This story, written by Christiana Dillard, is adapted from Pitt Magazine's winter 2018 issue.
Televised tennis matches captivated Lisa Maddox (MED ’95) as a young girl. She was drawn to the athletic finesse of players like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Watching the U.S. Open in her family’s living room in Georgia, Maddox got so excited that she pretended to be one of the ball girls tasked with retrieving errant tennis balls. Back and forth across the living room she ran, imagining one day hitting the court as a player.
Today, Maddox is living her childhood dream, after overcoming significant hurdles to do so. In 2006, treatment for a chronic pain condition led to the amputation of her left leg. As she adapted to using a wheelchair, the lifelong athlete was determined to return to the sport she loved. She tried wheelchair basketball, but found more joy on the tennis court. Fueled by a passion and regular training, Maddox has won 17 tennis titles, and finished 2017 as No. 1 in the nation in the United States Tennis Association’s Wheelchair Tennis Women’s A division.
The Pitt alumna is no stranger to facing challenges. She attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as part of the school’s ninth-ever class of women. After serving in military intelligence, she changed course and earned a Pitt medical degree to become an Army physician. Now, as a civilian, Maddox directs the Polytrauma Amputee Network at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, where she blends medical expertise with firsthand experience to help others undergoing physical rehabilitation.
Maddox’s next challenge: reaching the 2020 Paralympics. Getting there will take a lot of hard work, but the athlete is unfazed.
“Go big or go home!” she says.