Friday Night Physician

Family and sports medicine specialist volunteers with area high school teams 

Deepak Patel, MD, evaluating football player

If it’s Friday night and football season, you’ll find Deepak Patel, MD, at a high school football game. He’ll be on the sidelines, pacing alongside the coaches and trainers. 

A physician with Rush Copley Medical Group specializing in family and sports medicine, Patel volunteers as team physician for several area high schools. 

Patel attends all home football games and serves as a resource for team trainers when injuries occur on the field. Some nights, he can enjoy watching the game. Other nights, he is kept busy running onto the field or on the sideline, assessing and caring for injured players. 

A passion to help

“I started off volunteering because of my passion to help,” Patel says. “My favorite thing about volunteering is being able to help in an urgent moment of need.” Team trainers look to Patel’s expertise in determining whether it’s safefor a player to keep playing or if they need to sit out.

“They need a quick answer,” Patel says. “It’s rewarding to help with that.” 

He also enjoys forming relationships with the players, as they get to know him and become comfortable around him. 

“If they need something, they know they can ask me for help. It’s a nice feeling,” he says.

Some of the players have been his patients since they were small children. Now that they’re playing high school football, he enjoys celebrating with them and says, “It’s an honor to be part of that.” 

Lending his expertise

As team physician for multiple schools, Patel sometimes gets overbooked with multiple games scheduled on the same night. When that happens, other providers from his medical group help out. 

Family medicine residents sometimes accompany Patel to the games for the learning opportunity and are surprised to learn that he doesn’t get paid for his role as team physician. He says that volunteering is great for relationship building and that it’s important to support something in the community. 

In addition to volunteering at football games, Patel volunteers in a less visible role as a concussion consultant for several more area schools, working on policy committees to develop concussion protocols. He has expertise in concussion care, stays current on the latest literature and science by publishing articles and books and is often invited to speak, teach and lecture to other physicians. This keeps him on the cutting edge of the latest and most effective treatments for patients.  

“It allows me to continue to hone my skills to become a better physician and provide better care,” he says.

A sense of community

But it’s his role volunteering at the football games that gives Patel a strong sense of community.

“Sports have become very important in this region,” he notes. “Football has become a social integrating event for a lot of the community.”  

His patients are excited to see him on the sidelines supporting their team. In fact, he spends most of his pregame time greeting people in the stands.

“The athletes see me, the parents see me — they see that I’m involved, and I become part of the team as well,” he says. “They appreciate that I’m there to help out. They are excited to see that their doctor supports their team.” 

Donna Fisher is a marketing specialist with Rush Copley.

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