing and medicine are the two major factors that brought Dr. Benjamin Ward and his family to Whitefish, Montana.
Born in Denver, Colorado and growing up in Park City, Utah, Ward discovered his love for skiing as a toddler. His decision to practice medicine came much later when he was midway through undergraduate school at Dartmouth College when he realized there was a way to combine both of his passions. His stint as a Dartmouth ski patrolman helped him make this decision. He also took a semester off in 2002 to volunteer at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
After his graduation in 2007 from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, Ward isn’t ashamed to admit that he chose an orthopedic fellowship at Taos, New Mexico Orthopedic Institute for the skiing. This decision followed an internship in general surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medial Center in Boston and his orthopedic surgery residency in the Harvard Combined Residency Program. The fellowship at Taos gave him an opportunity that he just couldn’t pass up: combining his lifelong love of skiing with his desire to help others, many of whom loved skiing just as much as he did.
Ward’s fellowship director in Taos was the one who encouraged him to enter the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s physician pool. After completing training at Beaver Creek in Colorado, Ward was added to the pool and now looks forward to volunteering with ski teams in different locations every year.
This dream was realized recently when he worked with the U.S. Women’s Alpine Ski Team in Austria as they competed in the Europa Cup, a competitive circuit just one step down from the World Cup. He spent a week with the downhill skiers in Spital am Pyhrn in the Austrian Alps, monitoring the athlete’s health and was on hand to respond to any traumas that might occur. Fortunately, none did, but it marked the beginning of his dream to work with Olympic teams.
The ultimate gig would be to travel with the U.S. Team during the winter Olympics, but he admits that he’s pretty low in the selection pool. “Maybe in about twenty years,” he says.
Today Dr. Ward splits his professional time between Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC) in Kalispell, Montana, and North Valley Hospital (NVH) in Whitefish. He sees patients at clinics in both towns. Although he specializes in sports medicine, he takes call and does pediatric care in conjunction with a pediatric surgeon who comes to the area once a month.
Ward’s years of training, including his time as an orthopedic staff surgeon at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, have provided him with extensive knowledge and experience in state-of-the-art treatment of sports injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus tears of the knee, and rotator cuff and labial tears of the shoulder. He also has extensive training in general orthopedics treating musculoskeletal trauma, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Athletes who participate in high demand sports like soccer, football, basketball and skiing are more likely to injure their ACL. Dr. Ward will advise proper treatment depending on the severity of the injury and the activity level of the patient. Whether treatment involves surgery or not, rehabilitation plays a vital role in getting you back to your daily activities. A physical therapy program will help you regain knee strength and motion.
After surgery, physical therapy focuses on returning motion to the joint and surrounding muscles. This is followed by a strengthening program designed to protect the new ligament. The final phase of rehabilitation aims at a functional return tailored for the athlete’s sport.
“I enjoy taking care of motivated athletes and getting them back to their sport or activity,” Ward says. “Helping people recover and get back to whatever they love doing is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. Most of my patients are over fifty and want to keep active for their skiing, hiking or biking trips around the world.”
In his free time in Whitefish, Ward enjoys alpine and telemark skiing, biking, photography and backpacking with his family. He looks forward to a long future treating competitive skiers and he might have an even greater stake in a future generation of U.S. women skiers if he has his way. His three year old daughter already loves to ski. He and his wife Katherine also have twin baby girls who will hit the slopes of Big Mountain when they are toddlers – just like their dad. “Hopefully we can get them on the team,” he jokes.
Dr Benjamin Ward can be contacted at Northwest Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Clinics in Kalispell (406-752-6784) or Whitefish (406-863-9340). Everyone in their group is a General Orthopedic Surgeon but all have sub-specialties. They refer to each other.