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NFL Pipeline Initiative: Six Howard University Medical Students Announced as Participants

NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative_Institution
Six headshots of Howard University students in the NFL program pictured on a graphic

WASHINGTON – Six students from Howard University’s College of Medicine have been named to the roster of medical students participating this Fall in the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, according to a major update on the program today. Some of the future Howard doctors selected for the program are already describing it as a career-changing, and possibly life-changing, opportunity.

This Fall, the new NFL initiative will embed 14 students from the nation’s four HBCU medical schools within the medical staffs of eight NFL clubs as part of the students’ clinical rotation instruction. The program was created by the NFL, together with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS), and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS). The aim is to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine and, over time, help to diversify NFL club medical staff. Howard University announced its participation in the program in May.

“I appreciate the NFL’s commitment to eliminating the barriers that minorities interested in sports medicine may face,” said Jessica Smith, a fourth-year Howard medical student who has been assigned to the Washington Commanders. "I look forward to building upon my previous athletic training experience and gaining as much knowledge and patient care exposure as possible. This is truly a dream come true!”

The full roster of Howard students selected this year include: Regan Burgess, who will complete her rotation with the Cincinnati Bengals; Alexandra Cancio-Bello and Kayla Thomas, with the New York Giants; Jason Moore, with the Los Angeles Chargers; and Justin Moore and Jessica Smith, with the Washington Commanders. All of the participants are fourth-year medical students.   

Participating students hail from the country’s four HBCU medical schools – the Howard University College of Medicine, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Morehouse School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College. Students’ clinical rotations will focus on primary care sports medicine and/or orthopedic surgery. They will each be embedded within the medical staff of one of eight NFL clubs: the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders.

“HBCUs have a long history of serving the nation’s health needs and ensuring the vital pipeline of Black doctors,” Dr. Hugh Mighty, MD, MBA, dean of the College of Medicine and senior vice president of health affairs at Howard University, said. “We are grateful for the partnership and welcome the NFL’s efforts in advancing this mission and providing new and exciting opportunities for our students.”

The students’ one-month clinical rotations will begin as the 2022 NFL season kicks off in September. During their rotations, students will observe and participate in the care of NFL players. Students will work directly with and under the supervision of the orthopedic team physicians, primary care team physicians and athletic trainers to gain basic medical knowledge and exposure to patient care in sports medicine. Additionally, students will become familiar with return-to-play guidelines and on-field treatment considerations for NFL players. Students may attend home games and be present on the sideline for observation. By the end of the rotation, students will understand the basic elements of all facets of care provided to NFL players from an orthopedic, primary care sports medicine and athletic training perspective.   

In 2023, the program will seek to expand to recruit students from additional academic institutions and medical disciplines and place those students with medical staffs at additional NFL clubs.

These efforts are part of the league’s broader commitment to ensuring that staff and leaders in the league office and at NFL clubs reflect the racial and gender makeup of America. Among NFL club medical staffs, the initiative builds on existing efforts to recruit and hire diverse medical staff when positions become available across all roles and to increase diversity across NFL medical committees.

In the Students’ Own Words:

“This opportunity to participate in orthopedics on a national stage like the NFL is one I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. I am so grateful to have the ability to learn from prominent orthopedic surgeons in the field dealing with sports related injuries, and especially look forward to the impact it will have on my career moving forward.” – Regan Burgess, Howard University College of Medicine

“Words cannot express how grateful I am to participate in The NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative. This program is an unparalleled opportunity that will significantly enhance my career in orthopedics. As the first physician in my family, the support from this initiative to pursue my dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon is extremely meaningful and is an experience I will always be grateful for.” – Alexandra Cancio-Bello, Howard University College of Medicine

"I am thankful and excited about this great experience to interact with and learn from professionals in the sports medicine field!" – Jason Moore, Howard University College of Medicine

“I am extremely excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity to learn and enjoy being a part of a professional sports medical team! Can’t wait!" – Justin Moore, Howard University College of Medicine

“It is a great honor to be selected to represent Howard in the inaugural NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative. As a Black woman pursuing a career in orthopedic surgery, I am beyond grateful for this life-changing opportunity. I appreciate the NFL’s commitment to eliminating the barriers that minorities interested in sports medicine may face. I look forward to building upon my previous athletic training experience and gaining as much knowledge and patient care exposure as possible. This is truly a dream come true!” – Jessica Smith, Howard University College of Medicine

“I look forward to such a unique opportunity to train under physicians who are tasked with keeping high-performing NFL athletes healthy. Whether I’m treating injuries on or off the sidelines, there’s no doubt I’ll be rooting for the home team!” – Kayla Thomas, Howard University College of Medicine

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About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.

Media contact: Sholnn Freeman; sholnn.freeman@howard.edu