Dr. Jennifer Bayer's athletic success led her from Lowell High School to playing college basketball at Lafayette College, then to medical school, residency and a sports fellowship in Madison, Wis.
Now, 14 years after leaving the area, she has returned and is practicing for Great Lakes Orthopedics & Sports Medicine with offices in Crown Point and St. John. A Lowell office is expected to be announced in December.
"It is great to come back to where I started and see the people I grew up with," Bayer said. "Northwest Indiana has changed a lot in almost 15 years, but the people are still the same great people, and I look forward to treating those who may need my help."
Bayer, a 1999 Lowell grad, was a three-sport star in volleyball, basketball and softball. She graduated as the girls basketball program's career rebound leader (681) and in softball, the single-season and career home run leader with four and seven, respectively. She also left as the Red Devils career leader in RBIs with 78.
Bayer played for Lowell in an era when the school flourished in all sports. She was both the school's and the Lake Athletic Conference's female athlete of the year in 1999.
"It was a great time for Lowell athletics and we were winning a lot," Bayer said. "It was good because we showed we were not just a bunch of farm kids running around with overalls. I am very fortunate and proud to have been a part of it. We had some great athletes and some great coaches."
Bayer recalls an upset in softball.
"We beat Lake Central in 1997 and I think they were No. 1," Bayer said. "What a great feeling that was for us to do that. Of course, we got Merrillville in the regional and that was when they had Leslie Malerich."
Bayer is the only Northwest Indiana female sports fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon. She spent last year in the Department of Orthopedics and Rahabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's sports fellowship program and worked with the Badgers football team.
Bayer did her five-year residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Michigan Health Systems in Ann Arbor. Bayer graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine. At Lafayette College, she starred in basketball and in the classroom as Bayer graduated Magna Cum Laude with the highest GPA of any biology major going to medical school, and was a four-time Patriot League all-academic member.
Bayer said having gone through a career-ending injury, she brings empathy to those who are going through rehabilitation.
"The one thing that you have to deal with is the mental aspect of it," Bayer said. "You get a 15- or 16-year-old athlete and now they are injured, it takes more than a physcial toll on them.
"I can get them back to playing, but it is making them understand they have to go through rehabilitation and that takes some time."
Bayer knew from her own injury and she wrote a term paper about her injury.
"I just think it is neat that you can help mend people and get them back to where they were or even better," Bayer said. "I love doing this and helping people."