As a fourth-year medical student at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Azra Dees is one of only 30 individuals in the United States selected for the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative. The program was developed by the NFL to encourage medical students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in sports medicine.
“I think the NFL’s initiative has been amazing,” Dees said. “We don’t see a lot of medical professionals within that field specifically who look like us.” The American Medical College said that under 2% of orthopedic surgeons are Black, and even fewer are Black women. Dees believes it’s important to change that, especially for treating professional football players. “When you look at people in the NFL, there are a lot of players who look like me or players of color,” she said. “I think it’s definitely important for them to see people who are taking care of them that look like them.”
Dees was placed with the New York Jets for her training rotation to get firsthand experience working in an NFL club setting. She said, “Sheer knowledge was great for me, but also understanding how patients are managed.” Despite being a lifelong Eagles fan, Dees admits that working for the Eagles would be a dream. She said her interest in sports medicine started when she was a young dancer. “I did jazz, tap, ballet,” she said. “Fun fact, I also tried to do basketball and volleyball at the same time.” From a young age, Dees understood the important connection between sports and medicine. She hopes the future will bring more diversity to this field.
Stephanie Stahl is an Emmy Award-winning health reporter who can be seen daily on CBS News Philadelphia and Philly57.