Josie Fisher, MD, MPP, senior resident in the Department of Internal Medicine and a 2023–2024 Internal Medicine chief resident, has always been athletic, using fitness to decompress after a stressful workday and as a way to connect with her family and friends. During the height of COVID-19, in January 2021, Fisher took up competitive skimo as her “pandemic hobby” to get her mind off the heaviness of working as an intern in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Skimo is a combination of backcountry skiing and mountaineering that requires athletes to quickly ski up a mountain using climbing skins – which provide the traction needed to ascend on skis – ski back down, and then repeat the process several times. Since beginning to compete two years ago, Fisher has qualified for the U.S. Skimo National Team and recently traveled to Boi Taull, Spain, to support her team in the 2023 Skimo World Championships.
“I started downhill skiing before I was 2 years old,” Fisher says. “I got back into it more seriously when I graduated college and then started backcountry skiing when I met my husband. Then, in 2021, I took up skimo when there wasn’t much to do – it was a pretty COVID-safe activity.”
Fisher says skimo and the adventures that come with it helped her get through what was a tough winter that year.
After performing well at competitions across New England, she realized her talent made her competitive at the national level. She placed third at the North American Championships in Kicking Horse, British Columbia, qualifying her for the national team.
“It was a pleasant surprise since that was only my second season competing,” Fisher says. “The highlight of being on the team has been making friends with these amazing athletes from around the country and getting to travel to and explore new places like Aspen, Spain and British Columbia.”
Aside from the adventures that come with skimo, Fisher believes the sport makes her a better doctor. In some ways, she says, she can only be the best version of herself when she balances work and athletic endeavors.
“It’s important that I enjoy both aspects of my life,” she says. “Skimo not only helps me clear my head after difficult times at work, but gives me a fun, challenging hobby to focus on outside of work, which helps me be a better doctor in the hospital.”
Fisher also recognizes the parallels to teamwork in both competitive skimo and working in a hospital. During team races, for example, teammates support each other by towing on the uphill when one person is more tired or sharing gear and teaching each other new techniques.
“My experience in skimo and my prior experience as a collegiate ice hockey player taught me the importance of teamwork, which translates to the hospital setting, too,” Fisher says. “We’re always working with our physician, nursing and other colleagues to provide the best possible care for our patients. I’m constantly thinking about ways I can learn from my formative experiences in athletics and use them to become a better doctor for my patients.”