Montefiore hospital expansion takes doctors on the field

Medical center adds sports medicine, favored among injured athletes


Whether someone sprains their ankle in a basketball game or suffers a concussion playing American football, the sports medicine team at Montefiore Medical Center believes it is equipped to help.

Dr. Derek Ho just made his move from Brooklyn SUNY Downstate to Montefiore in the Bronx in one of the hottest fields in the medical business.

Dr. Abir Naguib Abdallah came all the way from Nebraska to Montefiore, where she also practiced sports medicine, according to an online database.

Dr. Ho, attending physician in the sports medicine program, and Dr. Abdallah join a team of three who will bring their expertise in the musculoskeletal system to enhance patient care.

The newly expanded team now provides care at multiple sites in the Bronx, including the Montefiore Moses and Wakefield campuses and the Hutchinson Metro Center, and at the newest Westchester location — Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care in Elmsford, as well as the existing location in White Plains.

Sports medicine is a branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing, treating and preventing injuries related to physical fitness activities such as sports and exercise. A big portion of this branch focuses on musculoskeletal issues.

“I’m an avid runner and a former tennis player — I liked being around athletes, but I never envisioned myself working with them this closely until I was in training,” Ho said.

“I fell in love with working with not just your weekend warriors but everybody, especially people that shared a passion with what I like to do.”

Caring for athletes was something Ho did not expect his career would take him. He was merely interested in the musculoskeletal system. It includes bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles.

Sports physicians “have the ability to do different types of injections that kind of sets us aside from other specialties,” Ho said.

Sports physicians in the clinic try to focus on treating patients without surgery. Meaning they work closely with physiologists and occupational therapists to create a tailored plan to help restore the body from injuries.

One of the things they can do is utilize ultrasounds — something big in the sports medicine realm now — to pick up pathology that may have gone missing in the standard X-ray.

They create a tailored plan and work closely with physical therapists, occupational therapists, sports psychologists, clinical nutritionists and exercise physiologists to help patients as fast as possible. It includes ultrasound-guided pain management injections, platelet rich plasma treatments that use the patient’s own blood cells to quicken recovery and sophisticated therapy techniques.

Expanding the number of physicians into several locations gives patients better access to care closer to home. For example, combined the three physicians can see approximately 60 patients a day.

It sounds a bit overwhelming, but Dr. Shane Drakes, program director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship Program in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Montefiore, said, “It’s the nature of the business. In healthcare you’re being asked to do more.”

“In 2014 was when our fellowship training program was accredited by the ACGME (accreditation council for graduate medical education). And since then, our fellowship program has been fully accredited,” Drakes said.

Montefiore Medical Center was always on top of its game regarding musculoskeletal care.

While ultrasounds have been one of the best treatments for musculoskeletal injuries, the hospital decided that creating a sports division and training program was necessary to complement the treatment.

During Drakes’ last year of training during his residency at Montefiore, a co-resident wondered why the hospital did not have a sports medicine division. Residents then brought the idea to Dr. Mark Thomas, residency training program director, and Dr. Matthew Bartels, chairman of rehabilitation medicine.

Eventually, they all liked the idea. They hired a consultant experienced in creating educational programs and getting the fellowship accredited.

When they look for fellows, one of the most important things they keep an eye on is doctors committed to getting into sports medicine. And what they generally look for is those highly recommended by others and what they have done in their residency in terms of sports medicine, such as cover events.

Meaning they would wait at a sports game, and if a doctor was needed, they were there for the athletes who needed help.

“We worked on it, and we were successful, “ Drakes said.  We haven’t looked back since we’ve just been growing from strength to strength.”

It would be better to see a physician trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation while understanding sports medicine.

To gain more athletes, a division would need to be open to attract them. Athletes would go to sports medicine providers.

In fact, in 2022, New York City Football Club of Major League Soccer was in the hands of Montefiore as they announced a partnership to be the team’s official hospital and training kit partner, which is not uncommon in the sports world. Chief executive of NYCFC Brad Sims said in a news release that the partnership would benefit their players and fans through community programming.

NYCFC has two teams, one major and another next pro, considered to be a third-tier league. But most importantly, they are recent champions. In 2021, they claimed the MLS title for the first time in its history against the Portland Timbers.

“All five attendants at some point will be working with both of those teams, and the fellows are also getting the experience to treat professional sports up close, and learn about that as well,” Drakes said.

The hospital has other relationships with Lehman College, DeWitt Clinton High School, and Mott Haven High School.

Fellows and some residents, including orthopedics, would attend sports games or events to provide medical coverage. If a student-athlete needs medical attention, Montefiore is there. They will assess the athlete and give recommendations for treatment which is all done under supervision.

Montefiore Medical Center, sports, therapy, rehab, Dr. Abir Naguib, Dr. Derek Ho, ultrasound,