For athletes, it’s imperative to stay healthy and well. At the University of Louisville, Cardinal athletes have the advantage of having their own team devoted to their health, and it’s headed up by this woman: Denise Wooldridge. A nurse by training, she is now the director of KentuckyOne Health Sports Medicine and the director of Clinical Services at University of Louisville Athletics. What do all those titles mean? It means that she sees to the personal and athletic development and health of all Cardinal athletes. She takes her own advice, too: eating clean, drinking lots of water, moving and keeping a healthy mental attitude. And today, we welcome her as our FACE of Louisville!
Tell us about what you do.
I am the director of Sports Medicine for KentuckyOne Health. My primary assignment is working as the director of Clinical Services for the University of Louisville Athletic Department, and in this role, I help facilitate the best and most appropriate care for the athletes through the use of our Performance Team model. The University of Louisville Athletic Department Performance Team was created to assist in the personal and athletic development of the Cardinal student-athletes. With the support of handpicked physicians, counselors, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, psychologists, sports performance nutritionists and numerous other specialists, student-athletes and coaches have the opportunity to gather information to support a healthy lifestyle and achieve optimum athletic performance. The model consists of an education component, as well as evaluation and assistance in pursuing the best route of care. I work closely with the sports medicine physicians, athletic trainers and administration, as well as the many professionals at KentuckyOne Health, to be sure all is in place for seamless and excellent care for our student-athletes.
Another role I fill for KentuckyOne Sports Medicine is to coordinate and oversee the activities of our Sports Medicine Outreach Program. I have a team of athletic trainers, nurses and physicians who play an important role in delivering medical care at a variety of events, ranging in anything from high school sports to collegiate sports and major sporting events, such as the PGA, etc. I also collaborate closely with the sports medicine team at Frazier Rehab to identify opportunities in our community for education and growth.
How did you start out in this field, and how did you get where you are now?
I started out as a registered nurse after graduating from Spalding University with my BSN in 1984. From there, I spent time in a variety of areas, such as oncology nursing, hospice nursing and eventually found myself back in the OR where I enjoyed assisting with many of the sports-related cases. From there, I came out and began working with KentuckyOne Sports Medicine in 1998 to assist the then-director of the program, Kim Hite.
What are the similarities and differences between normal people and athletes and their injuries and wellness?
I think the biggest similarity is just how devastating any injury can be when it means you are sidelined from what you love to do, whether that be your job, caring for your family or playing your sport. The biggest difference is often the work that an athlete will put in to rehab so he/she can get back to their sport faster. Their bodies are often in better physical condition as well just overall, so that makes their healing process a bit faster, as well.
What have you done for your personal health after working in this kind of environment?
Working in this environment has encouraged me to constantly be aware of my own health, what I’m doing on a daily basis to ensure I am at the top of my game from an overall health perspective. I eat a clean, healthy diet. I exercise regularly, and I maintain a healthy mental attitude through prayer and positive interaction with others.
What is some advice that you can give our readers about taking care of your body?
I think just maintaining a healthy diet and moving every day in some way. Use the stairs, park in a spot that will force you to walk to your destination, rather than holding out for that open spot by the front door. Walk your dog. Drink plenty of water. Maintain a healthy mental attitude.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
The thing I love most about my job is just how different every day is. While I often get pulled in many different directions and have to switch my frame of mind from one second to the next, that is also what keeps me motivated and excited to do what I do. One day I might be at a desk coordinating staff for a large event like the PGA or a U of L football game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, and the next day collaborating with staff in one of the KentuckyOne facilities about ideas to better care for the athletes or working with the athletic trainers at U of L to get things set up for upcoming arrival of athletes. It is always something different!
Who are your mentors and what advice do you treasure?
I have been blessed in my career to be mentored by some strong women. I think perhaps Kim Hite, who is currently a vice president at KentuckyOne, was the first one who gave me a chance in a leadership role and pushed me and believed in me. She worked hard alongside me and taught me to do the same. I also worked under Joanne Berryman, who was senior vice president at KentuckyOne for many years. She always treated people with respect and fairness. She handled all situations with grace and integrity. I admire that example as well.
Finish this sentence: You’ll never see me without my _________.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
My family and I love our church, Okolona Christian, and are very involved there … so much time spent there. However, I also spend a lot of time at UL sporting events and many concerts and music festivals, musicals, etc. that hit town. We are a huge music-loving family!
What’s your bucket list travel destination?
There are a ton of beautiful places I have not seen in America, so getting to visit some places out west is first on our list. Then, then more globally, like Paris!
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I love to take mini staycations with my husband and spend an evening at the Brown Hotel, where we spent our honeymoon night 28 years ago and visit local restaurants.
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Early bird. Read scripture and spend time in God’s presence.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Lightning Round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: Pizza!
Guilty pleasure song: any song by John Mayer
Tearjerker movie pick: Life is Beautiful
Standby nail polish color: Red
Cartoon alter-ego: Wow! I’d like to believe Wonder Woman … coming in and saving the day … but that is a little optimistic! LOL! Not sure!
A big thank you to Adele Reding of Adele Reding Photography for her beautiful work on all of our FACES articles. Click here to visit her website and see her portfolio.
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