The Roundup: A Conversation With Mountaineer Dr. Joe McGinley

This week, Wendy Corr talks with mountaineer Dr. Joe McGinley, who discusses his preparation to climb Mount Everest; about his 130 (and counting) patents for groundbreaking medical equipment; and about living his best life in the Cowboy State.

WC
Wendy Corr

April 20, 202428 min read

The Roundup Mc Ginley
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)
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Wendy Corr:

Well, hey there, folks, welcome to The Roundup! We are a podcast featuring voices, opinions, perspectives, adventures from really interesting people in the Cowboy State! And I'm your host, Wendy Corr. 

Today, when you're talking about adventure, this gentleman is the epitome of adventurer. I mean, you can describe him as a doctor, as an entrepreneur and inventor. And then of course, you've got the adventurer part in there. I'm talking about Dr. Joe McGinley, who is a radiologist in sports medicine in Casper at ‘The M’ - which is an amazing clinic and an amazing building there in downtown Casper. 

But you have done something that very, very few people have done: you are about to climb Mount Everest, and that's huge. So Dr. Joe, Dr. Joe McGinley, welcome to The Roundup.

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Thanks, Wendy, I appreciate that introduction. It’s a little embarrassing. So yes, every day is an adventure here, that's for sure, whether it's work, play, or you know, climbing. But yes, I leave this Sunday, April 21. I leave to head back to Everest for round two, and trying to finish off the Seven Summits. Less than 500 people have ever done that. You know, I still gotta get to the top, which is, you know, an arduous journey, for sure. But assuming I get there, I'll be in a very elite category of mountain climbers.

Wendy Corr:

That is something - so very few people even say, “You know, this is what I want to do. I want to climb all the Seven Summits of the seven continents on earth.” You have, however, already done most of that work! You've done six of those seven summits. Tell us about those. I'd really love to hear about which peaks they are, and how long it took you to train, things like that. 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, I finished six of the seven summits, so just Everest to go. And it's been a journey I've been working on, really, since I've arrived in Wyoming. 

So you know, I think Kilimanjaro was my first climb, that was back in 2010, 2011, somewhere around there. And you know, I really didn't start out with this bad decision to climb all seven, it just was something fun and adventurous. And, you know, I like to stay in shape. We're in Wyoming, so outdoors are all around us. And, you know, I was in great training opportunities here in Casper, with Casper Mountain and everything.

And it started with Kilimanjaro and I just slowly ramped up the intensity of the mountains from there. And then, you know, I think the point, the crux of the whole thing of getting through the Seven Summits was Denali. 

So Denali is the highest peak in North America, up in Alaska. That's actually the hardest - technically the hardest of the Seven Summits. And I'd never really thought I was gonna give Denali a go, but an opportunity came up with a guide, a friend of mine, and we ended up going as a small group, rapid ascent. And I just enjoyed the challenge, I enjoyed the technical portion of that mountain. 

And once I finished Denali, you know, then really, this became a reality, where I could see the end, I could see myself getting to Everest - and that really was the turning point of me saying, ‘this is just a hobby,’ now to saying, ‘I want to get the Seven Summits.”

Wendy Corr:

Now, wait a minute - you said that Denali is the hardest of the Seven Summits? How does that work?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

A lot of people don't realize that. Denali is fully unsupported, and Denali is like in the middle of nowhere, they drop you off on the glacier and it is hard. It is a technically challenging mountain. The weather is just brutal, and you have to carry everything, so you're 100% self sufficient. On Everest, you have Sherpas, you have guides, you have a lot more support on Everest than you do on Denali. 

Also on Denali, there's no fixed ropes. So, there's only one section that has ropes, that's the ice wall. But other than that there's no ropes on Denali, either. So you're roped in as a team and then you anchor along the way. There's not like a fixed line that you just clip into and walk up the mountain. Again, Everest has that set up with lines and everything else, so it's a little bit more amenable to climbers with less experience. Whereas Denali, you know, you really are on your own, and you have to be able to handle those technical challenges.

