From Family Practice to Sports Medicine, A Doctor of all Trades

Elite and professional athletes are renowned for being the best at what they do worldwide. If you’re someone who is passionate about sports, or have been involved in a sports league, you are well aware that with physical activities comes the risk of injury. That’s where the Sports Medicine Specialist profession comes into play.

Cathy J. Campbell is a Preventative Health Physician and Sports Medicine Physician who treats musculoskeletal health issues for Sports Health patients at Cleveland Clinic Canada. Dr. Campbell has an extensive education that consists of a Bachelor of Physical Education degree, a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, and a Doctor of Medicine along with corresponding residency training. Moreover, she has a Certification, College of Family Physicians of Canada (CCFP), a Fellow, College of Family Physicians of Canada (FCFP), and a Diploma in Sport Medicine, to mention a few.  In a recent interview, Dr. Campbell reveals that the single most-rewarding thing about her job is “helping people to change their lives, and also dealing with wonderful people in a variety of situations.”

With a large background and plenty of insights on how to specialize in sports medicine, Dr. Campbell offers her advice to job seekers who desire a career in this field. She also describes the ins and outs of her current and future roles, along with the different requirements for landing work in both the United States and Canada.

Entering the Field: Education

The journey towards achieving a career in sports medicine has many possible routes. Bringing this issue to the forefront, Dr. Campbell briefly outlined some of the more popular ways to break into the medical field. For her, family practice was the best way to start “because you get a variety of interesting problems and it’s not as specific as just seeing knees, or joints.”

Accordingly, she studied family medicine while completing additional training in sports medicine. This is also a great educational avenue since it incorporates learning how to work with the person as a whole, their general health and fitness, plus sports medicine procedures. Other options are “from a therapy point of view,” which would be to complete a degree in “chiropractic, massage or physiotherapy.” In addition, it may be of interest to be medically trained as an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist as these roles also contribute greatly to the industry of sports medicine.

Certification Requirements: Canada vs. United States

Considering that Dr. Campbell was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia and was able to work in the United States, she knows the qualifications that are needed to work in Canada in comparison to the US.

If you’re interested in being a primary sports medicine practitioner in Canada, you need to complete a medical degree. Following this, you would do a three-year family medicine residency, which includes one year of specialized training in sports medicine. Next, completing and passing the Canadian Academy of Sports and Exercise Medicine Exam (CASM) will certify you to work in Canada.

In the United States, Dr. Campbell wrote the American Boards and Family Practice examination when she first began her employment there. Furthermore, she took the Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine CAQ, which is an American certification in sports medicine. However, this requirement is not mandatory for orthopedic surgery in the US. 

Cleveland Clinic & Daily Work

Dr. Campbell was initially drawn towards working for Cleveland Clinic Canada because of its excellent reputation throughout North America. She goes on to state that its “wonderful resources” along with “the people, who have been very welcoming and make you feel valued, which is important in any job,” are reasons why she enjoys working there.

In Dr. Campbell’s daily work, she experiences two kinds of days. The first consists of seeing about five patients for their comprehensive preventative medicine visits. Her second role is rooted in practicing sports medicine. On these days she assesses things like chronic wrist problems, or athletes with Osgood-Schlatter disease (a disorder relating to the tibia). Enjoying the variety of patients in her day-to-day job the most, this type of work is a result of her numerous medical degrees and specialty certificates accumulated throughout her career.

Tips for Job Seekers

First and foremost, “certainly do what you enjoy doing.” Being passionate about what you do is important during daily tasks and when establishing future goals.

Second, “find some mentors.” For Dr. Campbell, “if you see someone that is doing what you want to be doing, you should ask him or her for help.”

Third, it is important to “volunteer and make yourself available.” This tip corresponds with her strong belief in “the 3 As of success, which are availability, affability and ability.  You have to be available and so forth to get the opportunities.”

This proved true when Dr. Campbell cancelled a vacation in the year 2000 to accept an offer from the Coaching Association of Canada. This position required her to be in Houston, Texas and work as a sports medicine doctor for the Canadian women’s soccer team. By making herself available, Dr. Campbell “got her foot in the door and stayed on with the team through many world cups.”

What’s Next?

This year at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Dr. Campbell will work as the General Medical Officer. She will be responsible for, “’the management of health care issues, coordination with the local organizing committee medical services doping controls and related matters, as well as injury assessment as part of the ongoing f-mark study,’ and f-mark stands for the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre.” It will be her responsibility to supervise the other FIFA medical officers (from other countries) that are assigned to each of the four venues in Canada. Additionally, Dr. Campbell will be the local medical officer for all of the venues.

With plenty of opportunities on the horizon, as a result of her affability and accessibility, Dr. Campbell has also achieved many milestones in her career. Sports medicine is an exciting field, one filled with plenty of opportunities for changing people’s lives and assisting them in their athletic vocations.

For more information on what Cleveland Clinic’s human resources department looks for in its top candidates, read our article: “Candidate Essentials: Cleveland Clinic.” Having outlined the ways to become a sports medicine specialist, while providing insightful tips acquired from her long-standing career, Dr. Campbell is simply inspiring.