Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR, admits that he didn’t exactly agree with the amount certain things were encouraged in his family. “Aspects such as academics and music were focused on so much,” he says. “I wanted to break out from that upbringing. I wanted to add in more of what I wanted to do.” And that meant sports. It began in high school and ultimately had him playing for Swarthmore College’s football team and its JV basketball squad, as well as throwing the javelin.
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Still, today, he takes it easy—if by easy you consider the fact Dr. Wei admits he can still tear it up in extreme workouts, such as P90X and Insanity, in his mid-60s. And he takes that attitude to his rheumatology work at Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md.
“My wife kids me, saying, ‘You should have gone into orthopedics,’” he says. “I’m approaching athletic injuries and the problems boomer athletes face from the perspective that I want to help them avoid surgery. A lot of my research has been
on stem cells, platelet-rich plasma and arthroscopic techniques that can help them stay active. They’re like me—they love to work out, exercise, do all sorts of active things, but without needing to have surgery. I have a passion for helping people like this.” In fact, he is the only rheumatologist he knows of who is a member of the Arthroscopy Association of North America.
Another interest inspires his work—family. “My sister developed RA about 25 years ago,” he explains. “She was also very active. … What brought it to my attention is she had to give up tap dancing, which was something she really liked. She had seen a podiatrist and an orthopedist, and my other sister said, ‘Take a look at her—she can’t straighten her elbow.’ I saw she had a lot of swollen joints, and I knew right away she had RA.”
Unfortunately, his specialty’s focus hit close to home again. “My son was playing travel soccer when he was 10, and he went from being a very good little soccer player to not being able to really play,” Dr. Wei says. “We found out it was juvenile ankylosing spondylitis. A friend I went to school with was a chief of pediatric rheumatology at a hospital. We got him on the right stuff, and he’s now 23 and has been in complete remission since the age of 11-and-a-half.”