Wendy Corr

Now I have to say, you're a doctor, you tend to tell people to be safe, and to take care of yourself. Climbing mountains doesn't seem like that would be the thing to do. But obviously, you're a sports medicine doctor. So your whole goal is to keep athletes safe, and keep them in shape. 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, that's correct. I mean, any sport has risks associated with it, you just have to be reasonable about it and prepare. 

So on these mountains, I call it a calculated risk. I try to mitigate as much of the risk as possible. Again, that's with training, practice, making sure you have the right guides, making sure that you're sensible about the decisions you make on the mountain. So if you do it correctly, again, there's things that are uncontrollable like the weather, other climbers, your teammates, but you know, you can mitigate a lot of that risk. And that's the same really in any sport. 

So when I get to a mountain, I've limited the risk as much as I possibly can. And I feel relatively comfortable that I'm in a safe zone going up the mountain. If I feel uncomfortable, again, just like last year on Everest, I'm willing to turn around. I mean, I'm not dying to get to the top of the mountain. I want to keep my fingers, I want to make sure that this doesn't ruin my life. This definitely is a hobby and not my career. 

So yeah, if it doesn't work out, I'm willing to turn around. And that's a key component of doing these type of adventures. You have to know when to say when, and when it's not your day, to fight another day.

Wendy Corr

What was it on your last trip to Everest that made you say, this is ridiculous, we're gonna die here.

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, it wasn't the dying part that I was... I mean, you could see that that was happening, last year was the deadliest year on record on Everest. It was pretty crowded, the weather window got very narrow, so it was really bad weather last year on Everest. So the weather window narrowed to just a few days - now you had all these people, base camp had almost 5000 people, there was about 500 registered climbers, and then you had their Sherpa teams and everything else. So everyone tried to go at the same time up the mountain, and it resulted in fairly long lines. 

We were dealing with some minor injuries, things like that, but nothing that said, ‘hey, if we go up, we're gonna die.’ What I was mostly concerned about was frostbite, to be honest with you, because at that pace, when you're going that slow, you run low on oxygen - you have to sort of titrate down your oxygen as you get up higher, which makes you colder. And then if you're not moving, you're not keeping your body warm. And that's where frostbite can creep in. So my main concern last year was frostbite more than anything else.

Again, we had a great team, we had great guides. So the risk of dying was, you know, that was a trivial risk as far as I was concerned, but frostbite was my main concern.

Wendy Corr

And of course, you are a doctor. So frostbite would be a concern. Tell us - let's just kind of switch gears and back up a little bit. You are a doctor, you got your degree, your PhD from Stanford, is that correct? Or was it Temple?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, so I have four degrees from Temple - a bachelor, Master's in mechanical engineering, and then I did my MD-PhD at Temple. So yeah, all of that was my science background and research. And then from there, I went to Stanford for residency and fellowship, I did musculoskeletal radiology, and then I got into, essentially, interventional orthopedics. 

So my practice right now is sports medicine, but the focus is interventional orthopedics, and minimally invasive treatments for pretty much most orthopedic procedures.

Wendy Corr:

Interventional orthopedics. What exactly does that mean? I’ve never had a sports injury, so I don't know. 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

It's a fairly unique practice. It's a growing area of medicine. 

So for example, let's take carpal tunnel syndrome. Fairly common, most people know what that is. Traditionally, you have to go in and have a surgery where you get a pretty big cut on your hand to get that fixed. We now have catheters that we can slide into the wrist, and we can do that same procedure with ultrasound. And then you know, the entry point is so small, there's not even a single stitch. So patients can go back to work in 48 hours, a tiny little scratch, no big scars, anything like that. 

So interventional orthopedics is essentially advancing traditional orthopedics to a minimally invasive approach. We're using catheters and needles, instead of, you know, scalpels and open procedures.

Wendy Corr:

I'm sure that changes a lot of lives. 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, some people just are not healthy enough to go under anesthesia for traditional surgery. We can keep them completely awake, so there's no sedation or general anesthesia. It's just lidocaine, just some numbing medicine right at the site, and then they're in the procedure room less than 10-15 minutes and they get the same - actually, they get a better outcome than the traditional surgical approach. 

