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Off Campus: Growing Up On Skis

Published on
July 24, 2019


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By Nancy McCann

Editor’s note: We’ve started a new occasional blog series! Do you ever wonder what our super-docs and super-staff do on the weekends, during their downtime? Well, our Research Communications team did, and we created “Off Campus” to discover what our amazing Research Institute employees do for fun, recreation, and the good of their communities. Get a glimpse into their lives once they take off their capes … umm, we mean lab coats and business shoes. And if you know someone in your department or lab with a fascinating hobby or interest, we’d like to hear about it!

During the cold, gray days of winter, do you daydream of blue skies, white sand between your toes, turquoise waters, and tropical temperatures? Well, not Adda Grimberg, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and scientific director of the Diagnostic and Research Growth Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her choice vacation location includes azure skies and bright sunshine, but she prefers the white stuff to be fluffy, dry powder. The water: frozen. The outdoor thermometer is best if it reads in the 30’s. And altitude definitely beats sea-level.

“I love to ski,” Dr. Grimberg enthused. “I got the love from my dad. He was a ski nut. He taught me to ski since the age of 3 and a half.”

Growing up on skis, her family took annual road trips from home on Long Island, New York, to Belleayre Ski Resort in the Catskill Mountains; Lake Placid, New York; New Hampshire; or Vermont.

“My dad’s enthusiasm was contagious,” she said. “He happily taught aunts, uncles, friends how to ski, and they taught their kids. Our group grew to about 35 people in 1976, all organized and inspired by my dad. It was so much fun, as was the massive snowball fight — kids against the grown-ups — we had while walking in the village one night after ski. So much laughter!”

As Dr. Grimberg developed her downhill skills, scouts took notice and offered to train her for competitive skiing.

“My dad refused, saying he wanted me to ‘grow up to have a normal lifestyle.’ So I never competed,” she said. “Instead, I ended up choosing a career in academic medicine. Hah!”

During her fourth year at Cornell University Medical College in New York City, together with her med school buddy, Dr. Grimberg creatively arranged a one-month elective (preventive cardiology) in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the month of February.

Adda Grimberg, MD, enjoying the winter wonderland of Telluride, Colo., 2019. Photo courtesy of Adda Grimberg, MD.

“Between night skiing and weekends, we skied 18 out of the 31 days we were there, got med school credit for it, and learned useful medical stuff like how to read ECGs,” Dr. Grimberg said. “Who knew that being med students could ever be so cool?”

With the smorgasbord of mountains they skied that month — Snow Bird, Alta, Solitude, Brighton, Park City, Deer Valley, and Sundance  — and the sublime conditions with144 inches of powder base and many sunny days, she noted, “Once you ski out West, there’s no going back!”

Now that she’s a full-time physician scientist, researching the growth hormone system and clinical issues related to child growth, she travels west for one, week-long ski trip per year. Most recently she’s visited Jackson, Wyoming; Telluride, Colorado; and in 2020, she’ll likely return to the slopes of Snowmass/Aspen, Colorado.

“Dad raised me with the philosophy: ‘Everything I need to know in life I can learn from skiing,’” Dr. Grimberg said. “The more I live, the more I think he was right … and the more grateful I am for his teaching and his amazing legacy.”