Photo of Rachel Gardenhire

NFL chooses Case Western Reserve University medical student for immersive experience with Cleveland Browns, University Hospitals to increase diversity in sports medicine

Rachel Gardenhire, a third-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University, has been selected to take part in the 2024 NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, which aims to inspire medical students from various backgrounds to consider pursuing careers in sports medicine.

Growing up, sports were important to Gardenhire as an athlete and fan. It was an opportunity for her to bond with her dad while rooting for their favorite Cleveland teams.

She studied athletic training at Miami University in Ohio, combining her interest in medicine and sports, where she was a part of the school’s sports medicine team. Her passion for the process of assessing injuries, creating a plan of care and cooperating to safely get athletes back to competing, was fostered by this experience.

Gardenhire is researching knee ligament injuries and co-leads the Sports Medicine Interest Group at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

“Being able to help athletes return to the activities they love is at the core of my future practice, which is why I became interested in sports medicine,” Gardenhire said. “This opportunity also affords me the confidence in my belonging in a field where there are not many Black women.”

As part of the program co-developed by the NFL, the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, Gardenhire will complete a clinical rotation with the Cleveland Browns medical staff led by head team physician James Voos, chair of the department of Orthopedic Surgery at University Hospitals Cleveland.

“The NFL medical team strongly emphasizes the importance of providing opportunities to students of all backgrounds,” said Voos also NFLPS president. “Our players, staff and community represent a wealth of diversity, enriching our organization and the quality of care we offer. We look forward to mentoring our 2024 class of students with the hope they will consider sports medicine careers.”

The program gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the sports medicine environment and experience what the day-to-day job of a team physician is like. During their rotations, students will gain exposure to patient care while observing and participating in sports medicine procedures. 

“Rachel has a longstanding passion for community wellness and its intersection with sports, physical activity and nutrition,” said Angelique Redus-McCoy, assistant dean of student affairs at the School of Medicine. “She’s been a community-based researcher and a leader amongst her peers at the school. Her participation in the NFL’s diversity initiative will help cement her role as a future changemaker and community asset in the world of sports and beyond.”

“I’m looking forward to understanding how world-class treatment can still be provided in areas with high-access barriers and a need for innovation to enhance health outcomes in marginalized minority communities,” Gardenhire said.

The program, now in its third year, is welcoming 21 students from medical schools across the country. 

For more information, please contact Patty Zamora at