How to choose a Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship

A broad patient base and access to athletes were important to fellow Kenneth Aguirre, right.

Choosing a sports medicine fellowship is one of the most significant career decisions you’ll make.

To find the program that will develop you into a confident, competent sports medicine physician, select a fellowship with these seven attributes:

1. Unfettered Access to Athletes

The programs you’re considering should give you plenty of opportunities to care for athletes.

That may sound obvious.

But it’s not always the case.

In some fellowships, you might evaluate athletes only after other physicians have seen them. Then there’s the possibility of coaches interfering with your decisions about when to return athletes to play after injuries.

Talk to the program director about these issues. Find out whether you’ll manage all aspects of your patients’ care, including return-to-play decisions.

At UB, you’re the primary care provider for our Division I Bulls in every circumstance: at games, in the training room and in your primary care continuity clinic.

2. A Broad Patient Base

When you practice sports medicine, you’ll likely care for patients of all ages and athletic abilities.

The individuals you treat during your fellowship should reflect that patient base. They should include children, non-athletes, “industrial athletes” hurt on the job and senior citizens, among others.

Learn about our patient base — beyond the UB athlete — by exploring our program’s clinical training in:

3. A Balance of Autonomy and Guidance

Your fellowship should give you autonomy commensurate with your advanced level of medical training.

UB sports medicine fellows enjoy a level of independence that helps them gain competence and build confidence.

At the same time, they know they can consult with us whenever they encounter a challenging case or need to confirm that they’re making the right call.

And they know that we routinely review their notes, checking their progress and offering feedback on how they can enhance their skills.

4. Specialty, University-Based Training

When you train in a major research institution, you learn from faculty with expertise in different specialties and treatment modalities. They keep you current on the latest trends, research and evidence-based practice in sports medicine.

Our fellowship is based in the UB Department of Family Medicine and draws our faculty from the UB Department of Orthopaedics.

Some of our faculty have backgrounds in primary care sports medicine; some of us are orthopaedic surgeons. Combined, our expertise enables us to offer our fellows first-rate training in both disciplines.

5. A Schedule Built Around Your Training Needs

You’ll have a richer clinical experience if you don’t have to compete with other trainees for patients.

Find out if your clinical schedule alternates with your peers’ schedules. If you have to share game coverage and training room duties with another fellow — or other trainees — look elsewhere.

You should also learn how your schedule accommodates electives. Is there enough freedom to explore your interests?

6. A Solid Research Infrastructure

In a one-year sports medicine fellowship, you’re expected to complete and present a research project. That’s doable when you select a program with active investigators who have ongoing studies you can join.

You should also consider whether:

  • you’ll receive specialized guidance from your mentor, research assistants and statisticians
  • your program director meets with you weekly to review your project
  • you’re encouraged to publish your findings and present them at a national conference

7. A Comfortable Living Environment

During such a rigorous period in your life, it’s helpful to live in a comfortable city with a high quality of life, affordable housing and an easy commute.

If you relocate to a four-season region, you’ll get to care for athletes who play fair-weather and winter sports, including hockey.

And if that city has professional sports teams and a devout fan base?

All the better.