Columbia University Medical Center

Doctors as Olympians: P&S Graduates in Olympics History

Caroline Park, a P&S student competing in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, is not the first Columbia medical student or graduate to compete on the world stage as an Olympian, but she is thought to be the first to compete in the Winter Olympics.

She is the fifth known Olympian from among student or alumni ranks at the Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Three alumni—Benjamin Spock, MD’29, Stephen Rerych, MD’75, and Valeria Silva Merea, MD’12—were already Olympians when they started medical school.

Spock won a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris as a member of the crew team for Yale, his undergraduate alma mater. Rerych won two gold medals for swimming at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Silva Merea swam for her native Peru in the 2004 Olympics in Greece, and in 2008, just five days before arriving at P&S, she competed in the Beijing Olympics.

Jennifer Thompson, MD’06, was a member of the USA women’s swim team before and during her years at P&S. One of the most decorated Olympians in history, she won 12 medals, including eight gold medals, in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics.

Jenny Thompson, right, after her team won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relays at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia

Another athlete, John Lattimer, MD’38, was a track star at Columbia College who won eight metropolitan area Amateur Athletic Union hurdling championships and set a record as a decathlon champion. He won the 50-yard dash at the Millrose Games, an indoor track and field meet held in New York City each year since 1914. During his military service he won the 200-meter hurdles for the 7th U.S. Army at the GI Olympics in Germany. After his death, Lattimer’s daughter found a letter inviting him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, an invitation he apparently turned down to continue his studies at P&S.