The New York Football Giants are proud to welcome Howard University College of Medicine students Alexandra Cancio-Bello and Kayla Thomas to the club’s medical staff as part of the league’s newly established Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.
The NFL, together with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS), created the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, which aims 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.
The 14 participating students hail from the country’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools – Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College. The 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: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders.
“We are excited to welcome two talented medical students, Alexandra Cancio-Bello and Kayla Thomas, to our sports medicine team,” said Ronnie Barnes, Senior Vice President of Medical Services for the New York Giants. “As part of the inaugural year of the NFL’s Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, we are honored to provide an opportunity for Alexandra and Kayla to gain invaluable experience and mentorship and to help them flourish in their chosen medical specialty.”
Beginning in September, Alexandra and Kayla will be fully entrenched in the Giants’ medical staff for a one-month clinical rotation. Their rotation will afford them real world experiences to become acquainted with basic elements provided to NFL players: orthopedic care, primary care sports medicine and athletic training. In attending Giants home games and participating in sideline observation, Alexandra and Kayla will join a committed and accomplished Giants medical staff led by Barnes.
“Words cannot express how grateful I am to participate in The NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative,” said Cancio-Bello. “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.”
“I look forward to such a unique opportunity to train under physicians who are tasked with keeping high-performing NFL athletes healthy,” said Thomas. “Whether I’m treating injuries on or off the sidelines, there’s no doubt, I’ll be rooting for the home team.”
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 a greater number of 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.