In Memory of Dr. Timothy M. Hosea

by Ed Moran, | Aug 09, 2015
Even before USRowing staff physician and former U.S. athlete Matt Collins met Dr. Tim Hosea he had already heard about him. “I was rowing on the lightweight team and was in medical school and I kept hearing people talking about this old-fashioned town doctor.
staff-hosea[1]Even before USRowing staff physician and former U.S. athlete Matt Collins met Dr. Tim Hosea he had already heard about him. “I was rowing on the lightweight team and was in medical school and I kept hearing people talking about this old-fashioned town doctor.

“Everybody who spoke about him talked about him like he was their uncle, or that comforting physician who was there for you whether you had a problem or not.” When Collins finally did need Hosea after a heat during the 1993 world championships in the Czech Republic, he knew why Hosea had gained the “town doctor,” reputation.

“Just the care and attention he gave me. He had me bounced right back.” Collins got back in the boat and went on to win a gold medal in the lightweight men’s four and has admired Hosea ever since.

Sadly, Hosea, 63, died suddenly early Saturday morning of a heart attack near his vacation home in Pennsylvania.

“It was really a terrible blow,” said Collins who was brought onto the medical staff of the U.S. team and mentored by Hosea after completing medical school. “I’m a family doctor, I didn’t sub-specialize in sports medicine, but he said to me ‘You know what it is to row at this elite level and that’s the kind of physician I want here.’

“Just the way he organized us as doctors, he educated you when you needed it and he left you alone when he knew you could handle it. That’s just what you need sometimes, someone who has the confidence in you and is there for you when you need some advice. This really was quite a blow, totally unexpected. He was just such an important guy to the team. He is just irreplaceable.”

Through all his time treating athletes as both a volunteer and on the national team staff, Hosea saw what he did in rowing as “my way of giving back.

“I like being around rowers,” Hosea said during an earlier interview. “They’re a great group of kids. They’re very intelligent and they appreciate the help you offer them. Sometimes it’s hard when you have to say you have a fracture and this is what you have to do. Sometimes it happens at really inopportune times to some of our greatest athletes, and I’m the one that has to deliver the bad news,” he said. “Fortunately, they have all gone on and had successful careers and done great things.”

Raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Hosea attended the United States Naval Academy with the intention of becoming a jet pilot. In an article written for an orthopedic medical journal Hosea said he soon discovered “that I was too large to physically be comfortable in a jet.”

So after his freshman year at the academy, Hosea transferred to Harvard University where he majored in English, took premed courses and discovered rowing.  
He rowed under legendary Harvard coach Harry Parker and was in the boat that won the Ladies Challenge Cup at Henley-on-Thames in 1973 in his junior year. The next season, he ruptured a disc on the ergometer doing something he later described as  “something stupid, something I tell people not to do now.”

Parker sent Hosea to the school’s athletic trainer, who told him they didn’t treat rowers. “They told me, ‘we don’t see your kind here. You row.’ And he sent me to the student health center.”

He eventually met and was treated by Dr. Arthur Boland, an orthopedic surgeon who took care of Harvard’s athletes. Boland inspired Hosea to pursue medicine as a career and following his graduation from Harvard, Hosea enrolled in medical school at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

He returned to Boston, and completed an internship at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and did his residency at the Harvard Combined Orthopedic Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was mentored and inspired to work with athletes by Dr. Boland.

During an interview with USRowing several years ago, Hosea said his experience in rowing and his back injury made him “sympathetic to rowers.” He was so sympathetic, that while a fellow in orthopedics at Harvard under Boland, Hosea started treating the women who were training out of Harvard’s Weld Boathouse for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as a volunteer.

Hosea moved to Princeton in 1985 and continued treating national team rowers as a volunteer. He was officially invited to travel with the national team for the first time in 1992 during a pre-Olympic, European tour and has been traveling with the team since.

He has been to world championships and to the Olympics and has helped build a stable of doctors who are former rowers who now also travel with the various national teams at regattas around the world.

His work with U.S. rowers has helped hundreds of athletes through injuries large and small and helped them complete their dreams of rowing on the international stage. One such athlete, Sebastian Bea, who was a legitimate medal contender in the pair with partner Ted Murphy, suffered from a back problem. While on the plane headed for Sydney, Australia and the 2000 Olympic Games Bea began having spasms.

