There’s a World Cup for soccer-playing physicians, and University of Michigan surgeon Dr. David Machado-Aranda will play defense for the U.S. as 18 countries including Germany, Brazil, Great Britain and Austria compete in the 2015 World Medical Football Championships. Before play begins June 28 in Long Beach, Calif., the Venezuelan-born physician shares what soccer has taught him about the importance of team work – on the pitch and in the operating room.
UPDATE: U.S. team outmatched Venezuela 2-0 to advance to the semifinals on July 3.
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Name David Machado-Aranda, M.D., age 42
Job Acute care surgeon (trauma, emergency, general surgery and surgical critical care) at the University of Michigan Health System
Research Developing non-viral lung gene therapy for treatment of acute lung injury and adult respiratory distress syndrome.
Field Position Defensive line, mostly an outer back
What has soccer meant to you during your life?
My love for the sport runs deep, not only in keeping me healthy, but it helps make me a better person and a better doctor. When you are on the soccer field, you score a goal through movement and cohesion with other players. This is very similar to medicine, where it is not the doctors’ individual talent and knowledge, but the orchestration of the team of nurses, therapists, technicians and others that’s required to reach the goal of helping patients get better.
Any differences in play in the U.S. and your native Venezuela?
The play in the U.S. is much more physical and athletic and the tempo of the game is much faster. Most of the teams are well-matched and score lines are very close. Venezuela is different from other South American countries in that baseball is the national pastime and most resources are devoted to that sport. That is why so many Venezuelan players are in major league baseball like Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Victor Martinez who play for the Detroit Tigers, just to name a few. Venezuela has always been considered the soccer minnows in South America, but grass roots pride is growing especially after Venezuela has won against Colombia and Argentina.
You’re a busy physician, how do you make time for soccer?
With trauma and emergency surgery you learn to adapt and make sacrifices, so it is not unusual to play from 11 p.m. to 1-2 am (my favorite times for emergency surgeries as well). It requires a lot of coordination of schedules and sometimes understanding from my team mates when I can’t play. Fortunately my son who is a high school varsity captain is my personal trainer, coach and toughest competition. My family has been very understanding for allowing me time to practice.
So when do you train with the U.S. Medical Soccer team?
Training occurs four to five weekends a year. Every three months or so, I will arrange my clinical duties to allow me to travel to these training sessions which this year they have been in Long Beach, Calif.; Atlanta and Seattle.
What sort of values do you think you learn from soccer?
From playing with passion, to becoming a leader on and off the pitch, to believing in yourself and how hard work pays off, followed by cherishing friendships and respecting a rivalry. Some of the values like understanding team play and knowing when to be creative and go off-script vs. when to follow a tactical system and protocol translate to my medical career. Because it’s an international sport, soccer has allowed me to connect with people from other generations, cultures and backgrounds that I otherwise might not have anything in common.
Have you ever been to a World Cup (the one for non-medical professionals)?
I have never been to a FIFA World Cup, but there’s an interesting phenomena that happens during the games: the whole country stops for a couple of hours to follow the matches.
Will FIFA’s troubles have an impact on interest in soccer?
The scandal pertains to a small group of individuals and businessmen who have nothing to do with the core values of how and why the game is loved and played by so many. Ask any young kid who is playing in the street or empty field… she or he doesn’t care who Sepp Blatter or Jack Warner is. They are dreaming of being the next Messi, Neymar, Cristiano, Marta or Amy Wambach.
About the U.S. Medical Soccer Team
The US Medical Soccer Team is composed of physicians from across the country, united by their profession and a love for the game of soccer. Team members engage youth in soccer during events at Boys and Girls Clubs of America and promote physical activity for chronic disease prevention. Learn more at http://www.usmedicalsoccerteam.org/