Ice Network

Vogel finds second career in emergency medicine

Discipline learned in skating helps former U.S. junior champion thrive
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Former world junior champion Sydne Vogel McKechnie, husband Jeff McKechnie and daughter Iona Rose find life in the South to their liking. -courtesy of Sydne Vogel McKechnie

Life is busy these days for Sydne Vogel McKechnie.

Not only is she is the mother of a 2-year-old girl and in the final weeks of her pregnancy with her second child, but the former world junior champion is in the last year of a residency in emergency medicine.

She credits the drive and determination she developed as a competitive figure skater with helping her advance through the various stages of her medical training.

"I believe [emergency medicine] was the most natural fit," Vogel McKechnie said. "Emergency medicine gives the same adrenaline rush that competing does, but the extra bonus is that I truly get to help people and make a positive difference.

"When I was 26 and just starting my undergrad, it was the 100-percent focus that I learned through my sport (that got me through it)."

Vogel McKechnie, 38, lives in Augusta, Georgia, with her husband, Jeff McKechnie, and their daughter, Iona Rose, 2. When she completes her residency next June, the family will move South Carolina, where she has a job waiting for her.

It's a long way from the couple's Alaskan roots, but the lifestyle suits them well.

"We love the South," said Vogel McKechnie, whose parents and in-laws still live in Alaska. "We love the people here. It's great food, great weather. We aren't cold weather people."

Vogel McKechnie grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where she began skating, before moving to Colorado to train. After initial success in the U.S. and internationally (in addition to winning junior worlds in 1997, she was crowned U.S. junior champion in 1995 and took the bronze at Skate America in 1996), injuries derailed her competitive career. She spent some time coaching before skating professionally aboard Royal Caribbean International cruise ships.

During her downtime on the ship, she started taking online classes. When her second ship contract was done, she moved to New York City and, while coaching at the Aviator Sports Center in Brooklyn, started attending Brooklyn College.

"I kind of was always interested in emergency medicine after my best friend since childhood died of an asthma attack when we were 18," she said. "I just kept going with my education."

Vogel McKechnie attended medical school in St. Maarten, a place she'd fallen in love with while on the cruise ships, and then went to England to do her internal medicine rotation. While there, she was exposed to emergency medicine, which led to her doing a rotation in emergency medicine in Long Island, New York. She also did a surgical rotation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"I loved emergency medicine," she said. "That was my path."

While skating isn't currently a part of her life, she believes her involvement in the sport made her unafraid to explore new things. Going to college and medical school at an older age was, in some ways, easier for her because she knew exactly what she wanted.

"Maybe that's what skating gives you," Vogel McKechnie said. "You need that path in front of you."

Traversing the career path of becoming a doctor has been hard, but she's glad she's pushed through.

"The whole field of medicine is fascinating to me," she said. "That's probably the biggest motivator -- the science behind what we do."

In her current job, Vogel McKechnie doesn't hide who she was in a past life. In fact, she uses it as a stress reliever.

"Sometimes I joke with the nurses and say, 'My former career was a lot more glamorous,'" she said with a laugh. "Whenever I do a different rotation in the hospital, before I know it, everybody is looking up the YouTube videos."