So yeah, we weren't the ones that developed that procedure, but we were the first and only site here in Wyoming doing that. We're a Center of Excellence nationwide for carpal tunnel - but that's just one example. We have that across the board, pretty much any orthopedic procedure that's not a major trauma, we now have interventional techniques to be able to treat that person without going through a traditional surgery.

Wendy Corr:

What a game changer - and to have that right here in Wyoming. How did you find Wyoming? You came from Temple University, you went to Stanford for your residency. Why Wyoming? We're not complaining - but why Wyoming?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Got tired of the traffic! (laughs) No, you know, my family and I, we've been in Wyoming now, I think coming up on 15 years. So we love it. It's an incredible place. But it's a fun story. 

You know, I grew up, my wife and I grew up out on the east coast, Philadelphia, and then went out to Stanford for training. And towards the end of my training, we did a road trip across the Midwest and across the Rocky Mountain states, and passed through Wyoming.

And when I was driving through Wyoming – I'd never been in Wyoming before - and it was absolutely just stunning. I just couldn't believe the natural beauty of the state, and how much open space we have and just the diversity of the scenery from one portion of the state to the other. And I love the outdoors. I did mountain bike riding, adventure racing and everything else. So it's just an incredible place. 

So, you know, when I was finishing up residency, I saw a position just advertised in Casper. And I said to my wife, I said, ‘Hey, remember that little town we drove through and Wyoming?’ I said, ‘They have a position in radiology, in musculoskeletal radiology.’ And she's like, ‘Well, we can take a look if you want. But you know, we're probably going to be staying in a big city.’

But we came out, we spent a week here in Casper, and we just loved it. So I canceled the rest of my interviews, I took the position that week. And really, that's it - we've been here ever since. It’s probably the best decision I've ever made. 

Wendy Corr

Well, and we're so glad that you did! You have literally transformed downtown Casper in some ways, because you took the old Wells Fargo building, The Onion, and you have transformed that into not just your office space, but a beautiful community space and public space as well. Tell us about The M.

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, as much as I'd like to take credit for that, that was all my wife, Diane. So that was her vision from the beginning. When this building came up for sale, she brought it to my attention. I was like, ‘Are you crazy?’ I'm like, ‘That building is probably going to require a ton of work to bring up to medical standards.’

But I heard her out, we came down, we looked at it, and actually it was in overall great shape. So we ended up getting the building, because we wanted to build a center of excellence for orthopedic care. And we knew, the building and where you're at, is a representation of you and your practice. So, from a visual standpoint, this was a great fit. So that's where it started. 

And we came in, and we sort of took the gamble on it. And again, that was another great decision. I’ve got to say, her choice on that one was incredible. And the look of the building, the remodel went exceptionally well, the construction was on time. So yeah, we're now fully up and running here. 

Our medical practice, believe it or not, 60 to 65% of our patients fly into Casper from out of state - all around the world, actually. We have a map here, where patients come in, they can put a little pin in it. And it's literally the entire planet. We've had people fly out to Casper for treatment, because some of the stuff we have is fairly unique. And this is a good representation. When they see the ‘M’ building, when they see downtown Casper, they then know why I moved here. And you know, it is just a really a good representation of downtown. 

Wendy Corr:

Well, talking about talking about how unique your practice is. A lot of the things that you do, you're an inventor. You have, what, 130 patents, something like that? On medical equipment, is that correct?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, it's, it's actually creeping over 140 now. So in addition to my medical practice, we have a med tech startup company here in the building as well. So, two separate businesses, but very similar personalities. 

You know, our med tech startup created products for orthopedic surgery, embedding sensor technology into orthopedic power tools to make surgery safer, more efficient, more effective. Those are being used all around the world right now. 

And then we took that a step further, and we created some implants, so, plates for wrist fractures - again, patented, fairly unique, to help improve the outcome. So everything that we're looking at with our products, it’s focused on the patient - from my clinic to the startup, it's all patient centered, patient focused. And the great thing about the startup, is all those products are made in Wyoming, and they're being used all around the world at some of the most significant institutions in orthopaedics.

