OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A ballet barre featured alongside an elliptical machine, exercise ball and other equipment is the first clue that Dr. Megan Meier's clinic isn't an ordinary medical office.
Meier's nickname of "Dance Doctor" serves as another hint that the physician fits right in at Oklahoma City Ballet's practice facility.
Meier, of Edmond, is the person ballet company members go to when they have injuries that keep them from being in tip-top shape.
A family medicine and sports medicine physician with Mercy Health, Meier said she helped watch over the dancers during their lengthy spate of high-profile performances that started with "Dracula" and ended with the holiday classic "The Nutcracker."
Dancer Walker Martin, 26, portrayed "The Nutcracker" in the Oklahoma City Ballet's recent performances. He said Meier has helped him several times, including when he tore his bicep several seasons ago. He said she also talked to him about proper nutrition.
Meier said she knows exactly what dancers like Martin go through.
She was once a dancer herself.
Meier, an Altus native, was immersed in the world of dance from age 4 to 17, and she always assumed that she would grow up to be a professional ballet dancer.
An ankle sprain during her senior year in high school changed all that, but she said she wasn't crushed.
"I don't know that it was heartbreaking. I just don't know that I thought there was an option besides dance," the doctor told The Oklahoman.
She said she continued dancing through college but decided not to major in dance. She said she'd had some scholarships lined up for it, but the ankle injury caused her to think about another career.
After the injury "I never felt whole," Meier said.
Instead of dance, she went into zoology and pre-med.
She discovered the specialty of sports medicine and felt she'd found the perfect career.
"My experience as a dancer made me really passionate about becoming the kind of physician who understands a dancer's injuries and can help connect the dots between diagnosis and treatment," Meier said.
"It's a mixed marriage of being able to understand things," she said. "It all makes sense now where I can put together the injury piece and the preventive piece."
The doctor said she learned through her work there was a lot that could have been done about her own injury had sports medicine been more evolved at that time. She was told to stop dancing and wear an air cast. She wasn't referred to physical therapy or told how to change her technique to avoid another injury in the future.
"There's no fault to anyone. That's just how things were done 20 years ago. We just know how to treat dancers now," she said.
Meier, 35, said she's thankful she can blend her two loves of dance and medicine.
"God gives us the tools to put us in our right place. I feel like that's my calling," she said. "I feel like everybody has something like that. You just have to have faith in the process."
She began to work with the Oklahoma City Ballet Company about six years ago. She said a physical therapist had already developed a good working relationship with the dance company.
Robert Mills, artistic director, said among the ballet company's 30 professional dancers, there are often 30 to 40 injuries each season.
"Most physicians have no way of knowing exactly what our dancers undertake physically," he said. “We desperately needed someone who really understands a dancer's anatomy, their body and what they do.”
In her work with ballet dancers, Meier said some common injuries she sees are stress injuries, ankle issues and what she called "snapping hip." She also takes care of her dance patients for what she described as "run of the mill" ailments as well.
Meanwhile, Meier and her husband Jonathan have two daughters, ages 3 and 6, who are ballet dancers.
The "Dance Doctor" and her family attended a recent performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Civic Center Music Hall. Such experiences are all the more uplifting because she knows many of the dancers and understands how her expertise has aided many of them in their quest to bring stories to life through dance.
"We want to make sure these dancers have the care to just continue to do what we love for them to do," she said.