- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

LYNCHBURG, Va. | When the spectacular events of the XXIX Olympiad begin Friday in Beijing, an emergency department physician from Lynchburg will be there as part of a clinic staff charged with providing health care to about 3,000 people in the Olympics Green Zone.

Dr. Chris Thomson will work in the International Broadcasting Center, where he will care for the people providing coverage of the games.

“It’s the media, not the athletes,” said Dr. Thomson, a specialist in emergency medicine who works at Lynchburg General. The clinic is one segment of the International Broadcasting Center, the media headquarters.

NBC is planning record-breaking coverage of the Olympics, which will be aired on seven NBC Universal networks, plus a dedicated Web site. NBC will have about 2,000 American employees in Beijing, Dr. Thomson said, and an additional 1,000 from the Beijing area.

The doctor is classified as a temporary NBC employee. The clinic may also be designated to care for journalists from Canada, Western Europe and Australia, he said.

Dr. Thomson learned from a friend last year that a clinic was being set up to take care of the huge numbers of journalists covering the Olympics. It sounded like interesting work for an emergency doctor.

“I thought that would be a blast,” said Dr. Thomson, who had been in Beijing in 2002 with an ambassador friendship group of 15 ER physicians. The group worked at the United Family Beijing Hospital and Clinics and met with some of the leading physicians there as well as first-response teams.

“It was interesting. It was soon after 9/11,” he said, and a lot of what the ER doctors did was discuss emergency preparedness for a setting such as the Olympics.

Dr. Thomson thinks that’s part of why he was selected for the clinic staff - he’d already been credentialed to work in China and he knows the Western-style hospital system.

The clinic will function essentially like an emergency department, open 24 hours, he said. The hope is that media personnel going over will be healthy - there’s a lot to cover in the Olympics, plus the breaking news. Having the Western clinic already set up means that it may be possible through prevention, or quick response, to limit the number of work hours lost to illness or injury.

That also means that should any catastrophic event occur during the Olympics, the clinic would be part of the response team.

“The clinic is a separate care center in the Green Zone with full access to the main stadium,” Dr. Thomson said. It’s the area that requires special passes or certification to enter.

Dr. Thomson has a couple of favorite TV news personalities he’d like to meet, including Matt Lauer and Al Roker of the “Today” show.

The schedule for the physicians will likely be hectic, but it includes time off for getting out and about. Dr. Thomson hopes to watch some swimming, cycling and soccer.

As a temporary employee, he will have his round-trip flight taken care of and will share an apartment with another doctor. Most of his salary will likely go toward food, he said, so he’ll probably break even.

“I’ll come out with the experience and not much more.”

Dr. Thomson left Friday and will return Aug. 25 with what he hopes are many photos and with much shopping accomplished.

He’s a little nervous about the air quality in China but is not afraid to eat local food.

“I’ve learned not to ask what I’m eating.”

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