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Background and History

Sports Medicine doctors at a UCLA football game

In the early 1980’s, the role of the primary care physician as an essential partner in the care of competitive athletes emerged. Shortly thereafter, a growing demand for additional training in the rapidly expanding field of primary care sports medicine led to the establishment of three sentinel fellowship programs at the Cleveland Clinic, Michigan State University and UCLA. The UCLA Program was established in 1986 by James C. Puffer, MD, one of the pioneers of primary care sports medicine.

Since its inception, the fellowship program has been committed to recruiting the best primary care physicians with the expectation that they will pursue academic careers to further the growth and development of the discipline, and impart their knowledge to other physicians in training and in practice.

With this in mind, the program has sought to provide a comprehensive experience for fellows designed to assist them in achieving exceptional skills in clinical care, teaching and research. Over the years, the program has taken advantage of the expertise of the faculty, the enthusiasm of our fellows, and the resources of our institution to implement a variety of changes that solidly supports each of these cornerstones of sports medicine.

The program initially consisted of one year of training, and then in 1989, a second year was added to support the acquisition of research skills. As sports medicine continues to evolve, the career paths of academic sports medicine physicians have expanded. In addition to faculty whose primary focus is research, there has been an increased need for faculty who use evidenced- based methods to provide residents and medical students with more sound skills in musculoskeletal medicine, and in the care of medical issues that affect physical activity and sport participation. Given these developments, the role of the clinician-teacher as a 2010 Graduation – Drs. Marci Goolsby, Edward Kimlin, Carlin Senterscholarly leader within the faculty of medical schools and primary care residency programs, has rapidly grown.

Recognizing these changes, as well as the program's overriding commitment to developing leaders in sports medicine, the program offers a choice of either 1 year or 2 year training program. For applicants pointing towards faculty careers as clinician-teachers, the program provides a rigorous 12-month curriculum that includes extensive clinical training, a multitude of teaching and educational opportunities, as well as preparation and support for clinical research and scholarly activity. In addition, for those applicants who are interested in obtaining advanced skills and experience in research, as well as superior faculty development training, a 24-month program is available that can be tailored to the specific interests and career goals of each fellow.

The program’s focus remains on training individuals who will advance the discipline of sports medicine. In fact, throughout the program’s history, over 70% of graduates have pursued academic careers, many with major athletic team responsibilities at Division I institutions.

Finally, with the rapid increase in the number of primary care sports medicine fellowships in the early 1990’s, an accreditation process was established by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the Residency Review Committees for Family Practice, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. UCLA was one of the first fellowship programs to be accredited in 1996, and has been reaccredited each subsequent cycle.

Philosophy and Goals

Dr. Rich Sisson at UCLA-Stanford football game

Situated in one of the preeminent academic medical centers in the United States, the UCLA Sports Medicine Fellowship is committed to recruiting outstanding primary care physicians to train in a unique and challenging interdisciplinary environment. It is expected that graduates of the program will pursue academic careers in their given primary care discipline and further advance the scientific growth and development of sports medicine. With this in mind, the fellowship is designed with the following goals:

  1. To foster excitement for scientific inquiry.
  2. To develop research skills necessary for conducting cutting-edge research in sports medicine.
  3. To create a passion for life-long learning using an evidence-based approach.
  4. To augment skills in critical analysis and decision making.
  5. To cultivate and refine clinical skills in sports medicine.
  6. To maintain clinical skills in primary care.
  7. To develop experience in administering and coordinating a sports medicine program.
  8. To establish strategies for effective teaching and education in a variety of settings.