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Coordinated Health

CH’s Sports Medicine Heritage

November 10, 2014
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Coordinated Health CEO Dr. Emil DiIorio strides across a courtyard behind Lehigh University’s College of Business campus and surveys the space as he walks. His pace is brisk as he crosses the roughly 120-yard length.

The courtyard conceals a hidden layer of history, one that Dr. DiIorio can still see echoes of in the steep terraced hillside and the perfectly flat surface of the ground. To the eyes of the uninitiated, it is simply a bowl-shaped space. To Dr. DiIorio, it is the location where his legacy began.

“This is a very special place to me,” he says, pausing to touch a green and gold plaque set into the hillside simply titled, “Taylor Stadium.”

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Taylor Stadium was the home of Lehigh’s athletics program, and it was there that Dr. DiIorio planted the seeds of his first orthopedic practice, Sports Medicine Lehigh Valley. SMLV would eventually take on a different name in 1995, one that is now a household name in the Lehigh Valley: Coordinated Health.

The First Generation

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Emil DiIorio, Lehigh University Team Physician 1988 – 2003

Carl Weiss, Lafayette College Team Physician 1989 – 2013

The year was 1987, and Dr. DiIorio had recently relocated to the Lehigh Valley following his orthopedic surgery fellowship at Boston College’s prestigious Lahey Clinic. At that point in his young career, Dr. DiIorio had already earned an engineering degree, worked on a space shuttle launch, studied art in Belgium, completed medical school, and established his family.

The ambition and drive that marked his academic career was already benefitting his new orthopedic practice in several ways. First, he was able to secure the first physical residence of his new business, a dual purpose facility at 2775 Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem called Industrial Medicine Lehigh Valley and Sports Medicine Lehigh Valley.

 

Dr. DiIorio’s second and most important goal upon moving to the Lehigh Valley was to forge relationships with key business leaders in the region. Dr. DiIorio quickly earned the trust and recognition of large employers like Bethlehem Steel, Crayola and UPS. These partnerships formed the foundation of what would later become Coordinated Health’s Employer Health service line.

As Dr. DiIorio’s industrial medicine division grew, so too did sports medicine through his partnership with Lehigh University Athletics. The Sports Medicine Department was led internally by Joe Sterett and Jack Foley, who would go on to become the Dean of Athletics and Associate Director of Athletics for Sports Medicine, respectively.

The first meeting between the trio would occur as a conversation on a fold-out couch in the locker room of Taylor Stadium. As Foley recalls, that meeting would spark a lifelong friendship and commitment to athlete care.

“We agreed that the intangibles, such as attitude and effort, would define us and what we shaped together,” says Foley.

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From there, Dr. DiIorio’s influence at LU grew. He was asked to take part in football team tryouts, where he would advise on the general health and wellness of candidates. He watched as they practiced, making remarks about their strength, balance, coordination, mechanics and weight. If he deemed them unfit, the coaches would take his feedback into consideration during the selection process.

In 1988, the home of LU Athletics transitioned from Taylor Stadium to the newly completed Goodman Stadium. The first game played at Goodman was against Cornell, and Lehigh won 27-14. Since tradition dictated that the game ball be awarded to the winning team, it was no surprise that LU received the ball. It was, however, unusual that the ball was awarded to Dr. DiIorio.

That same year, Dr. DiIorio traveled to Madison, WI to recruit the first member of his new sports medicine team: Dr. Carl Weiss. Dr. DiIorio had recently secured a partnership with Lehigh University’s cross-town rival, Lafayette College, and he wanted to make sure that they ended up in the best possible hands.

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As Lafayette College Sports Medicine Director Matt Bayly would later state, those hands would become crucial in the treatment of athletes in the pre-MRI era.

“Dr. Weiss has some of the greatest hands in the history of sports medicine, he’s the best diagnostician. Before we had MRI, we had Carl Weiss,” says Matt Bayly. 

The MRI would revolutionize the field of sports medicine during that era, and Coordinated Health was an early adopter of that and several other innovations. The list of firsts includes the first outpatient ACL repair performed in the Lehigh Valley, the first total ankle replacement in the region, the first platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection, and the first stem cell injection in the region. 

Since Dr. Weiss was a Lehigh Valley native, his first few years at Coordinated Health were busy. He started seeing patients at the Schoenersville Road office while supporting Phillipsburg High School, Blair Academy and Lafayette. He wanted to help as many patients as possible, and he knew he would be able to do that with Dr. DiIorio. 

“He always allows the surgeons to do what they want to do and what they’re good at,” says Dr. Weiss. “He allows his people to develop their interests and expertise. That’s unique in practices of any size.”

The two would go on to conquer the Lehigh Valley sports medicine scene with a potent combination of efficiency, compassion and strategy. In 1991, SMLV expanded to place athletic trainers in area high schools. This program what would later become Coordinated Health’s robust Athletic Training program, deploying more than 30 certified athletic trainers into 14 area schools to work in-house with student athletes.

The Second Generation

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Wayne Luchetti, Lehigh University Team Physician 2003 – 2013

Carl Weiss, Lafayette College Team Physician 1989 – 2013

The middle era of Coordinated Health’s sports medicine history would be marked by intense growth and expansion. In 2003, Dr. DiIorio passed the reins of Lehigh University’s Team Physician role to Dr. Wayne Luchetti, a surgeon who came to CH from his fellowship at the Southern California Center for Sports Medicine in Long Beach. Dr. Luchetti would go on to become as beloved and influential as Dr. DiIorio, paving the way for the next wave of CH team physicians.

By the mid-2000’s, Coordinated Health was aggressively conquering the Lehigh Valley orthopedics market by building ancillary service lines to support its musculoskeletal offerings. Rehabilitation, imaging, real estate and personnel numbers would all expand during this time, creating a true integrated network. The company’s influence in high school sports medicine coverage continued, as did its number of physicians, trainers and physical therapists.

In 2013, Drs. Weiss and Luchetti agreed that it was time for a changing of the guard at their schools. During the Patriot League Championship game at Goodman Stadium, the two surgeons watched over their teams from the sidelines for the last time as Team Physicians.

The Third Generation

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Dan Terpstra, Lehigh University Team Physician 2013 – present

Nick Slenker, Lafayette College Team Physician 2013 – present

The fresh new faces overseeing Lehigh and Lafayette may be familiar ones to many Lehigh Valley residents, because they are hometown athletes hailing from Bangor and Allentown. Both men went out of state for their sports medicine fellowship training, but found their way home deliberately and purposefully.

“I wanted to be close to family in Allentown,” says Parkland High School grad Dr. Nick Slenker. “I did my research and saw that Coordinated Health offered everything I wanted: a large busy practice, a good place to raise my family, and access to high level surgeons that would challenge and inspire me.”

Dr. Dan Terpstra was equally as inspired by the team and business model at Coordinated Health. The Muhlenberg College wrestling star got his start supporting the Lehigh University wrestling team, where he was able to work with his predecessor, Dr. Luchetti. For Dr. Terpstra, the decision to practice in the Lehigh Valley was natural.

“I knew I wanted to be a physician, working in the community where I grew up. To operate on my friend’s parents, and to help people I’ve known since childhood, is really fulfilling.”

The Future

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As Dr. DiIorio considers the future of his team while standing on the ground where it all started, he recalls the vision he had when he built Coordinated Health.

“In our early days, it was important for us to do things differently,” says Dr. DiIorio. “We wanted to make a difference, to make a dent in the healthcare universe. That passion remains right here, in our commitment to sports medicine in the Lehigh Valley.”

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