So, You Want to Be a Doctor: Sports Medicine


My career path wasn’t exactly a straight line. I dreamed about medicine, decided to become a doctor, questioned my goals—and then finally became the physician I wanted to be.

As teenager, I was involved with different activities, trying to figure out what I wanted to do as an adult. One of those activities was volunteering as a candy striper at a hospital. I started thinking about nursing, but my father suggested an alternative. “What about becoming a doctor?” he asked. That appealed to me so much so that by senior year I had even picked out a possible specialty: cardiothoracic surgery.

I chose Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, for my undergraduate education, majoring in African American studies, with a minor in chemistry. While I didn’t like all the memory work in biology, I loved the math-related concepts in chemistry. After graduating from Smith, I was accepted at the State University of New York Medical School in Syracuse.

I won’t kid you—med school isn’t a walk in the park. Six to eight hours a day of classes and four to five hours a night of studying without a clear picture of the outcome was a struggle for me. At one point I took a break from med school to reevaluate my goals.

During the (almost) year-long break, I recharged my batteries and returned to med school reinvigorated. Taking a breather after college and before graduate school can be a good thing; it provides time to assess your goals and get away from the stress.

Med school pressure

A support system is vital in coping with tension: friends who push you to study, a supportive family, a church group that prays for you. All of these things can be important to your success, and you should surround yourself with optimistic people who encourage your good habits. Sleep is also very important!

Personally, I found the first two years—called the didactics—were the most difficult because there’s no interaction. After that, though, you begin meeting with patients, doing rotations, and getting your first “feel” for what it’s like being a doctor. I did my residency at Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in the Henry Ford Health System, also in Detroit.

Sports medicine, as a practice

In the sports medicine part of my practice, I perform annual physicals before the start of each sports season and clear students to play, evaluating both their physical capabilities and any medical conditions that need to be treated while participating.

I attend the home games of the Detroit Shock, the 2008 WNBA champions. I also work with University Prep High School in Detroit, covering girl’s and boy’s basketball, football, and some soccer. In addition, I’m part of the team of doctors that covers Michigan High School Athletic Association State Wrestling, and I also help attend the Michigan Winter Special Olympics.

The injuries I treat largely depend on the sport: shoulder injuries in wrestling, knee and ankle injuries in baseball, concussions in football, and knee injuries in downhill skiing. Events take a lot of time, and when you’re there, things happen fast. You have to calm players, coaches, and parents—and ensure compliance with medical recommendations.

If you’ve ever played sports (as I did) and if you’ve been injured (as I was), you know how important it can be to be treated by a doctor who specializes in sports medicine. I can tell you firsthand: it’s a challenging and exciting career!

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