The Puerto Rican sports physician traveled the world with the NBA. When the pandemic hit, helping COVID-19 patients became his calling in life.
FLORIDA — Dr. William Félix has had a successful career in sports medicine that got him to work as the event medical director for the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2010. After the pandemic began, for him the only option was to dedicate his full attention to treating patients in need — and even more because of his experience in emergency care.
“I decided to go back to the emergency room. I felt the call to do so. If I had stayed in my comfort zone doing sports medicine, I wouldn’t have slept,” Dr. Félix told The Americano.
Dr. Félix’s interests lean toward veteran communities. He believes veterans have been treated unfairly and have specific needs. This made him offer his services in an emergency room at a veteran’s hospital.
Nowadays, the physician splits his time between his office at AdventHealth Medical Group and the Orlando VA Hospital, both located in Lake Nona, a community within Orlando, FL. At this hospital, he has seen firsthand how this ruthless virus affects people of any age.
WATCH: How Dr. Félix Went From Treating High-Performance Athletes to COVID Patients
Dr. Félix has treated a wide spectrum of COVID-19 patients, with conditions ranging from minimal symptoms to critical illness.
“For the first spike we had from late March to early April, we were looking at very sick patients. The elderly population was affected the most. We had a relative period of calm until now when cases have resurfaced,” Dr. Félix says.
As a father of three young children, the physician is taking acute safety measures. He uses several layers of protective gear and takes precautions when he arrives at his home.
“I have three children and a wife. My oldest son Esteban has Down syndrome. He is healthy, but children with this condition tend to have a slightly weaker immune system,” says the doctor. “Two of my children are asthmatic. It takes my sleep away. I’ve invested a lot of money in protective gear.”
The doctor regrets that such a serious and historic public health issue has become politicized. As of June 25, there are 114,018 positive cases of COVID-19. There’s a lot of controversy about how Gov. Ron DeSantis has dealt with the emergency.
“The coronavirus is neither Republican nor Democrat. Science is data. There are facts which are analyzed in the best interest of citizens,” Dr. Félix explains.
Originally from Hatillo, PR, Dr. Félix studied medicine at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. He completed his emergency medicine residency at the Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ. He moved to North Carolina to participate in the Duke Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship program at the Duke University Medical Center.
Dr. Félix moved to Florida in 2010 and worked in the Jewett Orthopaedic Clinic in Winter Park until 2013. Since 2015, he has lived with his family in Orlando.
In 2010 the doctor started one of the most exciting phases of his career when he became the event medical director of the NBA.
In working nine years with the NBA, Dr. Félix had memorable experiences taking care of high-performance athletes.
“I was in charge of medical preparation for events. Sports medicine took me around the world. And better yet with basketball, the sport I’m most passionate about.”
When the doctor’s third child was born, he decided to spend more time at home and help with the children, so he left his job with the NBA.
The similarities between Orlando and Puerto Rico, like the weather and the amount of Puerto Ricans living there, make Dr. Félix and his family feel at home. He admits seeing his children grow apart from their grandparents and some of the uncles is a bittersweet situation. The family tries to visit Puerto Rico two to three times a year.
“Hatillo is always in my heart,” says the doctor, who dreams of buying a beach home in the coastal Puerto Rican town. “I want my children to grow up with that sense of belonging.”