North Carolina AHEC Program
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Sports Medicine Program Works with U.S. Military

U.S. military physicians are increasingly turning to sports medicine to treat the injuries soldiers sustain on the battlefield and in basic training. This is creating a growing demand for skilled specialists.

Bert Fields, MDA close collaboration with the Moses Cone Sports Medicine Fellowship Program in Greensboro and its director Bert Fields, MD, (photo) is helping to bridge the gap. This year, the program became one of two nationwide selected to host a military sports medicine fellow. Fields is the former program director of the Greensboro AHEC/UNC-Chapel Hill-affiliated Family Medicine Teaching Program at Moses Cone.

Fields says the relationship between sports medicine and the military is clear. “Almost all military recruits go through physical training that involves running, boxing, the martial arts, and other sports,” he says. “There are lots of injuries, so sports medicine skills are imperative. But the same skills can save lives on the battlefield. If you’re injured while parachuting into Afghanistan on a secret mission, you have to know how to deal with your injury and continue to function in order to keep from getting killed.”

Fields’ personal involvement with the military began through a friendship with Lt. Col. Francis G. O’Connor, MD, who oversaw special forces medical care in the Middle East and Africa during a period of the war in Iraq. O’Connor now directs the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, MD, a training center for government scientists and health care practitioners.

“Fran and I began teaching together and doing exchanges,” Fields says. “He would bring fellows from DC to see what I was doing with orthotics and running injuries and would conduct lectures while he was here. I would travel to Maryland to lecture at the USUHS, and I began to conduct workshops at military bases for physicians and U.S. Army Special Forces personnel.”

The collaboration between Fields and O’Connor stepped up a notch when the military began exploring how to expand the number of sports medicine fellowships it awards each year. Though the USUHS has its own program, only eight physicians may train annually. After evaluating top programs across the nation, the Moses Cone Sports Medicine Fellowship Program was one of two selected to host a military fellow.

Major Jon Jackson, MD, a physician with the U.S. Air Force, has just become the first fellow from the uniformed services to graduate from the Moses Cone Health System program. He was working at a military base in Alaska before being selected for additional training, but now will join the faculty at Nellis Air Force Base, one of the largest Air Force medical facilities in the West. He plans to teach sports medicine to military physicians in the family practice residency program.

“Jon was a stellar candidate and did a superb job,” Fields says. “We’re delighted that he is moving into a teaching role where he can share what he learned about sports medicine with other military physicians.”

Sports Medicine Program Celebrates a Year of Accomplishments

On a typical day you’ll find fellows in the Moses Cone Sports Medicine Program analyzing gaits, conducting stress tests and helping athletes manage diabetes, asthma, and other chronic medical problems. They are part of a program that is a nationally recognized proving ground for physicians who want to pursue sports medicine in a clinical, academic, or sports team setting.

This year, all but one of the program’s graduates will enter family practice in North Carolina:

• Spencer Copland, MD, will join LeBauer HealthCare at Stoney Creek.
• Jon Jackson, MD, will teach at Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County, NV.
• Christine Shugart, MD, will join Novant Health in the Mocksville area.
• John Tipton, MD, will join Cornerstone Health Care in High Point.

“We’re definitely bucking the trend,” says Fields. “Although we’ve had graduates go on to all sorts of sports medicine positions, historically they are far more likely to join an orthopedic practice than enter family medicine.”

Fields says the program has had an especially productive year and continues to build its reputation on the national stage.