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KC-area medical student chosen for NFL's Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative

Posted at 6:26 PM, Jun 25, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo — The National Football League announced the 2024 roster for its Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.

The league-wide program launched in 2022 and aims to increase the pool of students from diverse backgrounds to sports medicine.

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Jessica Nelson, a fourth-year medical student at Kansas City University, was one of 29 students chosen across 21 medical schools nationwide.

They were all paired with an NFL team to learn under the guidance of the club’s sports medicine physicians.

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Nelson was paired with the Minnesota Vikings — her hometown team.

“It’s really cool to get the opportunity to work with the team that I grew up watching and idolizing,” Nelson said. “It’s awesome that I get to work with the doctors and learn directly from them. And they kind of serve as mentors for me, that when I pursue sports medicine in the future, I can sort of draw on those things that I’ve learned over the month that I will be with the NFL.”

Nelson is hopeful initiatives like this will break down industry barriers and give opportunities to more female and minorities.

“A lot of people can learn from that and to pursue things that traditionally you probably wouldn’t be considered for,” Nelson said.

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Experts say relatability between doctors and patients is powerful in healthcare.

Dr. Bryan Beutel, an orthopedic surgeon, says program like this are important because patient success depends on it.

“The consensus is that, without question, if you can have a more diverse workforce in healthcare, for example in this case, that better mirrors the patient population you serve, that patient satisfaction scores go up, the level of trust that patients feel also goes up, and in doing so in many ways, both indirectly and directly, you actually see improved patient outcomes," Beutel said.

According to a job site called Zippia, sports medicine is 74 percent male and 65 percent white.

Beutel says the reasons are often historical and societal, but he hopes more organizations and medical schools will follow suit for the sake of future generations.

“I think that its important that they open the door for this so that more people can be recognized and included in the future,” Nelson said.