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Cheri Blauwet, former med student and elite athlete, shares her story

Article / Review by on November 3, 2011 – 6:01 pmNo Comments

Cheri Blauwet, former med student and elite athlete, shares her story

“Explaining that there’s a “story behind every application,” the Association of American Medical Colleges website has a series of Q&As with people on their journey from med school applicant to student (and beyond). Among those featured is Cheri Blauwet, MD, a Stanford alum and Paralympian wheelchair racer, whose personal story is beyond compelling.  (At one time she was considered one of the world’s most accomplished Paralympic athletes; as her website biography states, she considers sports a “platform through which she can promote disability rights and empowerment at an international level.”)

Cheri Blauwet I found three parts of her Q&A particularly interesting:

What led to your interest in medicine? Who or what inspired you?

As a child who had acquired spinal cord injury at 16 months of age, I began interacting with the health care system when I was very young.

From attending the pediatric SCI clinic as a toddler, to popping wheelies in my first wheelchair when I was 6, to having major orthopedic spine surgery when I was 12, I had already seen it all (good, bad, and ugly) by the time I was a teenager.

These interactions taught me what qualities I found valuable in my doctors. Most importantly, I began to observe that many physicians had a hard time understanding that simply because I was a young person with a spinal cord injury, I was not inherently sick or flawed…

How did you balance the demands of medical school and training as an elite athlete?

I’m not quite sure! It was certainly a tight schedule, but I often find that the busier I get, the more efficient I am… I was also fortunate to have the ability to take short leaves of absence from medical school when my larger events were approaching…

I also found that racing was tied so inextricably to my identity, that there was simply no way that I could be Cheri the Medical Student without also being Cheri the Athlete.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

This year, I am one of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Chief Residents. I just went to check my mailbox and amongst all the clutter was a card from a patient that I took care of one month ago on my spinal cord injury rotation. It says “Doc, I can’t begin to thank you for the care you provided me.”

Also – breaking stereotypes. I LOVE breaking stereotypes. So, when people see me in the cafeteria and ask me how long I’ve been a patient, to which I reply, “actually, I’m one of the doctors here,” – that is a good day.”

Cheri Blauwet, M.D.

By Michelle Brandt Senior Media Relations Manager Stanford University School of Medicine


Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Biography.

Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Biography. Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Bio.

Cheri Blauwet, M.D. was born and raised on a farm near the small town of Larchwood, Iowa. She sustained a spinal cord injury in a farming accident as a young child, however, was immediately encouraged to be active, involved, and to see disability as simply another way of living rather than as an impairment. Upon entering high school, her track coach encouraged her to join the track team when he learned that Iowa held sanctioned wheelchair events at the state finals. By her sophomore year she had set records at the state level and began competing nationally. In the fall of 1998 Cheri began her academic and racing career at The University of Arizona. She became the captain of the wheelchair track and road racing team and continued to realize her athletic potential. In 2000, she became a name on the international scene, bringing home 1 silver and 3 bronze medals from the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Since then, she has achieved resounding success on the international elite racing circuit. Some of her outstanding finishes include:

  • Winner, 2003 and 2004 New York City Marathon
  • Winner, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008 Los Angeles Marathon.
  • Winner, 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon
  • Gold Medal, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games: 800 meters
  • Bronze Medals, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games: 5000 meters and Marathon

As a result of these wins, she was nominated for the 2003 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year, in addition to two consecutive nominations, in 2004 and 2005, for the ESPY award in the category Best Athlete with a Disability. Cheri was also a nominee for the 2005 Laureus World Sport Award within the category “World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.”

Ultimately, Cheri sees sports as one platform through which she can promote disability rights and empowerment at an international level. In 2004, she was named a winner of the 2004 Paul Hearne Leadership Award, given to 3 emerging leaders annually by the American Association of People with Disabilities. She has also done work at the International Paralympic Committee, promoting international sporting opportunities and a mechanism for international development, and with Rehabilitation International, a large multilateral disability rights member organization with both governmental and non-governmental representatives. She is a published author on the topic of “The Paralympic Movement: Promoting Health and Human Rights through Sport.” Currently, Cheri is a resident in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her ultimate goal is to pursue the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and to promote the health and social empowerment of people with a disability, particularly in low-resource settings.

In her spare time, Cheri enjoys nothing more than exploring Boston, learning from her friends and family, eating chocolate, discovering new (old) soul/R&B hits, and dreaming/scheming.

Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Career Highlights.

Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Career Highligths.

Top finishes:

  • Winner, 2003 and 2004 New York City Marathon
  • Winner, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008 Los Angeles Marathon.
  • Winner, 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon
  • Gold Medal, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games: 800 meters
  • Bronze Medals, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games: 5000 meters and Marathon
  • U.S. Paralympic Team member: Sydney, Athens, and Beijing Paralympic Games

Awards and Honors, on the Track:

  • Nominee, 2004 and 2005 ESPY Award: Best Athlete with a Disability
  • Nominee, 2004 Women’s Sports Foundation: Sportswoman of the Year
  • Nominee, 2005 Laureus World Sport Award: World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disaibility

Awards and Honors, off the Track:

  • Ambassador, International Paralympic Commitee
  • Winner, 2004 American Association of People with Disabilities Paul Hearne Leadership Award
  • Winner, 2008 American Public Health Association Disability Section Student Leadership Award
  • All time high score, Blauwet Family Iowa Farm Retreat Pie-baking Contest


Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Results.

Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Results.

Cheri competed at the Beijing Paralympic Games September 7-17th, bringing home four 4th places in the 400 m, 800 m, and 5000 m, along with 5th in the Marathon. She raced PR times in the 400 (57.02) and Marathon (1:40:06). Please see her blog for further details on each race.

Swiss Series Track Meet, Ibach, Switzerland, May 22nd

  • see blog entry “More Cowbell” for further details
  • 800 final: 1:54.10 (2nd)
  • 1500 final: 3:33.68 (2nd)
  • 5000 final: 11:30.57 (3rd) (previous world record of 11:39)

2008 Boston Marathon – Third (Time 2:00:48)

Champions Meet, Atlanta GA, March 28:

  • 800 final: 1:56.34
  • 1500 final: 3:38.63
  • 5000 final: 11:37.40

2008 Los Angeles Marathon

  • 1st place, 1:53:35 (see blog entry for details)

Cheri Blauwet, M.D. Bibliography.

C. Blauwet (2008) “The 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.” American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Resident Newsletter. Summer 2008. Vol 17, No. 3.

C. Blauwet (2007) “Promoting the Health and Human Rights of Individuals with a Disability through the Paralympic Movement.” Sport for Persons with a Disability. C. Higgs & Y. Vanlandewijck (ed). Berlin, International Council on Sport Science and Physical Education. 21-35.

C. Blauwet. (2004) “The Paralymipcs: Promoting Health and Human Rights through Sport.” Bonn, International Paralympic Committee. 1-19.

P. Craven, C. Blauwet, A. Farkas. (2006) “The Paralympics: Right to Participate, Right to Win.” Beyond the Scoreboard. G. Di Cola (ed). Geneva, International Labour Organization. 45-57.



* Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions – Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

**  The above story is adapted from materials provided by Stanford University School of Medicine ________________________________________________________________ More about United Nations (UN)   ### Photo of Blauwet in the 2005 Boston Marathon courtesy of

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