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Extreme Care and Humor Helped Dr. Mike Uihlein Receive the Dr. Alan Ashare Excellence in Safety Award

By Tom Robinson, 06/06/24, 12:15PM MDT


Dr. Uihlein has worked with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team since 2013.

Dr. Mike Uihlein seemed so nice that it almost seemed like Dr. Uihlein was playing a character when they were first getting to know each other, Dan Brennan, the general manager of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team recalled. 

“I thought he was like Eddie Haskell when I first met him,” said Brennan. “I had never been around someone so caring and so polite in my life. I thought it was an act."

“What was so funny is I told him just to relax and be himself, he doesn’t have to impress anybody, he’s got the job (to be our team doctor). He said, ‘This is myself and I hope that’s OK.’”

It has been just fine with Brennan as he has appreciated Dr. Uihlein’s kindness while working with USA Hockey’s sled national teams since 2013.

Being able to mix a fun approach into the serious nature of his job is part of what makes Uihlein seem to Brennan as an appropriate choice to be the first person to receive what is now known as the Dr. Alan Ashare Excellence in Safety Award.

The award existed previously, but was renamed following the July 2023 death of Ashare, the Massachusetts native who served as chair of the USA Hockey Safety and Protective Equipment Committee for 25 seasons and was responsible for the creation of the USA Hockey Heads Up, Don’t Duck program in an effort to prevent head and spinal cord injuries. 

“It’s hard to talk about this award without thinking about Dr. Ashare,” Brennan said. “He truly was a wonderful person. And Dr. Uihlein follows a lot of his traits.”

Dr. Uihlein is the associate chief of emergency medicine for education and co-director of the adaptive sports medicine clinic at the Clement J. ZablockiVA Medical Center in Milwaukee. He also serves as an assistant professor in the department of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The knowledge of emergency medical care and experience working with veterans combine well for Dr. Uihlein’s role with USA Hockey, but Brennan says there is much more to making him a good fit for the position.

“He’s extremely caring,” Brennan said. “He’s fun to be around, but also very serious and caring when it comes to any of our players’ injuries or medical concerns.”

That has helped Dr. Uihlein become someone with whom players are comfortable dealing with for their medical needs.

“His role is no different than a coach’s at times in that the players don’t need to know how much you know until they understand how much you care,” Brennan said. “I know that’s an old cliché, but that’s very true when it comes to Doc Uihlein.

“That’s where it starts. He’s obviously a great professional doctor, but it’s the caring side and the going the extra mile to make sure everything’s good with our team.”

Brennan said Dr. Uihlein’s medical observations can be helpful with many people, but that “he has really found his niche in helping people with disabilities.”

There are unique challenges to that task.

“The thing that’s interesting about our guys is that now that they’ve been through individual trauma — whether it’s surviving cancer or being blown up in war — he understands all of them and he provides an environment where they’re all equal and they feel like they can go to him with their medical needs,” Brennan said.

An important component to that treatment is helping disabled athletes deal with significant pain issues, keeping them as pain-free as possible while also keeping them safe and in compliance with competitive standards.

“He just has that ‘it’ factor,” Brennan said. “He knows when to jump in and help players and he knows how to make sure they know they are in a safe place.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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