The Idaho Sports Medicine Institute (ISMI) has iconically sat attached to Bronco Stadium for the last 30 years, serving Boise State, Boise Hawks and high school athletes with Dr. George Wade at the helm of it all. Wade has pioneered the way sports medicine clinics work with the athletic programs of schools and universities, built a highly successful company from scratch and solidified himself as the foremost authority on sports medicine in Idaho. However, receives little monetary compensation for his work with the university and local high schools.
According to Wade, his practice was the first of its kind in the United States, partnering a private sports medicine practice with a university on campus to assist athletes and (in 34 years) few practices have been able to replicate Wade’s.
Most of the work Wade does for the university is for free. His private practice is what funds ISMI. Wade saidmany physicians aren’t willing to make the financial sacrifices necessary to run an operation directly connected to schools, so copycat institutions have failed.
It’s because of his patients and the university — including being a member of the committee that chose to implement the blue turf — that Wade continues to practice sports medicine.
Even though Wade is now one of the foremost authorities on sports medicine in the country, he didn’t always want to start a private practice, or go to medical school, for that matter. Wade first ran track at the University of Michigan and was an All-American before continuing on to graduate school in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Upon graduation from the University of Tennessee’s College of Medicine, Wade didn’t want to become a surgeon, but wanted to work with athletes. He returned to Michigan and worked with the team physician in orthopedics and was hooked by the industry. After moving on and finishing his fellowship in Los Angeles, Wade decided to move to Idaho to start his practice because of his love of the outdoors and kayaking in particular.
“Dr. (Richard) Gardner was the team physician at Boise State at the time,” Wade said. “I went and talked with him and he encouraged me to come and no one else was interested in doing sports, so he said, ‘You can take over at Boise State.’”
Wade started his practice and became the team physician in 1979 and in 1984 a close friend, and former Boise State athletic director, Gene Bleymaier, suggested building a new practice on campus. Bleymaier got the idea approved with then Boise State President John Keiser, and ISMI was built at the south end of the end zone.
Wade and Bleymaier became best friends, leading Bleymaier to ask for Wade’s opinion on his most prized accomplishment: the blue turf. Wade was on the committee to choose a new playing surface for the football field.
“They took us up to Dalton, Ga., to look at how they do the turf and Gene asks if they could make the turf blue,” Wade said. “Nothing surprised me with Gene.”
For 34 years, Wade has helped keep Boise State and local athletes healthy, while asking little in return.
“It’s a labor of love,” Wade said. “If it wasn’t, this wouldn’t work.”