Dr. Lambert (above) weighs in Barikian before a match, to make sure he is at a safe minimum weight.
An assistant professor at UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM), Lambert teaches both family and sports medicine. She also sees patients and teaches them and their families about health care. As a regular columnist for the Courier Post on health and fitness, Lambert also helps educate the public. She is the first woman to be on the board of directors of the New Jersey Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons and was appointed by the president of the American Osteopathic Association to serve on the Women's Health Advisory Committee.
Each week, the physician visits at least one of the six high schools and six grade schools in Camden County where she is the school doctor. When wrestling season rolls around, Lambert also certifies team members at her assigned high schools. This means determining the minimum safe weight a wrestler can attain in his weight class. "Cutting weight," or getting down to that minimum weight, is an ongoing controversy. Often wrestlers will stop eating and drinking, or even force themselves to vomit, a few hours before a match. In Wisconsin a few years ago, a high school wrestler died trying to cut weight.
"Ten years ago, the coach told the school doctor what weights to certify," she says. "But today we know how dangerous it is for kids to become dehydrated or lose excessive amounts of weight. It decreases the circulation, thus depriving the body of oxygen and nutrients and impairing the body's ability to take away the waste products of exercise. And sometimes it takes hours to rehydrate." Certification usually goes along fine, but occasionally she gets complaints from parents and coaches. "They'll say to me, 'You just don't understand the sport,'" she says. "But I do understand the health risks."
Lambert grew up in Hammonton -- the blueberry capital of the world -- where as a teen, she packed berries for extra money. She was the fourth child in a family of three girls and two boys, so there was always a group playing some type of sport in the family's large backyard. The local high school was just around the corner, so they often played tennis there. All five were high school athletes. Lambert played high school basketball and high school and college field hockey.
But sports didn't dominate her life. Her parents emphasized the importance of academics, and she was a top-notch student. Her favorite subjects, she recalls, were always the biosciences. She volunteered as a candy striper and enjoyed the hospital environment and interacting with patients. And she loved nothing better than solving tough problems. So when it came time to make a career choice, it was practically a given.
"All the pieces fit together; it had to be medicine," she says.
"I wanted to be a family physician from way back. I remember our family doctor, also a DO, as such a good physician and a kind and caring man. I wanted to do what he did." Lambert graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. In 1989, she came to SOM to do a residency in family medicine. Although she didn't know it, sports would once again become a significant part of her life. Lambert met Ron Goldberg, DO, who became her mentor. Part of Goldberg's job as school physician was treating injured athletes. Because sports medicine was unheard of in the '50s and '60s, Goldberg developed a reputation as the expert on sports injuries in southern New Jersey. In the fall of 1991, Goldberg asked Lambert to join him in doing sideline medicine. She jumped at the chance. They worked together until his death a few years ago. Now Lambert carries on the tradition.