Amidst his many accomplishments, Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of the neurology department at Northwell Health Medical Center in Great Neck, is one of 17 devoted Great Neck athletes competing for Team USA in the 20th Maccabiah games in Israel, the world’s third-largest sporting event with 10,000 athletes competing from 80 countries.
It’s not easy being selected to compete on one of the world’s largest stages. Wright has had to put in substantial amounts of work to get to this competition. He has been participating in tournaments from a young age and the thrill has given him the desire to do it again and again. Over the years, he has worked his way up through the ranks and has evolved into an elite athlete. In fact, this is not the first time the doctor is competing in Israel as he previously participated in the triathlon in a former games.
This week at the games, Wright, who grew up in Scotland but later moved to Israel, is participating in Masters Judo. He and his family flew into Israel just before July 4. Even though this is officially only a “vacation from work,” he said he is “emotional and proud” to represent the country that has given him so much and allowed him to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
The neurologist served in the Israeli Defense Forces before attending the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. He then moved to the United States and completed his studies at Cornell University and interned at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
Though Wright said there is no direct connection between his two passions of judo and neurology, he said that they rather complement each other. The sport allows him to relieve the anxieties of work as well as learn how to take on a challenge and not back down. Being both a doctor and a judo master require a strong work ethic, and Wright notes that both require setting goals and boundaries, while he must have the desire to put in the necessary time and set an example for peers and spectators. Consequently, Wright’s two passions go hand in hand and allow him to better treat his patients on a daily basis.
Amidst the disparity between the two disciplines, Wright has noted his workplace, Northwell Health Medical Center, as a reason for participating in such an event. His colleagues take pride in seeing one of their own compete at such a high level. It gives them the inspiration to be better doctors and they hope to learn from Wright’s work ethic. He also said that he wants to set an example for his patients, showing them the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. He hopes that his competing in the games will be a source of inspiration for those around him working in their specific fields.
Wright noted that being successful in anything requires well-conditioned mental strength. Coaches often say that skill is only 10 percent of becoming a successful player, the other 90 percent is mental strength. If a person lacks that strength, it is easy to lose sight of one’s goals. For Wright, every day of judo is a challenge. There is always that voice in his head saying, “I don’t think I can do it.” But he digs deeper to achieve his goals.
Continuing coverage of the Maccabiah Games, as well as athlete profiles, will appear in upcoming issues.