Former Olympic Speed Skater Supports Patients at Premier Orthopedics

Premier Pulse     July 2021

The Olympics are back, this time in Tokyo and a physician assistant at Premier Health has had a rare perspective on them – from her perch on an Olympic podium.

In the Miami Valley, Jennifer Rodriguez, PA-C, is a physician assistant at Premier Orthopedics at Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville. In the rink, she’s known as “Miami Ice.”

The four-time Olympic speed skater won two bronze medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in the 1000-meter and 1500-meter races.

“Speed skating is typically not a very popular sport in the U.S.,” explains Jennifer. “In 2002, it was different because we were getting to skate in our home country. At that Olympics, at that particular time that was just after 9/11, the fans were phenomenal - red, white, and blue flags everywhere.”

Jennifer, a native of Miami, Fla., was the first Cuban American to represent the United States on Team USA. She is a four-time Olympian, participating in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

“When I got to stand on the podium, and hear the National Anthem, it was so emotional,” remembers Jennifer. “When you make it to the Olympic level, you realize it’s not about you anymore. You're representing Team USA. I look back and still don’t believe that experience was real.”

Jennifer began her career as an artistic roller skater, where she won multiple national championships and placed second and third at the World Championships. Later, she switched to inline speed skating, winning three titles at the World Championship in 1993.

In 1996, she switched to speed skating in an attempt to make the U.S. Olympic Team.

“I cried every day for the first two weeks, but my mom made a deal with me,” says Jennifer. “She said, give it a full month. Eventually, I stopped slipping and sliding all over the place. After I got the feel, I started making huge progress every week. I fell in love with the sport.”

Jennifer was the first U.S. Winter Olympian female medalist of Hispanic descent, as she is the daughter of a Cuban immigrant father and an American mother.

“I was always very fortunate that I had amazing parents,” says Jennifer. “My mom and dad sacrificed everything for me. I was very blessed. They were like the parents you hear about on TV.”

Additionally, Jennifer won the 2005 World Sprint Championships. At the World Single Distance Championships, she won four medals from 2003 to 2005, a silver in the 1,000-meter race in 2003, and three bronze medals in the 1,500-meter race from 2003 to 2005.

Jennifer received her Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn. in 2016. She received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.

Jennifer is a certified physician assistant at Premier Orthopedics by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

“Premier Orthopedics offers patients with providers who have lots of experience,” explains Jennifer. “They’re very diligent and listen to their patients, giving them the guidance and support they need for a full recovery.”

Back to the July 2021 issue of Premier Pulse