Recipients of the students selected to participate in the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative (Image provided by Morehouse School of Medicine and the National Football League)

Students at Morehouse School of Medicine and three other Historically Black medical schools will participate in clinical rotations with NFL medical staff members this season. 

By Allison Joyner

Three fourth-year medical students at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) have been selected to participate in a new diversity-inspired sports medicine program starting next week. 

The NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is a partnership between MSM, the National Football League (NFL), the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS) that will have students involved in a one-month clinical rotation. 

Students will directly work with orthopedic team physicians, primary care doctors and athletic trainers to gain basic medical knowledge and exposure to patient care in sports medicine. They will also become familiar with return-to-play guidelines and on-field treatment considerations for NFL players. 

Morehouse School of Medicine’s mission statement focuses on the training of health care professionals and delivering health services to ‘people of color and the underserved urban and rural populations in Georgia.’ (Photo provided by KPMG)

“I feel like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be exposed to athletes at this level and learn all about sports medicine and what it takes to get them back on the field and what happens when an emergency happens,” said Omolayo Dada, a medical student at MSM who will be working with the San Francisco 49ers this season. 

Dada, who is considering a specialty in emergency medicine, told SaportaReport that she decided to work with the 49ers’ organization because she wanted to learn under the tutelage of the NFLPS’s president, Dr. Timothy McAdams. She thinks participating in the program will help her be more prepared to work in an emergency room one day. 

Omolayo Dada is a fourth-year medical student selected to participate in a new sports medicine initiative sponsored by the NFL. (Image provided by Omolayo Dada)

“Emergency medicine is another way to see all the different specialties and work a lot with trauma and injuries that happen within the NFL are trauma-related,”  Dada said. “It’s a great segue into sports medicine as well,”

While the inaugural season of this program is focused on providing Black medical students with exposure to careers in sports medicine, the NFL, NFLPS and PFATS will also work toward widening the sports medicine pipeline for other people of color and women in the seasons ahead. 

A study from “The New England Journal of Medicine” examined the diversity of the medical student population, which determined that only 7.3 percent were African American. That’s a rise of less than one percent over the last 40 years.

Increasing the number of people of color in the non-athletic capacity has been an area of focus for the NFL. There are plans to expand this initiative in 2023 to include disciplines beyond primary care, sports medicine and orthopedic surgery. The NFL hopes to extend this program to physician assistants, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists and behavioral health clinicians in the upcoming seasons. 

The statistics are overwhelming or underwhelming, whichever way you choose to look at them,” said Nzinga Shaw, NFL front office alumni and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategist currently serving as an Adjunct Professor at Fisk University. “From wealth gaps to health disparities, educational scores, incarceration and literacy rates, and perhaps most discouragingly of all ‘the American dream of socio-economic mobility’ all seem to tell a story of two Americas.”

“I think diversity is expanding and it’s still something that needs to be worked on in many different areas of the country,” said Dada.

“The NFL is undergoing a seismic shift and DEI is predictably proving to be both good for business, fan engagement and good for society,” Shaw said. “It is exciting for these medical students to gain this experience and for the institution to remain at the forefront of higher education programming.”

“The NFL is making an effort to understand the importance of representation and I think they’re showing that through this initiative,” Dada said.

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