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The NFL’s Sports Medicine Initiative: The Road to Diversity and Inclusion

As they prepare to enter their respective fields of medicine, three Howard University students share their experience as Black athletes and their takeaways from the NFL’s Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative experience.

From left to right, Lancelot Benn, Robert Emeh, Bryan Beaubrun (Bryan Beaubrun/Howard University) 

The National Football League aims to increase diversity and inclusion by continuing its Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, featuring three Howard University College of Medicine students. 

The NFL has announced that its second class of the Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative will comprise 31 students from 19 medical schools, doubling the size of last year’s class of 14 students from four Historically Black College and University medical schools. These schools included Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and Meharry Medical College.

The initiative aims to continue uplifting medical students from diverse and underrepresented communities to consider pursuing a sports medicine career. Students are paired with a specific NFL team to shadow and work with the different subgroups that all make up the team’s sports medicine departments. 

Howard University College of Medicine students, Lancelot Benn, Bryan Beaubrun and Robert Emeh were all selected to participate in the initiative. They each shared the importance of the initiative to them and how it will affect minorities in sports medicine forever. 

“The program is a great initiative because it will allow many minority students to become interested and involved in orthopedics,” Benn said. 

Being from Guyana, Benn has experienced being the only person from his specific background in several sports medicine spaces and sees the need for more initiatives like this one. Since he isn’t from the states, Benn hopes his biggest takeaway from this experience will be new mentors. 

“I have a unique experience being paired with the Jacksonville Jaguars because this is their first year in the program. I hope to be able to make a good first impression and soak up as much as possible from everyone I will be working with,” he said.

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 Benn aims to become an orthopedic surgeon and return to Guyana to serve more populations in the world of sports medicine. 

The teams involved in the 2023 initiative (Graphic Courtesy of 

Bryan Beaubrun, paired with the New England Patriots, also aims to become an orthopedic surgeon. “The diversity is shallow in this field, and important initiatives like this help

underrepresented groups occupy these spaces,” Beaubrun said. 

Beaubrun, from Brooklyn, New York, said he has always been an athlete, allowing him to feel a deeper connection to what’s taking place on the field. Beaubrun wanted a “distinct combination of biology, sports and athletics,” when deciding on his major. He found this outlet and decided to major in kinesthesiology during his undergraduate schooling to pursue these passions. 

“After earning my master’s, I did a bridging program in New York City, and there were [around] five black people in a 200-person class,” Beaubrun said. This experience alone was enough to make him realize the importance of diversifying the field of sports medicine. 

Beaubrun believes having several mentors from different backgrounds allows for a “diverse array of feedback.” That said, he still stressed the importance of “finding mentors that look like you” to understand “specific pitfalls they experience because of their skin color and background.” 

Aside from being excited about the diversity that the program promotes, one of the perks Beaubrun will have is that he will also be working with Harvard Mass General Hospital during his time with the team. Beaubrun is excited to gain his first exposure to the Patriots’ program and “be involved with a prestigious institution and organization.” 

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Robert Emeh, who will work with the Washington Commanders throughout the season, has a unique specialty out of the three Howard students. He aims to become a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) doctor.

 “I grew up playing football and naturally had an interest in human anatomy,” Emeh said. “The rehabilitation of athletes and building relationships with them drives my passion for PM&R.” 

Emeh credits his mother as his first introduction to medicine and the catalyst for his decision to pursue medicine. Regarding his desires throughout the program, Emeh shared, “I hope to gain a better understanding of how to gain trust with the athletes I’ll be working with. Athletes’ bodies are their money makers, so it’s important they trust me to give them the best care possible and conduct myself as a professional.” 

Emeh is most excited to work with all the Commanders’ medical doctors because he can learn from many people from different disciplines. 

During their journey, all three felt this initiative was equally as empowering to underrepresented athletes as it was to students. “Studies show patients are more receptive to someone who shares a cultural background with them,” Benn shared. 

In addition to what studies show, Benn believes diversifying the field of sports medicine will allow “players to be more receptive to medical advice and at ease” when receiving treatment. 

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“Some of my friends that play professional football and basketball express not having experience with Black doctors in [sports medicine] spaces,” Beaubrun added. “Everyone agreed that this initiative was just as crucial for minority athletes. The NFL can touch several different communities with this initiative that involves inclusion in the league.”

Even though students are grateful the NFL has pushed and created this initiative, many still hope that more initiatives like this will follow. 

“Universities should push for more hands-on engagement and exposure where you have minority doctors coming to speak to and inspire students. [Minority students] are inspired by seeing someone just like them accomplish something they never thought they could do themselves,” Emeh said. 

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus


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