On life and practice: Lisa Maddox

Photography by
Dave S. Crowe

When Lisa Maddox trained at the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C., they had a motto, “adding life to years,” she says. This is what her medical specialty— physical medicine and rehabilitation (or PM&R)—is all about. It’s not the injury, but how you live after it. “We make people’s quality of life better,” she says.

In 2006, Maddox (MD ’95) came to know PM&R from the patient’s perspective, as well, when her leg was amputated after a years-long struggle with a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome.

“When your patients realize that you have something going on, too, it’s encouraging for them to see that their life isn’t gonna end,” she says.

Maddox herself is a lifelong athlete. She fell in love with wheelchair tennis—a few years ago, she was ranked first in a United States Tennis Association wheelchair tennis division.

Sometimes the way she talks about tennis sounds like instructions for living wisely:

“We can’t move laterally in the chair.

“There are just some balls you’re not gonna get to. But that’s the same way in able-bodied tennis. And so you just practice; you practice, you play. Just like anybody else.”

Before med school, she attended the United States Military Academy West Point as part of the school’s ninth-ever class of women.

Maddox, former director of Augusta Polytrauma Network at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, retired in 2019. As COVID restrictions have been lifting, she’s been thrilled to get back out there.

“I’m actually doing a lot of wheelchair curling now.”