How did you become part of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative?
I received an email from Howard University that said they were partnering with the NFL for a once-in-a-lifetime orthopedic rotation. How else to best learn orthopedics than football? So I applied and they told me I had been accepted to the program. I was so excited to learn that I was going to be with the New York Giants because they are affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is the No. 1 orthopedic surgery hospital in the country. I also learned that I would be working with Dr. Scott Rodeo and Dr. Samuel Taylor, who are titans in the field. It’s a big deal to be able to work with them.
The fact that the Giants are having an incredible season this year is a bonus. I haven’t always followed football, so I definitely had to do some research before starting my rotation. I would say my time with the Giants was my first real football experience, which is the best one you could get.
What were some of things you did and/or learned during the month-long rotation?
Giants assistant athletic trainer Mike Baum set up an incredible rotation schedule. Some days were split between Quest Diagnostics Training Center and Hospital for Special Surgery. It was different each day, and I was exposed to so many things. My favorite day of the week was Monday. I’d get to the training center at about 7 a.m. for injury clinic. I was there with Dr. Rodeo, Dr. Taylor, head athletic trainer Ronnie Barnes, the trainers and the players. That’s when I learned the most. Then in the afternoon, I went to the hospital to observe a surgery.
I was at the training center Tuesdays and Thursdays for practice. People normally see injuries occur in a game, but it was during practice when you could see why those injuries happened. Watching the players do drills and practice made me realize certain things like why the defensive line has so many elbow injuries, and it could be because they do a lot of the same motions when trying to block.
I also went to three games, including the Giants vs. Jacksonville game. Traveling with the team was a great experience.
That is great to hear. What were some of your biggest takeaways from the rotation?
It really takes a team to provide these athletes with the best care to keep them healthy and on the field. There is so much at stake, and the players have so much pressure on them. In a normal sports medicine rotation, you might tell a patient to relax for a few weeks and slowly get back to normal. That’s not the case with the players. They came back every day and did therapy, which isn’t always fun, but they have so much determination. Everyone from physicians to trainers play such a big role in the whole process. Usually, physicians refer patients to physical therapy, but it was really cool to see all of the steps of recovery play out and how crucial each step is. The rehab aspect was a big takeaway as well because I had never been exposed to it.
When you look back, was there anything that surprised you?
I was surprised at how welcoming everyone was. It was really refreshing. Orthopedic surgery is a very male-dominated field, and so is the NFL with all of the players being men. But they wanted me to be there and asked questions about school and residency. They made me feel very comfortable. It was easy to create relationships with the physicians, trainers, players and even head coach Brian Daboll, who was super nice and made me feel welcome.
What was your favorite moment?
It has to be the games. The intensity is something that I had never experienced, and it’s hard to describe. Being there on the sideline with the team, you can feel their complete focus and the trainers and staff are also focused. There is one goal and that’s to win — and keep everyone healthy. But I would say my favorite moment was at the Giants-Texans game. The players were giving me fist bumps as they came off the field. It was a great feeling being part of the team.