Dr. Keith Pitchford, Founder and CEO of Great Lakes Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, had a patient with an unusual problem.
While treating the coach of a local fencing club for a pulled ACL, Dr. Pitchford listened as his patient described his struggle to keep the burgeoning Merrillville Fencing Club afloat. The sponsoring Merrillville Park District could only provide space during the school year, and the lack of organized summer practice sessions made it hard to maintain interest.
Seeing an opportunity to benefit his community, the orthopedic surgeon offered a solution.
"We told him he could use our therapy center in Crown Point so that they didn't have to worry about fencing in the summertime in his driveway," Dr. Pitchford said.
That was 15 years ago. Since then, the renamed Northwest Indiana Fencing Club has taken up permanent residence in the basement of the Great Lakes’ St. John office. Club membership swelled from 12 to over 50, and then later expanded into new fencing programs at regional schools.
"It's all about the health of the community— getting kids out, getting them moving, and supporting a sport that parents and kids can do together," Dr. Pitchford said, explaining his generosity. “What better way to do that than have community sporting activities?"
In addition to donating space to local causes, the doctor is generous with his time and his expertise. He and his team work tirelessly with local schools, supporting players on and off of the field and even before they hit the field.
Several high school football teams around the region— Crown Point, Lowell, Merrillville, Boone Grove, and Lake Central, to name a few— have played under his caring, watchful eye over the years. Lake Central in particular has benefitted from his expertise for the last 15 to 16 years.
"We're always on the sidelines for every home football game and all of the travel playoff games," Dr. Pitchford said.
One night a year at several regional high schools, he offers student sports physicals for a reduced price. These events help ease the financial burden of participation for families, especially those with several active children. They also eliminate the risk of lost paperwork, because the forms are filed with the school as soon as they are signed.
"The whole goal of what we do is to try to keep kids active in sports," he said.
Moreover, the physicals serve as athletic department fundraisers. Dr. Pitchford and his team volunteer their time, so all the proceeds they generate stay with the school.
"We always donate fees back to the schools and think of it as a community service," he explained. “Sometimes there will be more than 100 kids that come through in an evening, raising $3,000 - $4,000 dollars of ready cash that goes directly to the athletic program."
Equally important to Dr. Pitchford is his dedication to strengthening the regional medical community. Through Associate Professorships at Midwestern University, Marion University, and Indiana University Northwest, he oversees month-long surgical rotations for medical students as part of his private practice.
"We offer the students a seat at the table," he said. "When they're with us, they're standing right next to me. They're holding retractors. I'm quizzing them about anatomy. They get a hands-on chance to participate.”
"It makes the learning come alive for them,” Dr. Pitchford continued. “It's more engaging for them, and hopefully more motivational, because there's a lot to learn."
Rather than approaching his teaching as a one-way instruction process, he considers it an opportunity to collaborate with future colleagues.
"It's very rewarding,” he said. “I get more out of the students, I think, than I give them. They keep me grounded, which is important. You have to stay current and fresh."
For him, practicing medicine has always been as much about the holistic impacts of a healthy, active society as it is about repairing individual bodies.
"My goal is to really work with our community and help people participate at whatever level they can," Dr. Pitchford said.
To learn more about Great Lakes Orthopedics & Sports Medicine’s history of community involvement and their dedicated staff, please visit www.glorthopedics.com. Appointments with Dr. Keith Pitchford and his team can be scheduled by calling (219)-365-0220.