Their paths may not have crossed during their collegiate days, but Tom Rice ’82, Josh Takagishi ’98, Amanda Weinmann ’07 and a host of others share a common bond—or two.
Not only were they successful athletes during their time at Saint Mary’s, but they also excelled in the classroom and beyond.
Rice, a four-year letterwinner and two-time team captain for the Cardinal men’s hockey team, used his Saint Mary’s education to springboard him into a career as a renowned ophthalmologist.
Takagishi, like Rice, was a standout on the ice, playing four years for the Cardinal men’s hockey team, and is currently a private practice pediatrician in Lansing, Mich., who also works part-time at Michigan State Sports Medicine.
Weinmann, a three-time All-American and conference champion in the shot put, went on to become an assistant professor for the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and a family practice physician.
A large percentage of Saint Mary’s alumni athletes have gone on to medical school, begging the question: What are the links between athletics and medicine?
Alumni say the two aspirations are one and the same. In college, they pushed hard to become better athletes, and now they feel the same drive to be better doctors.
There’s no doubt that whether practicing a slap shot or practicing medicine, it’s all about skill, concentration, drive, and determination. It’s about knowing you and your team are working toward a common goal. It’s about overcoming obstacles, one hurdle at a time.
They’ll tell you that the skills they learned on the ice, in the water, on the field, in the trails, and on the courts have been vital in their careers as medical professionals.
Dr. Amanda Weinmann ’07
Dr. Amanda Weinmann was an all-star track and field athlete, garnering all-American and All-Conference honors; Outstanding Scholar-Athlete and Outstanding Athlete titles; and setting records in shot put and weight throw.
She also was a Bio Physics and Physics Engineering major who found her path at Saint Mary’s.
“I liked physics in high school and decided to get my basic science requirement out of the way and sign up for intro to physics. One night Brother Jerome Rademacher asked me if what we were learning was what I had already learned in high school. He proposed I test out of it and then put me into modern physics with professor Matt Vonk. He was a charismatic guy. You couldn’t take that class and not fall in love with physics.”
Dr. Weinmann went on to the medical school at the University of Minnesota and is currently an assistant professor for the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and a family practice physician in St. Paul.
“Through the U of M, I have two different roles. One of them is to teach med students and residents and another part is working at the University of Minnesota’s physicians clinic in St. Paul,” she said. It’s the variety of her job she enjoys most. “Every day I’m doing something different, sometimes teaching, sometimes doing research, sometimes doing patient care.”
Dr. Weinmann made the connection between physics and medicine through another Saint Mary’s physics professor, Paul Nienaber, SJ, Ph.D.
Father Nienaber, she explained, introduced her to work being done at Fermilab, where neutron therapy was (and is) being used as an effective form of radiation therapy with cancer patients. “I had been looking to go into research, but I went the medical route to be able to work with people more,” she said.
Dr. Weinmann remembers that at least two other student-athletes from her class also went to the University of Minnesota for medical school. There’s no doubt in her mind that athletics and medicine are related. “Maybe it’s just that drive to push yourself,” she said. “But something definitely overlaps.”
She sees many connections between the two areas, particularly in regard to her sport of track and field. “In track, you never win,” she said. “You’re always up against 40-50 people. You get used to losing, but your goal is to do the best you can for yourself and not compete against the others. When you get in med school, you have to have that same mindset of being the best doctor you can be and not try to be THE best.”
Additionally, she said, participating in track taught her the importance of accountability. “That’s why track is unique,” she said. “You don’t have any other teammates to bail you out if you’re having a bad day. You have to hold yourself accountable. You’re going against the clock or the tape measure, which ultimately holds you accountable if you don’t put in the work. Were you fast enough? Did you jump high enough? Did you throw far enough? It’s hard to cover up lapses in accountability in the track world.”
In the end, Dr. Weinmann advises current athletes who may follow this path that even though everyone wants to do well at their sports, it’s the other components— teamwork, communication skills, and motivation—that ultimately will serve you better in medicine. “I do lots of interviews for the residency here, and I look at a lot of résumés, and the awards aren’t the pieces that stand out,” she said. “It’s important that they did it and built these skills, not necessarily how well they did it.”
Dr. Josh Takagishi ’98
Dr. Takagishi—a private practice pediatrician in Lansing, Mich., who also works part-time at Michigan State University Sports Medicine—said he came to Saint Mary’s because he wanted to combine athletics and academics.
A lifelong hockey player, he was offered a chance to play Division III hockey at Saint Mary’s while earning his undergraduate biology degree. He also played a couple years of Cardinal baseball.
Dr. Takagishi said he knew, even back then, he’d be going to medical school, potentially following in his father’s footsteps as a pediatrician. “I got to see his passion for the field,” he said. “And I really loved the science fields, both in high school and in college. In medical school, I got the chance to check out different specialties, and pediatrics was a perfect fit,” he said.