Wendy Corr:

So Wyoming is being represented in ways that we haven't even thought about yet. 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah,it's fun for us. When we first started out, people would ask, they’d say, ‘Oh, where's your company from?’ We'd say, ‘Wyoming.’ They’d say, ‘Miami?’ I said, ‘No, no, Wyoming.’ And they're like, ‘Oh, we didn't know there was any med tech in that area.’ I was, like, ‘Well, we are.’ 

But now, we've been around for a little while, so what's great about being from Wyoming, is now everyone knows us as the Wyoming orthopedic company. So that's sort of stuck and has helped us stick out as being different than a lot of the other companies. 

And you know, we have great employees here. We have great resources in Wyoming. You have to find it, you know - we are a big state with a few people, but just an incredible amount of services for business startups, entrepreneurs, and growing your business. So it ended up, again, being a good decision long term. Whereas at first you might say, ‘Boy, what are they doing, trying to do a med tech in Casper, Wyoming?’

Wendy Corr:

Well, I'm hoping that with all of your adventuring, you've not had to use your own products in that way. 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, I've been lucky. I've done a lot of sports over my life, motocross racing, adventure racing, mountain biking, and I've never had a significant injury. You know, minor things here and there, but nothing significant. So yeah, I’m keeping my fingers crossed on Everest here, but so far, I've not had to have my products used on myself yet. 

Although, you know, a little caveat to that - in my clinic, we do stem cell therapy for orthopedic injuries, and I did undergo a stem cell treatment for my hip. I tore my labrum running, which is a repetitive use type injury. And I went to one of the major orthopedic centers and they said, ‘Yeah, you have to have surgery to repair that.’ And I said, ‘You know, I'm going to practice what I preach. I'm going to try stem cells first.’ And that was over five years ago, and I've climbed several mountains since then, and my hip’s doing great. No scars, nothing. So yeah, I guess I was the benefit of one of my services on the other side of the hallway here.

15:18

Yeah, I guess so! That's pretty amazing. Now, I want to talk about your adventuring, because that is something - again, you've gone over and beyond, I would say that you're the classic overachiever. Talking about all of the things that you do, but you're adventuring as well. Is it true, you swam to Alcatraz Island seven times? 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Eight times. Yeah, I have eight swims from Alcatraz.Yeah, that's a funny story, too. The first time I did it, I didn't know how to swim. So I signed up for the Escape from Alcatraz and I could, like, doggy paddle and tread water, and that's about it. But I signed up, and I had nine months to figure it out. And I did. I literally bought a book and learned how to open water swim on that first Alcatraz swim, but eight of them now. I've done full Ironman, half Ironman, everything else. So if something's deficient, I'll try to figure it out and take that as a challenge.

Wendy Corr:

What about your family? I mean your wife, I've talked to her, I interviewed her for the M remodel, and the grand opening and things like that. Tell me about your family. We want to know about who influences the really overachieving Dr. Joe McGinley.

Dr. Joe McGinley:

My wife's very tolerant of my activities (laughs) but, you know, she knew what she was getting into when we got married. We actually went to the prom in high school, believe it or not. So you know, we've known each other pretty much our whole lives. And she knew I was always into crazy adventures, and that I always push myself to that level. 

And then my son, Charlie, he's 14 now, and over his life, he's done a lot of the training with me, on Casper mountain and everything. He enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. So, you know, it's fun spending time with the family, with training and that sort of integrating those activities together. 

Wendy Corr:

Absolutely. And like you mentioned, Wyoming is a great training ground for you. Where do you go? Do you just stick to Casper mountain? Or do you branch out to other parts of Wyoming to do some of your training?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, it depends on the time of year. In the wintertime, Casper Mountain is really perfect for training, so 99% of my training is there. But in summertime, you have Alcova (Reservoir) so I'll do a lot of kayaking, and swimming - swimming training there is incredible. We'll do kayaking down the river, mountain biking really across the whole state. So yeah, there's a lot of great resources here.

