Following the trend of Purdue Athletics alumni joining the fight against COVID-19, former Purdue golfer Tom Oliver is on the front lines at Main Line Health in Philadelphia.
Oliver is currently in the last year of his internal medicine residency, and is staying on an extra year as an academic hospitalist and chief resident.
“I oversee about 65 trainees and then I also work in the hospital like normal interns would,” Oliver said in a phone call.
Along with finishing his residence and preparing for a future job at the Mayo Clinic, Oliver is now working with triple digits of COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, ranging from the young to the very old.
“We’ve been very busy,” Oliver said. “We have a high amount of nursing homes in the area.”
Oliver, 32, is relatively young among those in the medical field. Regardless, he is working directly with Main Line patients, some of whom are in the intensive care unit, on ventilators, intubated or are otherwise “critically ill.”
Oliver’s work has caught the attention of former colleagues at Purdue, particularly former men’s golf head coach Devon Brouse and former Purdue Athletics Director Morgan Burke.
“We’re proud of him,” Burke said. “I texted him, ‘The mental training that you got from having to sit over a 10-foot putt, that’s gonna pay dividends now because you’re not gonna get flustered.’”
That was one of the many text messages and phone calls Oliver said he received from former teammates, coaches and friends.
Burke valued strong academics as a necessary partner to athletic success during his tenure at Purdue.
“It’s the pursuit that’s the most important part, because trophies tarnish,” he said. “You can be something when you’re a senior in college and 20 years later it doesn’t mean as much. To me, he’s the personification (of that).”
Oliver’s work ethic on and off the course helped him get to the spot he is in now. Even so, he said he’s still learning as he goes.
“It’s been a unique experience,” he said. “I’ve (done) four years of medical school and this is my fourth year of being a doctor. I don’t have a ton of experience.”
As more studies are done on the virus, Oliver said Main Line’s practices are rapidly changing to keep up with new data and discoveries. Main Line has also been focusing on increasing test speeds in order to better treat patients.
Currently, tests take five to seven days to provide results. During that waiting period, a patient could become significantly worse if the wrong type of treatment is administered. Oliver said if that time is reduced, they will be able to give patients the right treatments earlier.
Unlike in Indiana, golf courses in Pennsylvania are all closed, but Oliver said he will be spending some time on the fairway as soon as they reopen.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there,” he said. “I think it’s a great stress reliever to be outside and just be on your own while keeping the social distancing.”
Oliver will start his new job at the Mayo Clinic in July, specializing in hematology and oncology, the studies of blood and tumors.
For now though, he has his hands full.