When Robin West, MD, was 5, she asked her parents for a copy of Gray’s Anatomy – the classic textbook of the human body – for Christmas. “I was fascinated. I would look through the anatomy and try to figure it out,” she recalls.
Since she was small, West knew she wanted to go into medicine. But it was years later, in medical school, when she fell in love with orthopedics. “I liked that it involved math and science and physics and working with my hands,” she says. “And I liked that I could work with patients of all ages and abilities, from youth athletes to professional athletes to active older adults.”
That’s what West continues to do every day as Redskins head team physician and chairman of Inova Sports Medicine.
Super Bowl Wins
West has always been athletic. She swam on her college team at Johns Hopkins University until she was sidelined with a case of mononucleosis. Looking for a way to fill her free time, she took a job as a student athletic trainer with the football team. “That’s when I realized I love football,” she says.
After her medical residency at George Washington University and fellowship training in orthopaedic surgery and orthopaedic sports medicine, West began working as a team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 11 years with the team, she saw them through 3 Super Bowls (and 2 Super Bowl wins).
West says people often ask her what it’s like to be a woman on the sidelines. But aside from a security guard at her first Steelers game asking if she was someone’s mom, it’s never been an issue, she says. “The players don’t treat me any differently. Caring for players, you really feel like part of the team.”
Treating pro sports players isn’t necessarily more challenging than treating any other patient, she says. What’s different is learning how you fit into the team.
“You have to make sure you’re communicating with the players, the coach, the athletic trainer, the general manager and the rest of the medical team,” she says. “I had to learn how a medical team works together much like a sports team.” And as she learned when she joined the Redskins in 2016, “every team runs differently.”
Building a Team
West left Pittsburgh in 2014 when she had the opportunity to come to Virginia to head Inova’s then-new sports medicine program. Building that program from the ground up has been a career highlight, she says. “It has been fun to watch the progress. I’m really proud of the team I built and the people who are on it.”
When she’s not seeing patients or traveling with the Redskins (or the Washington Nationals baseball team, for whom she serves as lead team physician), West competes in triathlons and cheers on her two daughters in their swim meets.
“I love what I do and love my job,” she says. “I feel blessed to be able to come to work every day.”
Inova Sports Medicine provides a personalized team approach, writing a comprehensive game plan for each patient to help them get healthier, stronger, and back to play as quickly and safely as possible. Robin West sees patients in Fairfax and Ashburn, VA. Call 1-844-453-1139 for more information or to schedule an appointment.