MyMichigan Health and CMU partner to enhance student athlete experience, create healthier adults

The volleyball nets are up, the soccer field is in place, and the lights are ready at Kelly Shorts Stadium. Fall sports season is just around the corner, and this year student-athletes at Central Michigan University will receive care under a new sports medicine partnership with MyMichigan Health.

“One of our first pillars is student athlete experience - and that is having leading nutrition, mental health, and overall student athlete care. We look at the holistic person first and the student athlete part second; and, this fits right into our core priorities,” says Amy Folan, Zyzelewski Family Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics. “So, we're really excited to be able to elevate what CMU student athletes have had and what they'll have in the future.”

The three-year partnership between MyMichigan Health and CMU will provide a cost savings of over $700,000 to the university annually; and, it’s anticipated that the partnership will provide recruitment benefits as well.

“Having a world class health provider for sports medicine will help CMU recruit athletes, which is really important for their growth and development as a university,” says Marita Hattem-Schiffman, President of MyMichigan Medical Centers in Alma, Clare and Mt. Pleasant. “Their recent success has been fantastic. CMU has an exceptional athletics program and they're proving it. To continue to perform at that level, they need world class healthcare and we can help them further transform by providing that for their student-athletes.”

Hattem-Schiffman says the partnership program officially launched on June 1 and the first athlete physicals started June 2. MyMichigan Health began their sports medicine program with WellSport, the area's only primary care sports medicine program. Additionally, MyMichigan Health has sports medicine collaborations with Alma College, Mid Michigan College, the Great Lakes Loons, and more than 13 local high school athletic programs. They also assist with sports medicine coverage during the LPGA’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the World Tennis Association’s Dow Tennis Classic, and other local events.

“About 12 years ago, we started our WellSport program, which is our primary care sports medicine program. Our goal was to provide athlete care from like-minded individuals focused on returning athletes to sport as quickly and safely as possible,” explains Ann Dull, Director of Musculoskeletal Service Line at MyMichigan Health. “At that time, our dream was to support our communities at our high schools, local colleges, and sports clubs. CMU was a great opportunity for us to really launch into a bigger stage, a bigger community, and partner locally in order to achieve our goal and help us live into the MyMichigan Health purpose which is ‘Creating Healthy Communities Together.’”

With the partnership of a healthcare system with expert providers in a wide variety of fields – from orthopedics to nutrition to mental health and everything in between –Dull is confident MyMichigan Health will be able to provide well-rounded care for student-athletes.

From left: Sports Medicine & Musculoskeletal Care Provider Richard Giannotti Jr., D.O., Fellowship-trained Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist AJ Pinney, D.O., Orthopedic Surgeons & Sports Medicine Providers Teresa Hall D.O. and Sabin Shah M.D“Health is not just the injury focus,” Dull says. “It's prevention, it's mental health as well as nutritional health, spiritual health. It's all-encompassing, and that's what we think we can bring to CMU’s program.”

One example of the well-rounded care that MyMichigan Health plans to provide student-athletes is providing nutritional guidance for teams when they travel out of town and have limited options as to which restaurants they can eat at.

“They asked if some of our nutritionists could say, ‘Go to this restaurant and order one of these six things. It's healthier for you than the triple pounder,' ” explains Hattem-Schiffman.

She hopes that this guidance will carry over into the everyday life of student athletes as well, and even into their friend groups.

“Then, if you're out with your friends, and you're still making those smart choices, you're going to influence the choices that your friends make,” Hattem-Schiffman says.

That’s just one of the many ways MyMichigan Health hopes this partnership will reach beyond a student’s time as an athlete at CMU and extend into their adult life after college.

“Our purpose statement is now ‘Creating Healthy Communities Together,’ ” explains Hatten-Schiffman. “When we look at the county health rankings of Central Michigan counties, we know they can be better and we can help be a catalyst for that change. If fact, we recognize within our four walls we're providing great care. We know that because we measure it every day; but, we can see that it's not necessarily translating to healthier communities so we changed our mission in January 2020 – this partnership is an example of living out that purpose.”

Working with more young people is just one strategy to start making those changes. To work with a group of student athletes is a perfect population. For us to come in and teach things that will make them healthier for their entire life - whether it is how to be healthy today with what you eat and how you treat your body or the transitioning out of your sport into being a regular adult living a regular life - we wouldn't want to miss this opportunity to embrace this particular population.”

One of the most exciting aspects of this partnership is the nature of the partnership itself, says Hattem-Schiffman: the fact that this partnership is based on two organizations coming together simply to do something that is in the best interest of the community.

“Historically, relationships between businesses have been transactional,” she says. “’You do this, we'll pay for that; then you do this and we'll do that,’”

“What we're trying to do is come together and be greater than the sum of our parts and that's really where you get transformation.”

Pictured in the top photo from left, are: AJ Pinney, D.O., fellowship-trained primary care sports medicine specialist; Gai Clemmer, practice manager, MyMichigan Medical Group; Brian Locke, D.P.T., A.T., C.S.C.S., physical therapist; Amy Folan, Zyzelewski Family Associate vice president and director of athletics, Marita Hattem-Schiffman, president, MyMichigan Medical Centers in Alma, Clare and Mt. Pleasant; and Ann Dull, P.T., M.B.A,. D.P.T.,director of musculoskeletal service line, MyMichigan Health. Sports Medicine and Musculoskeletal Care Provider Richard Giannotti Jr., D.O.; Fellowship-trained Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist AJ Pinney, D.O.; Orthopedic Surgeons and Sports Medicine Providers Teresa Hall, D.O., and Sabin Shah, M.D.

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Read more articles by Gabrielle Haiderer.

Gabrielle "Gabe" Haiderer is passionate about sharing stories that show the positive interactions between individuals and businesses that occur every day in our communities - interactions that inspire hope and motivate community growth. She has used this passion to share stories through a variety of media outlets - from television to radio to traditional newspaper to digital news. When she's not writing, Gabe stays busy running her own videography and social media management business in Northern Michigan, caring for her two furkids (Watson the siamese cat and Holmes the Corgi), spending time with her husband, and tending her garden.