I did the Cowboy Tough Adventure Race when that was here, I did it all five years. So, I've literally trekked across every portion of Wyoming over those five years. So I've gotten to see some of the incredible - and it just amazes me how many resources we have here. Some of them take a little bit to get to, but when you get there, it's very rewarding. The vistas, the scenery, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys - we're in an incredible state, a very beautiful, incredible state.

Wendy Corr:

Absolutely. So, your training for Everest has got to be a step above, I'm sure, what your normal Ironman training would be. Tell us about your training process for Everest - what do you have to do? What do you have to go through? Do you have to do certifications in order to get to Everest? 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, the training is unique, absolutely. So what I'm doing is a rapid ascent of Everest. You know, we didn't really touch on that much. But for these mountains, I can't go away for months at a time to go climb a mountain, I don't I don't have that luxury with my clinical practice and everything. 

So I've been doing rapid ascents. So on Everest, we’ll be on the mountain less than 10 days. Typically you're there two months to do the climb. So preparation really is the key to that. 

What I learned a long time ago is, they make these tents that you can sleep in that you can lower the oxygen gradually, while I'm sleeping here in Casper. So on several of the mountains now I've done rapid ascent using the climatization tent. And that allows me to just go to the mountain and already be prepared for the altitude. 

So right now, last night, for example, I slept at 20,000 feet at my home comfortably - I guess maybe not comfortably - but at my home, anyway, here in Casper. So I've been sleeping in an altitude tent since February 1 in preparation of Everest, that's one portion of it. 

The other part of training is to make sure that you don't get injuries. You know, I'm not 20 years old anymore, so I have to make sure my training is diverse. So I do a mix of weight training, cardiovascular training, endurance training - and then on the weekends, it's really real life training, climbing up and down Casper mountain. I'll do that even with a weighted vest of about 90 pounds to simulate what I'll be dealing with on the mountains. 

So it's that diverse mix of training that I think keeps me injury free. And then, you know, if I'm feeling overtrained or if I'm feeling a bit sore, I take a day off. I mean, you have to listen to your body and make sure that you deal with that directly and not try to just push through.

Wendy Corr:

When other people are going to be listening to this, or think, you know, this has been a goal of mine, I've wanted to climb these big mountains and things like that. How do you get started? Are there certifications? I mean, how do you book a trip to Mount Everest?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, don't start with Everest, that's for sure. If you want to climb the mountains, again, we have some great ones here in Wyoming to start - you know, The Grand is a great one to start. 

But if you want to go beyond that, out of the state, and try the Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro is typically the starting point. You'll get a feel for it, it's 19,000 feet, but it's not technical. So you don't really have to have any technical skills. It's literally hiking, it's just hiking all the way up, but it is 90,000. 

So you'll see if you like being at altitude or not, very quickly on Kilimanjaro. It's also very well supported, so you're not carrying a lot of gear and things like that. So if you're going to do it, start with Kilimanjaro, that'll be a very quick yes or no, whether this is for you or not. And it's a great experience. 

And then you take it from there. The mountains, really, there's a natural progression on these mountains, as far as what the challenges are, the skills required and everything else. 

And the more challenging ones are, you know, Denali, Everest, Aconcagua. Those are the high ones - a little bit more technical, a little more risky. The easier starting points, again, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus over in Russia, those are typically the starting mountains.

Wendy Corr:

I was wondering what all the peaks were. So, you've just kind of gone through those. And that just means that you've gone to all of these amazing places to do these summits.

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, the summit pictures are great for social media and everything else. But it's the journey there, that’s really what I enjoy. You're absolutely right. These are places that are not tourist locations. So it's not somewhere where you would go on vacation, typically - and you're meeting just local people, just some of the most amazing people on the planet. 

The Sherpas over on Everest last year, they are the hardest working people on the planet, as far as I'm concerned. It's incredible what they're able to do, and without complaint, and they just do it day after day. And I couldn't do it. I mean, what they're doing is absolutely incredible. And they're some of the nicest people, they’ll do anything for you. 

