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DICK'S Sporting Goods

The first foreign-born Olympic flag bearer for the U.S. didn’t even compete with his own given name.

Pádraig Mac Domhnaill was born and raised by a family of weight-throwers and strongmen in Ireland. But when he arrived in the U.S. in 1899 at the age of 21, the immigration officials changed his name to "McDonald" instead of the more common spelling of "McDonnell."

As a man who was nearly 300 pounds and clocking in at just about 6 feet 5 inches tall, the newly christened Patrick McDonald knew it was better to keep his head down than correct them — after all, misspelled names were hardly the greatest struggle for Irish immigrants at the time.


[rebelmouse-image 19530955 dam="1" original_size="1000x1596" caption="Photo via "The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 Official Report."" expand=1]Photo via "The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 Official Report."

McDonald once told a magazine his first warehouse job was hard labor, and after six long years, he joined the New York Police Department.

This certainly wasn’t an uncommon career path for Irish immigrants at the time. But when he wasn't on his beat as Times Square’s Falstaffian traffic cop, McDonald was busy honing his weight-throwing prowess through theIrish-American Athletic Association. Soon enough, his size had earned him the ironic nickname "Babe" as well as a coveted spot among the Irish Whales, an infamous group of like-sized Irish athletes who dominated track and field.

Collectively, the Whales won 25 gold medals between 1896 and 1924, when the newly formed Republic of Ireland entered the Olympics as its own free state.

[rebelmouse-image 19530956 dam="1" original_size="538x365" caption="McDonald's fellow "Irish Whales": John Flanagan, Martin Sheridan, James Mitchell. Photo via Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]McDonald's fellow "Irish Whales": John Flanagan, Martin Sheridan, James Mitchell. Photo via Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald won his first Olympic-qualifying championship in 1907 — just as weight-throwing was dropped from the Games.

Still, he was determined to make it to the Olympics someday. So he put aside his hammer and discus, and turned his attention to the shot put. By the time the 1912 Games in Sweden rolled around, he was good enough to take home gold and silver medals for the United States.

After returning as a winner, McDonald continued to work as a traffic cop in Times Square — but even that came with its own reward. He became as well-known for his public personality as a "Living Statue of Liberty" as he was for being an Olympic champion. One reporter noted, "Never in the record of the swirling traffic of autos did any chauffeur ever venture to ignore McDonald’s great bulk. Newsboys pooled their spare pennies to buy him a loving cup."

Still, McDonald kept on training, eager for the chance to win another gold medal for his new home country.

[rebelmouse-image 19530957 dam="1" original_size="1496x1198" caption="Time Square in 1920, when Patrick McDonald was still on the traffic beat. Photo via American Studio, N.Y./Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Time Square in 1920, when Patrick McDonald was still on the traffic beat. Photo via American Studio, N.Y./Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division/Wikimedia Commons.

With no Olympic Games during World War I, McDonald had to wait eight years to compete again — but once more, it was worth the wait.

It had become a bit of a tradition for the U.S. track-and-field captain or gold medal winners to serve as flag-bearers in the Olympics’ opening ceremony. And since McDonald filled both criteria, it just made sense for him to carry the banner to the 1920 Games in Antwerp — making him the first foreign-born U.S. Olympian to have that honor. The 42-year-old earned another gold medal that year too, making him the oldest Olympic track-and-field champion in history.

[rebelmouse-image 19530958 dam="1" original_size="1024x759" caption="Pat McDonald, second from the left, with his fellow Irish Whales. Photo: Library of Congress" expand=1]Pat McDonald, second from the left, with his fellow Irish Whales. Photo: Library of Congress

McDonald carried the flag once again at the 1924 Paris Games. But that time, he didn’t compete.

He had other responsibilities at home.

McDonald had a family to take care of and new duties as a sergeant for the NYPD (he went on to make lieutenant in 1926 before retiring as a captain in 1946). Besides, he’d already beat the record for oldest track-and-field athlete, and he was only getting older — although he did continue to compete in weight-throwing competitions domestically, winning his 16th and final national title in 1933 when he was 55.

[rebelmouse-image 19530959 dam="1" original_size="1247x1181" caption="A monument to Pat McDonald, built in his hometown of Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo via The Banner/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]A monument to Pat McDonald, built in his hometown of Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo via The Banner/Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald was a larger-than-life figure. But his infectiously positive nature is what made him truly remarkable.

In some ways, his life may sound like the quintessential American immigrant story.But McDonald’s successes were never about wealth or fame — he simply wanted to work hard, do good, and raise a family. And while he was certainly rewarded for his efforts, those rewards came later in life, and they were not his only motivation.

Still, it speaks volumes that Team USA could come together — twice — under the flag as it was flown by a middle-aged athlete born in another country. While his native land suffered through strife and its own violent revolution, McDonald found a new home in a nation of immigrants that welcomed him with open (if misspelled) arms.

When McDonald passed away in 1954, The New York Times said that he had gone through life "with a song in his heart, a twinkle in his eye and laughter ever bubbling within him." And perhaps that was his greatest legacy after all.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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