Monday, March 27, 2023

4 HBCU Medical Schools Join NFL Diversity Initiative

Students from four Historically Black College and University Medical Schools will be selected this year for clinical rotation with NFL team medical staff.

The joint program with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS) aims to diversify the pipeline in sports medicine, including at NFL clubs. It is open to medical students interested in primary care sports medicine and/or orthopedic surgery from the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles; Howard University College of Medicine in Washington; Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta; and Meharry Medical College in Nashville.

“We have always had students interested in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, and this is an additional opportunity,” said Dr. Digna Forbes, interim dean of the School of Medicine at Mehri. “The more opportunities we have for these sub-specialties, the more diversity we have in them. This is important.

“It’s an opportunity to demonstrate to our medical students, they’re going everywhere for these subspecialties, but with the NFL being such a high profile, and the (medical) positions in the NFL to diversify, it’s a lot of fun.” It would be nice if the doctors treating them are also diverse.”

A study examining the diversity of the medical student population shows that the number of black medical students in this country is only 7.3% of the total. This figure has increased by less than 1% over the past 40 years and is much lower than the 13.4% black population in the United States. There are about 70% of black players in the NFL.

A total of 16 students will participate in the inaugural event, two students from each of the participating NFL clubs: Falcons, Bengals, Chargers, Rams, Giants, 49ers, Titans and Commanders.

In 2023, the program will expand to recruit students from additional educational institutions and medical disciplines. They will be placed in more teams along with the medical staff. Next year the expansion will expand to topics beyond primary care sports medicine and orthopedic surgery.

This season, however, students will work directly under the supervision of orthopedic team physicians, primary care team physicians and athletic trainers to gain exposure to basic medical knowledge and patient care in sports medicine. They will learn return-to-play guidelines and on-field treatment for players. An opportunity to be on the shore for observation during the Games is being considered.

“Overall, a day will consist of a mix of time with athletic training staff, overseeing treatment and assessments and rehabilitation care,” said Dr. Alan Sills, NFL’s chief medical officer. “They will also spend time with team physicians and learn how they diagnose and treat injury rehab. Perhaps they will participate in a surgical procedure that involves an athlete. And then they will participate in a team exercise.

“All of those elements allow them to appreciate what the entire athletic training staff does, how the medical team works together.”

Sills notes that diversity is an issue throughout the field of medicine. NFLPS President Timothy McAdams agrees.

“We have important work to do to ensure that NFLPS membership more closely reflects the player population we treat every day,” said McAdams, also the San Francisco 49ers’ chief physician. “It starts here, by expanding the pipeline and encouraging medical students from diverse backgrounds to consider career prospects in sports medicine.”


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