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Bears to take part in NFL's Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative

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The NFL, in conjunction with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS), on Tuesday announced the roster of medical students who will participate in the second season of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.

With a goal of eventually diversifying medical staffs at NFL clubs, the initiative aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing sports medicine careers.

After a successful inaugural year in 2022, the program experienced an expansion in 2023, giving 19 students the opportunity to complete a month-long rotation with an NFL club. Last year, 14 students from four HBCU medical schools completed rotations with eight NFL teams.

Tyler Kelly, a student at University of South Carolina School of Medicine – Greenville, will join the Bears Aug. 1 to learn and work alongside the club's medical staff, helping provide world-class care to NFL athletes.

"I am beyond excited to learn from a multi-disciplinary sports medicine care team through this well-rounded experience," Kelly said. "The NFL's commitment to diversify the field of sports medicine is especially important to me and I am eager to take part in this opportunity. As a Black woman, I know what it means to feel unseen and underrepresented and the far-reaching implications this has on healthcare."

Kelly first learned of the initiative through the NFL's press release on the program in May 2022. While only students from four selected HBCUs were eligible for the inaugural class, Kelly wrote down the contact information from the release and followed up early this year about a potential expansion.

After finding out she would be eligible for this year's class, Kelly applied for a specific program that landed her with the Bears, with NorthShore Hospital System being involved.

"I'm so excited to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a healthcare provider within a professional sports medicine team," Kelly said, "and to understand how care is coordinated for athletes on that level, from the athletic training staff to the primary care physicians to the orthopedic surgeons to the club staff that are doing the day-to-day work with these athletes.

"I really am excited to be completely immersed in that world and gain that firsthand insight that you would never have outside of this arena."

Kelly is from Greenville, S.C., and completed her undergraduate degree at Xavier University of Louisiana. Now in her fourth year of medical school, Kelly has a specialty interest in orthopedic surgery.

Her interest in sports medicine stems from the "greater sense of purpose and community" sports and physical activities often add to people's lives, including her own. Sports remain a major part of Kelly's life as her personal hobbies include intramural flag football, running, and roller skating with the Muscogee Roller Girls.

"My interest in sports medicine arose from a simple desire to advocate for the health and well-being of my own family and friends as they participated in the sports and activities they love," Kelly said. "I am confident that the experience offered by the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative will not only elevate my understanding of what it means to care for world-class athletes, but also prepare me to work with a diverse patient population with a wide variety of health goals."

The NFL's Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is fueled by the historic underrepresentation of diverse medical students in-training. However, the Association of American Medical Colleges has reported an increase in enrollment from diverse students in the 2022-23 academic year.

Through the expansion of the initiative, the NFL, NFLPS and PFATS are committed to continuing that increase, specifically in the sports medicine field.

"To be a part of this program, I think the biggest thing for me is the opportunity to turn around and tell someone else that looks like me, that you need to keep going," Kelly said. "Because, 'hey, I'm doing this, I'm participating in this. It's possible and you can do it too because we need you.'

"The opportunity to be a source of encouragement and be that person that someone sees and says, 'I may want to do that too,' or 'that may be possible for me,' is something I'm completely speechless by."

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