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On Friday, April 29, the Junior Tennis Foundation will host the 24th annual Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame awards dinner at The Water Club in New York City. This year's inductees are Brian Hainline, M.D., chief medical officer of the United States Tennis Association.

By Nancy Gill McShea

“Brian Hainline has literally saved the US Open tennis tournament at times by making sure a player was prepared to go on court for the final,” confided David Brewer, USTA managing director, professional operations. “Brian was also central to the initial effort to establish the tennis anti-doping code. He did the heavy lifting – research and writing -- that put tennis ahead of the curve in establishing a systematic approach to the issue.”

Not surprising. Dr. Brian Hainline is on a mission to make certain that the game of tennis is the model sport for protecting players’ health and safety. He has the credentials to get it done.

Brian is the chief medical officer for the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which oversees the US Open and all of American tennis. He is also the chief of the division of neurology and integrative pain medicine at Pro Health Care Associates in Lake Success, N.Y., and a clinical associate professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine.

“I have always been interested in the study of the mind and I’ve been playing tennis as long as I remember walking – since about the age of 2,” said Brian, who earned Phi Beta Kappa status at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and played first singles and doubles for the tennis team there.

He brought his tennis game and fascination with the mind to New York in 1983 to begin his neurology residency at N.Y. Hospital, Cornell Medical Center after completing studies at the University of Chicago. On the court, he has engaged in knock-down-drag-out battles for 25 years with his tennis buddy Jim Malhame.

“Brian is a fierce competitor and he kicks my butt most of the time, but the guy’s got character, he has never given me a bad line call,” said Jim, who’s equally impressed that his friend has logged 20 years teaching religious instructions to pre-teens and 25 years volunteering in tennis. “He’s an inspiration, a physically fit doctor who practices what he preaches. To win in tennis, the nerves and body have to hold up and technique has to be solid so a player won’t fold under pressure. Brian attends to all three components to prepare himself and tournament players for the contest.”

“I have observed the ‘extraordinary’ in motion working with and observing Brian in his gentle but confident care of an athlete in the most important match of her career…,” said Kathleen Stroia, WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) vice president, sport science/medicine & player development.

Brian’s interaction with players is confidential, of course, and he admits “it’s a lonely place to be. It’s a challenging balancing act between helping a player prepare to go on court or helping a player make a decision to retire.

“Everybody is always searching for answers,” he continued. “Whether I’m practicing neuroscience, teaching religion or developing policies and procedures for the USTA, a unifying theme is to help people become aware of how they can take steps to improve their level of self care, sense of awareness and well being, to develop that and give it back to life.”

He met the ideal adviser in that effort in the late Dr. Irving Glick, the US Open tournament physician for over 25 years who established a medical department that became the model of medical care at tournaments throughout the world. “Dr. Glick was my mentor in medicine and in life,” Brian said. “He taught me the essence of what it’s like to be a compassionate and knowledgeable physician.”

In 1986 Dr. Glick invited Brian to follow him as a consultant at the Open. In 1992 Brian became the Open’s chief medical officer and started working closely with the WTA, the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and the ITF (International Tennis Federation).

Brian, a prior USTA board member, remains a committed volunteer beyond his professional responsibilities. Back in 1989 USTA President David Markin was expanding a sports medicine advisory committee. Brian wrote to Markin, said he would be honored to serve and became a founding member of the USTA Sport Science Committee. Since 1993 he has served on and now chairs the ITF Sport Science and Medicine Commission, which oversees 202 Olympic countries. Since 1999 he has been a member of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Medical Commission and has written the rules of eligibility for international wheelchair competition. In 2005 he chaired the USTA Professional Council, which oversaw five interrelated committees.

“Everyone has an agenda, but when it comes to medicine and safety there is no other agenda,” said Brian, who gathers expertise from all the constituents in tennis to help create an environment in which players can thrive. “We’re all about building bridges…We sit down together and…realize we have the same mission.”

A few colleagues indicate the reach of the mission.

Kathleen Stroia – “Leadership has many definitions, but the one closest to articulating Brian’s style is how he creates a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen, as when he guides a committee to come to consensus and action on a critical health care initiative.”

