Autographed action photos of water skiers on the walls of Dr. Brad Harman’s office interested me.
I learned that his love for the water has splashed into his career.
The Cleburne orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician has traveled internationally as a USA Water Ski Team physician since 2005.
“I’ve accompanied the team to the world competitions and international events in France, Italy, Germany, Chile, Peru, and Mexico, so far,” Harman said.
The team is headquartered outside of Orlando, Fla.
“After I graduated from the University of Texas Medical School in Houston and served my internship and residency in orthopedic surgery at Scott and White Memorial Hospital and Texas A&M Health Science Center at Temple, I decided to do a sports medicine fellowship at UTMS-Houston,” Harman said.
“As part of my training I worked with various sports teams in Houston — all athletics at Rice University and the NFL Houston Texans football team. A lot of time was involved with commitment to sports teams like that.
“I completed an application form to join the medical staff at USA Water Ski because I love the sport and my commitment is seasonal. It doesn’t interfere with my time for my patients or disrupt my practice here in Cleburne. We three staff physicians share the international travel.”
He smiled when I asked him if he had ever competed in the past.
“I enjoy the sport, but I am a rookie and am not anywhere near good enough to compete. There’s no way I could do what they do. They are really elite athletes and have to win many events to get to team trials from which four members are selected to represent the U.S. for competition. Then there are five to 10 individual competitors that accompany the team. Events are slalom, ski trick and ski jumping. The World Games are their equivalent to the Olympics, since water skiing is not a part of the Summer Games.
“It’s a real privilege to be on staff at USA Water Ski and participate in care for the athletes at all levels including world-class athletes. I’ve really enjoyed meeting them and their families from all over the world and have made some lifelong friendships in the small family of waterskiing.”
Harman grew up in Houston, enjoying water sports.
“I had friends who had boats and I tagged along just for the fun. There’s something wonderful about a lake. You can do so much more than just swim.”
Harman is the youngest son of Larry and Marilyn Harman of Houston. His older brother, John, is a minister in McKinney.
Growing up in his neighborhood, Brad said he played outside with friends. He learned to swim at an early age and swims now for exercise.
“My first job when I was 13 was at a popcorn shop. I rode my bike there and cleaned the pots and stocked them up again. A fringe benefit was getting to eat all the popcorn I wanted.”
He ran track and cross country at school when he enrolled in Kinkaid High School, the oldest independent nonparochial school in Texas.
He said Don North, his high school principal and English teacher, changed the way he viewed learning.
I called North, who is now headmaster of Kinkaid, to find out what he remembered about his student.
North said, “Brad was very bright. He had skated by [made good grades with little effort] until his ninth grade year when he joined us. He was a student of strong character and came from a great family with ethical standards. I knew his brother, John, as well. Their parents did a great job of raising their boys.
“I began pushing Brad academically and tried to help him learn to think intellectually and to analyze his thoughts — not just to think what someone else wanted him to think. I’ve proudly followed his successful career.”
Harman said that North’s efforts had a profound effect on him.
“Mr. North was very influential helping me make the transition from just accumulating hours of classes to taking advantage of every learning opportunity in front of me. That brought a whole new outlook on education for me once I implemented that strategy.”
Brad’s strongest academic strengths were science and math, laying a foundation for medicine. He was inspired as a child, walking around the hospital and medical offices with his maternal grandfather, Dr. Walter Melton, a Houston academic surgeon.
At the University of Texas in Austin, Harman made the dean’s honor list when he earned his BBA degree. However, there was an emotional shock awaiting him in medical school.
“They told us some of us would drop out after the experience that was coming, and a couple of them did. As a cadaver was raised from a tank, it was very real.
“I realized there was so much to learn ... that seeing the light at the end of the tunnel would take awhile.”
He and Naomi Trevino, from San Antonio, also a medical student, met in 1994. They married in 2000 and have two children, Matthew, 9, and Samara, 7. Naomi practices obstetrics/gynecology at her Cleburne office at 825 N. Nolan River Road.
He said, “We are both so grateful to the Johnson County community for supporting our practices and trusting us with their health and allowing us to care for so many of them. Our roots have grown deep here.”
The Harmans are members of the Metroplex Ski Club, where they say they enjoy making ski friends on the water.
They are also active members of Cleburne Bible Church.
“I was involved with a Methodist Church in Houston while growing up,” Harman said. “I was also in Young Life and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which provided healthy friends and activities to help keep me in line. All that, plus a Christian home helped solidify my faith at a young age.
“While I leave the discipleship ministry up to my brother as a pastor, I do feel God has a plan for all of us. It is a real blessing to me to watch his healing hand work in my patients’ lives. Although we are far from perfect, with God’s hand present in our work we can certainly do better caring for patients. We can do so much more through him and his grace.”
He told me more about the skier in one photograph.
“Injuries can be severe in skiing competition. Jumping, by far, is the most dangerous. The speed, timing, hitting the ramp in the water ... all of that has to be perfect. Common injuries are fractures, sprains, ligament tears, cuts and bruises.
“An injured Canadian skier found that with her country’s socialized medicine she would have to wait six months for an MRI and up to two years for the surgery she needed. Her father asked me for my help. We flew her in for a consult and got an MRI of her ankle.
“Then a few months later when she was on college break in Louisiana, she drove over with friends and we did her surgery here at our surgical center. She stayed overnight in a local hotel, then went home the next day. She was out four months for skiing and was back full time. She is still on the Canadian team doing very well.”
Harman is in partnership with Dr. Blaine Farless at Cleburne Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at 2010 Katherine P. Raines Blvd. in Cleburne.
Harman said, “I met Dr. Farless in 2004 and joined him in 2005. He is a great surgeon and colleague, and has always had a great vision for improving health care here in Cleburne. We hope our facilities meet all the needs of our patients. Our patients can see a doctor, get an MRI, visit our pain medicine center or have their surgery at our surgical center with follow-up physical therapy — all at one location.”
Harman takes his children with him frequently to the hospital on weekends.
“They enjoy making rounds with me. We have fun learning how to care for others together and hopefully some of that will stick with them.”
He admits he’s still drawn to the water.
“We live on the Alvarado Lake with the water down the back yard. I’m in it every chance I get with the kids. We are out there swimming, skiing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, sailing.”
No competition or gold medals needed at their place. Just a love of the water, some sunshine — and a little family time.
Larue Barnes may be reached at email@example.com.