After obtaining his medical degree at Loyola University of Chicago, Dr. Takagishi received a fellowship in sports medicine. He admits it’s “a little bit of an unusual thing” to practice both fields but he finds both very rewarding.
“In sports medicine, I’ll treat a kid’s injury and follow it until it is healed, but I may never see them again in my life. It’s nice to be able to fix them and heal them, but the nice thing about pediatrics is the continuity. You start working with babies and see them through adulthood. I haven’t experienced this yet, but as you go along, you start seeing their kids. It’s really rewarding to be able to see them grow and get bigger and become adults. Certainly that is the biggest aspect of my job that is the most rewarding—to build such good relationships with these families.”
Dr. Takagishi continues to play hockey and sees many similarities between athletics and medicine, beginning with the need for teamwork.
“You’ve got to work with a big team of nurses, other physicians, and other medical professionals, so teamwork is a huge part of both medicine and sports,” he said.
Additionally, Dr. Takagishi said having to prioritize his time between academics and athletics helped prepare him for the rigors of medical school and his residency program. He remembers doing a lot of homework on the bus as he was traveling to and from athletic events.
And he brings up one more important attribute athletes and doctors must have: perseverance. “You’re going to have failure and you’re going to lose,” he said. “In medicine in particular, learning how to deal with that is important. Athletics has certainly helped me to deal with failure and adversity in my life. Medicine is about ongoing learning. You never stop learning. If you stop learning, you probably should retire. In sports as well, you’re always striving to be better and to get to that next level. In medicine, you’re always striving to be a better physician for your patients.”
Dr. Tom Rice ’82
There really was no doubt that Rice would attend Saint Mary’s to play hockey. His dad William ’53 met his mom Armilla (Rysavy), a 1953 College of Saint Teresa graduate, while they were both attending school. His mother’s brother Rick Rysavy ’71 went to Saint Mary’s, and his older brother Steve ’79 also attended Saint Mary’s—adding to the legacy (which grew with two younger sisters, Cathy ’84 and Pat ’85; his wife, Eileen (Long) ’82; and daughter, Maddie ’14).
Long before he needed to choose a college, Rice was enjoying Blue Angel performances and watching his uncle perform in the early ’70s.
The biology major’s career would again follow the legacy set before him when his father and brother went on to medical school.
Dr. Rice chose a career in ophthalmology and now works at St. Paul Eye Clinic, one of the larger independent practices in the Twin Cities. He is one of 14 doctors working within the organization’s seven offices.
“I like the surgical aspect but I also enjoy the medical aspect,” he said. “With ophthalmology you get to do both. Through surgery, we are able to make a really positive impact on people’s lives, like cataract surgery or laser correction surgery. It’s meaningful to be able to instantaneously benefit people’s quality of life and prevent them from having a devastating sensory loss.”
Dr. Rice said he came into the Saint Mary’s hockey program while it was in a state of transition. He admits, being in hockey back then could be tough. “We practiced outside,” he remembers. “We played our home games in Rochester before we were able to get outside ice. We had to travel back and forth to Rochester every day for a whole month.”
Being an athlete and a student in the sciences was particularly tough. “We had to have a lot of forethought to be able to be successful in the sciences while playing sports,” he said. “We had labs, at least two a week, which would go to 5-6 p.m., which is when we started practice. We’d study on the bus and get back from Rochester and have to study a couple more hours.”
Dr. Rice said the situation forced him to be organized, a trait that has been invaluable throughout his career.
“You had to be very efficient, organized, and highly motivated,” he said. “We still had a lot of fun, but that experience instilled efficiency in me. That translated well in medical school. I had a family, and to be able to split my time between studying and having valuable time with family was really important. Playing sports and studying the sciences instilled a process for me to be able to pull that off.”
Dr. Rice said he has remained very good friends with his teammates from college. “We all had different personalities and goals in life,” he said. “But we all supported each other and still do.” That ability to work well as a team is also necessary in the professional realm.
During Dr. Rice’s junior year, the team made it to the national championships. He credits his adviser, Dr. Dick Kowles, for being “a great supporter and a role model of what a liberal arts education is all about”—especially back when student athletes weren’t always supported and encouraged on the same level as today.
“It’s about your experiences on campus and what you get out of your four years,” Dr. Rice said. “One of my professors’ perspectives was that I was a student, not an athlete. But I was both. Being in sports was a significant portion of who I was.”
Dr. Rice said that he is glad that through the years attitudes have improved about the importance and value of collegiate athletics. There’s no doubt in his mind athletics shape you as an individual and as a professional. He’s also glad to see how well regarded Saint Mary’s hockey is now—even if he is a bit envious of the facilities. “I would die to play at the arena right now,” he said. “It’s great to see the crowds supporting hockey.” ≠