Patrick McEnroe, head of USTA Player Development -- “Dr. Brian is a very thoughtful and measured individual. You sense immediately that he wants to do what is best for our kids…”

Brian Earley, director, USTA Pro Circuit – “Brian has re-written the medical timeout rule used at every level of professional tennis, including the WTA, ATP and Grand Slam rule books. If I can find any fault whatsoever, it’s that the rule uses terms like ‘musculoskeletal’, ‘subcutaneous’ and ‘kinetic chain.’ Maybe…he wants us referees…to travel with a copy of Gray’s Anatomy along with our rulebooks!”

Dr. David Cooper, CEO of Pro Health Care Corp. – “Brian is a complete physician…Whether it be an elite athlete or a weekend warrior in need of care, he goes one step beyond applying his knowledge…to heal and rehabilitate his patients. He is a humble, honest man, yet when I asked if he could help my game, he replied, ‘I am just a physician, not a miracle worker!’….”

Brian’s origins trace the history of his destiny. He and his six brothers and sisters grew up in Detroit. “My mother, Nora, was the glue and the faith of our family,” he said. “We’d wake up, see seven lunches already prepared and a huge breakfast on the table, Midwestern style.”

Brian’s late father Forrest, also a tennis lifer who chaired the USTA Grievance Committee, was the family’s first coach. Brian later trained at the Hoxie Tennis Camp in Hamtramck, Michigan. “I had a love-hate relationship with the walls there,” he said. “You had to qualify to get on the courts. There were two huge cement slabs and you’d have to hit ten forehands in a row between the two lines, then backhands and volleys and serves. Sometimes you’d be at the wall all morning and finally they’d feel sorry for you and let you go on the court. They had a boxful of steel racquets and steel strings so when it was raining we’d hit against the wall with all steel.”

At Notre Dame, he majored in philosophy within a pre-professional program which allowed him to concentrate on liberal arts and take subjects in other areas. He loved science but wasn’t yet certain he wanted to be a doctor. He took all the pre-med courses in pre-pro and in his junior year did a year of independent study on Carl Jung.

“My main interest was the study of the mind,” he said, “so after studying Jung, who interwove psychiatry with the human condition – not the individual neuroses but the sense of the human connection -- I decided to go to medical school and be a psychiatrist…as it is the human connection and lack thereof that is responsible for shaping our genetic predispositions, insofar as that is possible.

“But when I attended medical school, psychiatry was taking a turn into the pharmacologic revolution, branching into neuroscience – the discovery of peptides and neurotransmitters that had an immunologic, physiologic and behavioral counterpart, the discovery of opioid (pain relievers) and serotonin (helps feelings of well being) receptors…Clinical psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies took these receptors and their neurochemical counterparts and made them one-dimensional. Serotonin the happy neurochemical?…

“Before my eyes I saw psychiatry turning to clinical diagnoses…I had this uneasy sense that they were treating the brain like it was a mixing bowl. And neurology was just coming out of a black box. For the first time we had cat scans and neuroscience was on the verge of a major breakthrough into thought, emotion and disease. So I concentrated on that discipline.”

Neurology gave Brian the opportunity to delve into the humanity of thought and emotion…expressed in the mundane of daily life. He reasoned that the physician has the unique opportunity to listen to a patient who has had part of his or her humanity taken away. It is the physician who tries to help restore that sense of lost humanity to the patient. And the nervous system is the essence of how that humanity is expressed. All sensation, all motor activity, all thought is communicated through the nervous system.

“That reality, and the excitement of understanding brain function better, convinced me to explore neurology,” he said. “But to this day my favorite thing to read is philosophy. Maybe there will be a way of fully returning to Carl Jung...”

Brian is devoted to his family – his wife of 31 years, Pascale, who works in private wealth management; his daughter Clotilde, who is completing medical school and will go into neurology; Arthur, a college physics major; and Juliette, a high school freshman.

Asked where he finds time to spread himself so thin, he said, “I tell my children that a disciplined life with a purpose gives us the most freedom.”

But seriously, who is the real Brian Hainline? Dr. Cooper has the answer -- “My fondest images are of seeing this brilliant, articulate man transform into a mush when he holds his 3-year-old granddaughter Sophie in his arms. Extraordinary...!”


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