So, it's meeting the individuals, having that experience of these amazing places on the planet. I just got back from Antarctica in January - there's no place like Antarctica. I mean, that is truly, I guess, Mars might be a very close comparison. But when they drop you off there at the base of the mountain, there's nothing - there's no helicopters to rescue you, there's no snowmobiles, nothing. So if something happens, you and your team have to be self-sufficient. And there's not many places on the planet like that anymore, that you don't have access. There's no access there, it is truly a remote area. So that's part of the unique journey of these mountain climbs.

Wendy Corr:

And that was Mount Vinson. Right? Oh, my goodness. And so when you're doing all of these, planning all of these trips and things like that, how long are you away from your practice each time? Say, you're gonna be a ten day ascent for Everest. How long? Are you going to be gone for two weeks, or do you just get there, go up, come back down, and then come back home? 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, we're scheduled to be gone three weeks for an Everest. That's pretty much the longest of the bunch. Some of the other ones you’re gone, maybe seven to 10 days. But for Everest, that's as quick as you can do it really, getting up and down Everest. So I'll be physically out of the state of Wyoming, if all goes well, three weeks. 

Wendy Corr:

And of course, then you'll get back and all of your patients will want to hear the story. You're gonna tell the story a thousand times!

Dr. Joe McGinley:

That's correct. Yeah, that happened last year, too. I mean, people have been following our podcasts and everything else along the way, so we've been trying to keep people in tune with the journey. But yeah, people are just fascinated by some of the details and experiences along the way. So yeah, patients will be definitely asking about that. Those are fun conversations, and some of the questions are very interesting as well.

Wendy Corr:

I bet they are. Oh, my goodness. Okay, so when you get done with Everest, what's next? So you've climbed all the seven summits, what's your next big adventure? Do you have thoughts about what do you want to do next?

Dr. Joe McGinley:

I do. We’ll schedule a follow up podcast for that one. Again, I don't want to… yeah, I still have to get to the top of Everest, so I don't want to just assume that I'm going to get there. So we're going to focus on Everest, but I'll be glad- I do have some things in mind, we can chat about that when I get back, assuming that we're successful, and that we check off the top of Everest.

But it's a unique group. I mean, this will be an elite group of climbers - less than 500 have done the Seven Summits, and if I'm successful on Everest, I’ll have done three of them as rapid ascents as well. The three highest I did in rapid ascents, so less than 10 days on each of them. So it is a fairly unique climbing group. 

But you know, I'm privileged to be able to do this. My health has held up, I have no major injuries that have prevented me from going - so it takes a lot of training, luck, skill, your team, the support of your family, the support of your colleagues. 

I couldn't just leave my practice for three weeks unless I trusted my team here, because they’ll still be seeing patients and taking care of our patients and following up. So I really have to trust my team that they're able to do that. And I'm just surrounded by great people. So although I may be the one taking the picture on the summit, it's a lot of other people that sort of helped me climb that mountain to get there.

Wendy Corr:

How do we follow your adventures? 

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Yeah, so if you go to the McGinleyclinic.com, we have a link to our podcasts. We'll also have, I'll have a spot tracker, so you can actually physically track my journey as I'm heading up the mountain. So we'll have that live once I get there, once I get over to Tibet, and over to the China side of the mountain, we'll get that going live. 

So if you go to our website, mcginleyclinic.com, everything will be there. We'll post it on social media. We have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok. So it'll be on all those sites as well under the McGinley clinic. 

Wendy Corr:

That's fantastic. Dr. Joe McGinley, this has been a fascinating conversation. I am so glad we got a chance to talk with you before you summit Everest - we have all the faith in you that you're going to be successful. And our prayers go with you on this trip. This is something we're all going to be watching. Thank you for taking your time with us today!

Dr. Joe McGinley:

Thank you, and I look forward to holding that Wyoming flag, and representing Wyoming on the top of the world. So I appreciate you, Wendy, fun conversation.

Wendy Corr:

Absolutely! And folks, thank you for tuning in to the roundup. I've been your host, Wendy Corr. This has been a fantastic conversation with Dr. Joe McGinley. And please, stay tuned! Because next week, we're going to have more fascinating conversations with more people. So tune in but keep an eye on Dr. Joe McGinley. He's absolutely, literally, going places. Have a great week!

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