The timing was perfect for the students at the Charles R. University of Medicine and Science. Drew Kadarius Burgess and Felipe Ocampo.
As they enter their fourth year, the NFL has launched its Diversity in Sports Medicine Initiative. Both applied to the program, eventually landing with the Rams, where they each completed separate four-week rotations with the Los Angeles medical and athletic staff earlier this fall.
“It’s something we couldn’t let come up,” Ocampo said. “That’s one of the reasons I signed up and I don’t know if I would have had this kind of experience otherwise.”
Campo and Burgess got a hands-on look at what it’s like to treat professional athletes and regular patients, with their schedule consisting of 3-4 days of clinic work, followed by Fridays in the operating room with Dr. Christos Fotopoulos, one of the team’s physicians. Rams.
“It was a mix of going to the clinic, seeing real-world patients and then the clinic at the Rams facility,” Burgess said. “So it was a good mix of things, seeing the difference in care from the NFL and how they treat people as well as non-NFL players. So it was good.”
They didn’t just know team doctors. The Rams made sure both students saw the way other sports medicine staff work – so not just the roles of team doctors, but also sports psychologist, physical therapist, athletic trainer and dietitian. Burgess and Ocampo got to interview several people and learn about their roles and how they interact not only with the players, but also with the team doctors, as well as their careers.
Everyone also got to go to a Rams game to watch the Rams’ medical and athletic training staff treat players in that environment in real time – for Burgess, it was the Falcons game; for Ocampo, the Cowboys game.
“I realized how, not only with the games, but with this experience, the athletic trainers are close, and kind of like the front line, as far as taking care of the players,” Ocampo said. “So they’re like the first to see the players. Like Reggie, they tell him first they’re hurting and their knee is hurting, and then Reggie and the players will go together to see and talk to the team doctors. So I realized they’re not team the doctors who are their first line – I mean, I guess it really depends, but generally the athletic trainers are the first line. That’s something I didn’t know before. I thought maybe the team doctors were always the ones who rushed to see what was going on with the players . But it’s not always like that.”
It was Burgess’ first time going to an NFL game, which was “pretty cool.” He was also amazed at the pace of the process as he witnessed it.
“It was pretty mind-blowing too, seeing how fast the pace was,” Burgess said. “Like, watching it on TV, one thing you didn’t realize is how long things take. You probably think it takes longer, but when you’re on the field and see how it works, it all happens very quickly. And it makes sense, because you’re trying to make sure these players are ready and able to stay in the game, to prepare for something that’s basically their job, so it’s pretty cool to see that.”
Both Burgess and Campo appreciated the networking value the program created and look forward to using it to help advance their own aspirations. They also appreciated what the exposure meant for their careers.
“Mentorship is important,” Campo said. “I think when people see someone start working with NFL athletes, it’s a motivation for them to want to pursue that kind of career.” I think not only from my experience, but being able to show people, especially those who are underrepresented in this field, that they can do it and do these kinds of cool things, that’s a big reason why this program is really cool.”