Dr. Mirnics is attending Special Olympics International

Karoly Mirnics, MD, PhD, director of the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute

Karoly Mirnics, MD, PhD, director of the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute

Karoly Mirnics, MD, PhD, has never lobbed a bocce ball before.

But Dr. Mirnics, director of the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute, will try his hand at the sport as a unified athlete this month during the Special Olympics International World Games in Berlin.

The games are the world’s most inclusive sporting event. They feature athletes with disabilities, as well as Unified Sports, which team people with and without disabilities for events.

Dr. Mirnics, one of 30 individuals worldwide who sit on the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International, arrived in Berlin June 15.

He will partake in a number of events during the games, which run from June 17 to June 25. At the games, Dr. Mirnics will meet with fellow Special Olympics International board members and host the Golisano Health Leadership Awards. In addition to his role on the board, Dr. Mirnics also serves on the organization’s research and policy committee and is chair of the global medical advisory committee, which serves the world.

“It’s an amazing organization, and I’m proud they feel I’m bringing something to the table,” Dr. Mirnics said. “I am deeply honored to represent MMI, UNMC, the state of Nebraska and the U.S.A.”

From a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities to a global movement, Special Olympics has been changing lives and attitudes since 1968. With more than 6 million athletes and unified partners across more than 200 countries, Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Today, it unifies more than 28,000 local clubs and programs on all inhabited continents, with a participation of more than half a million coaches and a million volunteers. In addition to advancing athletic excellence, the organization promotes physical and behavioral health and advocates for inclusive policies worldwide.

More than 7,000 athletes will participate in 26 summer sports in the 2023 World Games, supported by more than 3,000 coaches and 20,000 volunteers.

Other Nebraskans attending the games include Carolyn Chamberlin, president and CEO of Special Olympics Nebraska; Anne Hermann competing for Team USA in track and field; and athlete Joe Drwal of Omaha and unified partner Sophie Hill will be part of the Global Youth Leadership Summit.

“They are fierce competitors and extraordinary individuals. Not everyone will break a record, but all the athletes will push themselves to the limit,” Dr. Mirnics said. “They will do their best, and we celebrate it together, in public, inclusively. That’s the part that is amazing to me.”

This is the first times the games have been back in full swing since the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes and organizers alike are eager to be together again at the event, Dr. Mirnics said.

The international games are a celebration — of inclusion and achievement, Dr. Mirnics said. They also represent a larger effort. Special Olympics launched “The Revolution Is Inclusion,” a global campaign in 2018 designed to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and to create a fully inclusive world, where everyone with intellectual disability is seen, respected and welcomed.

“The population we care for and about should not be invisible,” Dr. Mirnics said. “These are amazing human beings. They compete. They feel the highs and lows. They are genuinely nice people. And it’s their health and place in an inclusive society that we should all care about.”

Dr. Mirnics said his leadership in Special Olympics International reflects the wider work being done at the Munroe-Meyer Institute and UNMC.

“In a sense, my role in SOI is a recognition of the amazing job that we are doing here,” he said. “Frankly, I would have never gotten these worldwide leadership appointments if UNMC and our community were not recognized as world leaders in this arena.”

While Dr. Mirnics said he’s looking forward to many parts of the games, he’s particularly excited to meet Sana, one of the special athletes from Pakistan featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “As Far As They Can Run.”

As for his bocce ball debut, Dr. Mirnics isn’t squeezing in any practice sessions. Instead, he’s embodying the spirit of the games: Being inclusive.

“Is it about breaking the next world record or getting a gold medal? No. It’s about doing your best, having fun, camaraderie, raising awareness, providing opportunities for all, improving health and being an integral, respected part of the society,” he said.


  1. Tom O’Connor says:

    Congrats, Dr. Mirnics – know you will represent UNMC/MMI well.

  2. Marlene Novotny says:

    Safe travels, Dr. Mirnics! Have an amazing time

  3. Walter Gilliam says:

    Can’t wait to hear the amazing stories stories you bring home with you, Dr Mirnics. Safe travels!

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