Columbus, OH,
18:59 PM

OhioHealth Teams With Columbus Special Olympians For Free Physicals

Special Olympics

These school buses are used to being full, but today, they’re not headed to school. They’re headed to the doctor.

“We have about 100 athletes coming out today,” said John Esson, Columbus City Schools Special Olympics coordinator.

These students at Columbus City Schools are participating in Special Olympics, a chance for them to get involved in athletic competition in an inclusive community.

For several years running, OhioHealth has partnered with the district to help make this event happen, providing free physicals for the students.

“To be able to compete in any sport, an athlete has to have a current physical just to make sure they’re in good health and we don’t run into any unforeseen issues with them,” Esson said.

“It’s a great thing for us because we’re able to provide a service that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to," Esson said.

For some of the students involved, it’s their first time receiving a physical in years.

“With a lot of our athletes being in the situation they are, a lot of them can’t get their own physicals, and a lot of them don’t have the chance to see their own doctor for maybe three, four or five years,” said Esson.

“If they had to get all these physicals on their own, maybe, realistically, 10 to 20 of them would. This lets a huge number of athletes participate that normally couldn’t," Esson said.

While the physicals help clear the athletes to compete, they can also help improve their long-term health by picking up on unforeseen medical conditions. It also builds physician-patient trust at a younger age.

“Many of the kids we see on this day every year may have undiagnosed chronic diseases or acute issues that they don’t have the opportunity to see a family physician,” said Stephen Auciello, MD, family medicine residency program director at OhioHealth Riverside Family Practice. 

“Reminding kids that they can come to the doctor and not get shots and it doesn’t have to be scary and it’s okay to have that relationship with the doctor, and if you have a problem or a concern, a physician is someone you can go to to learn those answers,” Dr. Auciello said.

The benefits of the partnership extend beyond the positive impact it has on the students. OhioHealth Riverside Family Practice has many residents, or physicians early in their medical career, on its staff.

“It’s so important that our residents learn to provide not only high quality care, but to see the importance of what they do in the community and with patients that they might not otherwise interact with,” said Dr. Auciello.

“I think it’s just as much of a learning experience for our residents as it is for a benefit for these kids.”

To learn more about Special Olympics in Ohio, visit