Tamarandobra “Dobra” Ogeh, a third-year medical student in Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, will get to complete a one-month clinical rotation with the Detroit Lions and Henry Ford Health sports medicine physicians as part of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.
Now in its second year, the initiative aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the medical field and work to diversify NFL club medical staff.
Monday, the NFL, together with the NFL Physicians Society and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, announced the league-wide expansion of the initiative providing medical students with the opportunity to complete a clinical rotation with NFL club medical staff.
“There’s racial diversity in the league’s players, which is incredible, but I think it’s really important to also have that racial and gender diversity reflected in the training and medical staff because increasing diversity in medical care teams has been shown to improve patient care overall,” said Ogeh.
Originally from Nigeria, Ogeh and her family emigrated to Toronto, Canada, when she was five years old. She moved to the U.S. for her college career. “The fact that the NFL — which not only utilizes sports medicine but does so at the highest level — is showing their commitment to diversifying the field is amazing,” she said.
“I think the program is essential and is phenomenal,” echoed Jennifer Edwards-Johnson, the community assistant dean at MSU College of Human Medicine’s Flint campus, where Ogeh attends. “Orthopedic surgery is one of the specialties in which we really see a need for programming to stimulate diversity so that we create a workforce that comes close to mirroring the population that is going to be served.”
“In addition to being a Black woman who’s really interested in orthopedics, Dobra is just an exceptional student,” added Edwards-Johnson, who is also an associate professor of family medicine at MSU. “Even before arriving on campus in Flint, she had already reached out and articulated her interest in orthopedic surgery and in working with underserved communities. She has been such an asset to the Flint campus and is really dedicated to serving community.”
The official team physicians for the Detroit Lions, Henry Ford Health also is proud of its 30-year partnership with MSU, resulting in Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences. This program is an excellent example of how the partnership’s commitment and mission to expand educational opportunities with a focus on diversity is making real change in people’s lives.
“The opportunity for us to work with a student of Dobra’s caliber and participate in this NFL program is a great reflection of the power of our Henry Ford and MSU partnership,” said T. Sean Lynch, Henry Ford Health orthopedic surgeon and Detroit Lions head team physician. “We are so fortunate to have so many incredible medical students throughout the great state of Michigan, and programs like this help shape the future of diversity in sports medicine.”
Last year’s inaugural class comprised 14 students who completed rotations across eight NFL clubs. Each student was selected from one of four historically Black colleges and universities with medical schools, including: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College. The 2023 program expanded to match diverse students from 19 medical schools with NFL clubs across the league.
“In school I was an athlete, and I always had interest in sports medicine and, more specifically, orthopedic surgery, but it’s a field where there aren’t a lot of people that look like me,” said Ogeh, who played rugby. “This initiative is going to help push the needle forward. And now that I’m doing it, there can be room for other people that look like me to do it.”
Diverse medical students, including those training to become sports medicine-focused physicians, are historically underrepresented. But according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, enrollment of diverse students is increasing. During the 2022-23 academic year, “the number of Black or African American matriculants increased by 9%,” and “matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin increased by 4%,” while “American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants declined by 9%.” The NFL’s Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is expanding to provide more students with an interest in sports medicine exposure and opportunities in the field.
“Working toward diverse representation across all roles in our league continues to be a top priority, and this program helps us make a tangible impact to grow and bolster a pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We know that diversity makes us stronger at every level, and we look forward to welcoming the 2023 class to our player care teams at clubs across the league.”