Andscape: HBCU medical students hope NFL initiative helps them combat health care disparities

Aug 10, 2023

The league launched the initiative in 2022 to diversify NFL club medical staffs by fostering a relationship with students interested in sports medicine careers. This year Parham is one of 16 participants from historically Black Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles; Howard University College of Medicine in Washington; Meharry in Nashville, Tennessee; and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. The fellows hope to build connections with NFL personnel and advance their plans to treat patients in underserved communities.

During the program’s inaugural year, 14 students from HBCU medical schools were paired with eight NFL teams. Now in its second year the program has expanded to include medical students from other institutions, with 31 of the league’s 32 teams participating.

Students will have one-month rotations with their assigned teams and will be supervised by the teams’ medical personnel, including orthopedic team physicians, primary care team physicians and athletic trainers.

Timothy McAdams, head team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and president of the NFL Physicians Society, hopes the program will address the low number of Black physicians on team medical staffs.

“When you look at the makeup of the NFL, we have almost 60% of players that are Black that have team [medical] positions that are less than 5% are Black. That’s a big disparity,” McAdams said.

“The same problem has been seen in our orthopedic surgery ranks, where we have a very low percentage of orthopedic residents compared to other specialties that have done a better job at that the past few decades. So we’ve seen pipeline programs work in the orthopedic surgery realm and they’ve proven themselves. … I know they could work in the NFL.”

Read the full story at Andscape here.