Director & CEO of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Scott Isaacks stands with U.S. Air Force Veteran Joe Cooler atop the ski slope in Snowmass, Colorado at the VA’s Winter Sports Clinic in April 2018.

Snowbound Steward

Director & CEO of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Scott Isaacks stands with U.S. Air Force Veteran Joe Cooler atop the ski slope in Snowmass, Colorado at the VA’s Winter Sports Clinic in April 2018.

Ralph H. Johnson VAMC CEO Scott Isaacks Gets Injured Vets on to the Slopes

As the Medical Director and CEO of a Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, Scott Isaacks is acutely aware of the tremendous sacrifices soldiers make while serving their country. From traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries to orthopedic amputations and visual impairments, Isaacks has seen everything come through the doors of Ralph H. Johnson VAMC in Charleston, and he feels a special responsibility to care for these veterans.

“Our mission at the VA is a very meaningful one, caring for those who have given so much to protect our freedom,” he points out. “The VA goes above and beyond to care for veterans by making sure they are living a full, high-quality life.”

For Isaacks, that means not just the services that he and his staff provide inside the hospital walls, but also giving back however he can. That’s why he volunteers at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, a tremendous event that brings nearly 400 veterans to Snowmass, Colorado, to experience beauty and adrenaline-fueled exhilaration once again despite their impairments. 

Sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans and the Veteran’s Administration, the Clinic provides “adaptive winter sports instruction” for veterans and active duty servicemen and women with disabilities which means getting them, with a little assistance, back on skis and snowboards despite whatever injuries they have suffered. 

Participating veterans truly have a chance to find new strengths and possibilities over the course of the week-long event, one of six adaptive sports program the VA holds each year.

“Whether it’s physical or mental challenges these veterans face, their resiliency through it all has always impressed me,” Isaacks points out. “They come to these events with a joy for life, they meet fellow veterans facing some of the same challenges and leave the week-long events with new goals. The energy they bring is infectious—how could you not want to be a part of that?”

Isaacks takes joy in being a volunteer for the winter sports event and seeing so many veterans experience moments of triumph. 

“You get to witness many of these veterans’ ‘firsts,’” he notes. “One of our Lowcountry veterans who has attended four times now hadn’t skied since the 80s, before he was diagnosed with macular degeneration, eventually becoming legally blind. Now he’s out there skiing down mountains. It’s truly incredible.”     

It’s experiences like these that make it clear why his work is so vital.

“As a Medical Center Director & CEO, my day-to-day mostly involves the business aspects of running a hospital—all of which are very important,” he concludes. “[But] traveling to the clinic this year with three of our Charleston VA veterans and volunteering as a boot-loader at the ski lift has been one of the highlights of my career.”