Hosea, who was also on the plane and wearing a back brace himself, took the brace off and put it on Bea.

“It was ridiculous,” Bea recalled during an earlier interview.  “We were landing the plane in Sydney and I had back spasms literally as the wheels touched the ground. (Hosea) immediately came over to me. He was wearing his back brace for 14 hours on the plane, but he off took it off and put it on me.

“He gave me some pain killers and some muscle relaxers so they could stabilize me enough to get me off of the plane. I was lying on the floor of the plane and people were stepping over me. It was quite the fun experience.”

Over the next three weeks, Hosea arranged for Bea to get treatment to “reset” his back and then oversaw his daily rehabilitation. He got him back into the pair for practice, then racing, and was with him right up to when Bea and Murphy won an Olympic silver medal.

While Hosea’s actions and care seemed above and beyond to Bea, he was that way to every athlete, coach and staff member who has been with the team and needed medical attention.

Even though Hosea was an orthopedic specialist, he treated everything from colds to fractures. “When I first met him, it was in 1992 and we were in selection camp for the Olympics in Princeton and my shoulder was bugging me,” said former rower and national team men’s head coach, Mike Teti. “It was pretty bad and I was told to call Tim Hosea.

“I called Tim, he took me right in, gave me a shot and I was fine. He did everything,” Teti said. “He was on the board of the Princeton National Rowing Association. He ran the golf tournament. He rowed. He was just a fixture at the boathouse. He’s just had his tentacles in everything rowing and certainly international rowing. But more then anything, he was just a really good friend.

“I was absolutely stunned,” said Teti, who is now the head coach at the University of California. “I was traveling to see my family and when we landed in Newark, I turned on my phone and I had all these text messages. I just can’t believe it. He was just such an upbeat, fun, positive guy.”

In addition to working for the U.S. rowing team, Hosea was also on the sports medical staff at Rutgers University working with the football team. He was a member of the Princeton National Rowing Association, has authored numerous articles and presentations on sports medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and Chair of the Sports Medicine Commission, United States Rowing Association.

Hosea had affiliations with five hospitals including the University Center for Ambulatory Surgery, Center for Ambulatory Resources, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Saint Peter’s University Hospital and The Medical Center at Princeton.

Hosea organized the USRowing medical and training staff, made sure every athlete got the proper attention and was an inspiration to the staff at every level.

“Tim Hosea was a presence. To me he was like a medical coach,” said Marc Nowak, Team Physical Therapist. “You were always on your best game, not to please him, but to reach his approval. He made you work hard and justify what you are doing. He would teach you as to the scope of what you could do and what the limitations were and how to work as a team.

“He pushed you to be the best you could be and he was always in a corner of my mind,” he said. “Whatever clinical decisions I make, I always think what would Tim do and what would he think. He was amazingly committed to his patients, his community and particularly the rowers.”  

In 1997 Hosea was awarded the USRowing Jack Kelly Award as an outstanding individual who represents the ideals that Olympic oarsman Jack Kelly did and served as an inspiration to American rowers.

“Tim’s death is a tragic and untimely loss,” said USRowing Chief Executive Officer Glenn Merry. "It’s particularly personal for many of us because he was so active and engaged with our athletes and USRowing.

“Tim was a friend for more than 20 years, and I am still having trouble processing that he is gone. He was the example of the best our sport has in the sense of being part of the community, of building that community and of giving back to a sport we all cherish. He gave of himself, his time, his connections and his expertise.

“Tim was such a significant part of USRowing and of the Princeton community. It’s hard to imagine not having him with us. He has led the medical committee for as long as I have been involved at USRowing. In recent years he chaired the PNRA board and helped cement that partnership between Princeton and the training center athletes.
“I am really finding it difficult to process this without coming to tears. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters for their loss. His departure leaves an enormous hole in my heart and for our sport.”

Hosea is survived by his wife, Libet, and three daughters, Hadley, Whitney and Kirby. Services will be private. Donations are being accepted here, or by mail:

Timothy M. Hosea Memorial Fund
PNRA Princeton National Rowing Association
1 S Post Road
Princeton, NJ  08550
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