The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is proud to feature Rosemary Agostini, MD, FACSM, in this issue’s Clinician Profile. Dr. Agostini attended a 6-year BS-MD Program in New York City, obtaining her Medical Degree in 1981 from New York Medical College. She completed a Family Practice Residency from the University of Rochester in 1984. She traveled the world for a year, including being a trek physician to base camp on Mount Everest, and returned to become the first formal primary care sports fellow in the United States at the Cleveland Clinic from 1985 to 1986. She has edited three books on medical issues for women and girls in sports. She is the founder and chief of the Department of Activity, Sports, and Exercise Medicine at Group Health.
You Have Been an ACSM Member since 1985. How Has ACSM Grown and Changed since You Became a Member?
It is amazing to have been a member of ACSM for 28 years!
There have been huge changes in some areas and little in others. What has changed is the growing scientific base relating physical activity to health and well-being, and sports medicine has become a recognized medical specialty. What has not changed is the amazing and wonderful learning that takes place when multidisciplinary groups interact for a common goal. The combination of physicians, researchers, and educators in all areas of exercise science and sports medicine comprise what I think is the essential strength of ACSM! What has changed also is the growing national and worldwide recognition of the contributions of professionals and the ACSM office staff who serve to move the field forward by shaping public policy and expanding educational opportunities.
An additional change is the expanded diversity in ACSM to actively include many more international, minority, and female members as well as to expand the role of Committees/Task Forces/Strategic Initiatives to achieve the goals of the College, for example, the work of the International Committee, the Strategic Health Initiative — Women, Sport and Physical Activity, and the whole concept and application of Exercise is Medicine®.
What Was It Like to Be a Clinician a Decade or Two Ago Compared to Today?
Two decades ago, things were very different because there was no recognized specialty in sports medicine. As it does today, the field then stood on the shoulders of a broad spectrum of basic scientists, cardiologists, and orthopedists as well as many practitioners in education and primary care. As a young female early career primary care sports medicine physician, I had to confront and meet challenges that pioneers inevitably face. I was trained initially in a 6-year BS-MD program and received my MD at the age of 24 years. I started my medical training in 1975, and a decade later, I began my sports medicine training as the first official primary care sports medicine fellow at the Cleveland Clinic and in the United States. At that time, I was challenged always about who I was, what my credentials were, what I knew, and who I knew. I learned to accept that I had to prove myself — to teachers, clinicians, patients, athletes, and ACSM! Today it is a joy to have many primary care sports medicine fellowship-trained colleagues, both women and men. Some of the changes include our original work in 1991 with the Think Tank meeting we organized with ACSM where we identified the concept and issues of the Female Athlete Triad. Today women’s issues in sports are given respect, and work has been done that helps women of all ages.
My present work in creating a new Department of Activity Sport and Exercise Medicine at Group Health in Seattle, WA, is another testament to the changes in medicine in the past two decades, and ACSM has contributed to the important and evidence-based data in the use of activity and exercise in the treatment and prevention of disease.
How Has Membership in ACSM Influenced Your Career?
With the work of creating and developing a new department in Activity, Sports, and Exercise Medicine separate from both Family Medicine and Orthopedics, I see daily how ACSM has influenced my career. ACSM has been a component of the breadth and depth of my knowledge in sports and exercise medicine and has given me the tools and experience to start this new service line.
I am very fortunate to be at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle and work with leaders that understand and appreciate the skill and innovation that I bring, and provide me the environment to start a concept in health care delivery for active people.
My learning has come from physicians in all specialties that contribute to the field of sports medicine, exercise and sports scientists, and physical educators who have influenced strongly my thinking about care of the whole population — from the pregnant woman and the effects of maternal exercise on the baby and the mom to the quality of health and wellness for the frail elderly.
How Do You Use the ACSM Network in Your Daily Work?
In so many ways, ACSM has contributed to the way I think about activity, sports, and exercise medicine, including the care of the female athlete, the prevention, care, and management of sports-related concussion, Exercise is Medicine®, medical care of athlete, injury prevention, and management of musculoskeletal injury.
What Is Your Best Advice to Other Sports Medicine Clinicians?
My best advice is to be respectful of all people you meet from the youngest to the oldest.
A beat police officer I met 25 years ago is now a chief of police. The police chief supports my program of Walk & Talk with your health care team in a neighborhood where people are fearful for their safety. These community police officers walk and talk with us weekly.
A brilliant and well-respected scientist (George A. Brooks, PhD, FACSM) whom I met at ACSM is now my husband.
Where Do You See ACSM Heading in the Future?
I see ACSM heading toward increased presence in global work and increased influence on national policy regarding the benefits of exercise for health and wellness.
Would You Like to Share Anything Else with the Readers of Current Sports Medicine Reports?
I stood on the shoulders of giants — John A. Bergfeld, MD, FACSM, and Barbara L. Drinkwater, PhD, FACSM, who are two incredibly amazing and different people who have mentored me throughout my career. And I want to say thank you to them and all the staff and members of ACSM who have influenced and helped me throughout my career.