Joel Buffum poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at 25 N. Front Street in Yakima, Wash. (Amanda Ray, Yakima Herald-Republic)

For Joel Buffum, it started when he blew out his knee in a fight.

He grew up in martial arts, did taekwondo in first grade and was a third-degree black belt when he dislocated his patella - his kneecap literally went to the side. Working with physical therapists and athletic trainers, he knew he wanted to go into one of those realms.

Part of the drive was born from his motivation to continue to be active, to participate and to get better. That same drive had a hand in helping him decide to start the first sports-related concussion clinic in Central Washington.

"We were trying to remove any restrictions we could to create a location for community access and a standard for how to manage these injuries," he said.

With the biggest concern being potential long-term damage from a second impact, Buffum works to be sure accommodations are made as he evaluates and works to rehabilitate patients and get them back to their normal activity levels.

"Every kid that comes in that you're able to return back to a healthy lifestyle without deficits is a success," he said. "I get to go to bed every night knowing I got the opportunity to help those kids stay healthy and active."

The leader and founder of Virginia Mason Memorial's Medicine Advantage program, Buffum developed a class to train area coaches in CPR and first aid, and assisted the Sozo sports complex as it set up a sports medicine program. He is in charge of a staff of trainers that covers five area high schools and the Pippins baseball club, along with tournaments and other local events.

One of the reasons he likes Yakima is because you don't have to be at the top or a business CEO here.

"If you've got some drive, you can make stuff happen," he said.

He said he's been inspired by his parents, bosses, and many others.

"I've been very fortunate to have a lot of very hard-working, dedicated people in my life," he said. "My partner, my friends - all the people I get to work with. I find inspiration in seeing what so many people contribute, because there's no way you can do everything. It's inspiring to see what other people are doing."

He defines success as sense over dollars.

"If you've been able to make a positive impact on people or a community or society without violating your own moral and ethical responsibilities, I think each one of those would be a success," he said. "I think at some point I might work on other projects, but the things I'm doing right now - as long as it's growing, developing and helping the community - I consider them pretty successful."