Family Medicine Is Ticket to Wide World of Sports Medicine

August 26, 2019 11:30 am David Mitchell

You never know where your passions might lead you. For Amy Leu, D.O., the answer -- so far -- is Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Japan and Taiwan, and she's not done with her passport yet.

[headshot of Amy Leu, D.O.]

After intramural sports proved to be fun but not much of a challenge for Leu as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, she joined the Tritons' basketball team as a walk-on for her junior and senior seasons. That experience exposed her to UCSD's athletic training program, and she soon was volunteering as a student trainer -- working and learning alongside the school's certified athletic trainers in the training room, and at games and practices for sports like volleyball and baseball that didn't conflict with basketball season.

"I loved that field and I loved being around that environment," said Leu, who played four sports in high school, "but I wasn't totally excited about just getting a master's degree."

One of her mentors suggested medical school, which fit well with her biochemistry major. After graduating from UCSD and Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine-California, she matched at the University of California, Irvine, Family Medicine Residency Program.

"I knew I wanted to stay in the sports medicine field, and family medicine was one of the ways to do that," she said. "However, I didn't come back to sports medicine until my third year because I was really enjoying every other aspect of family medicine."

Leu returned to her alma mater to complete her training in the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Program at the UCSD School of Medicine. She's now the fellowship's assistant program director as well as an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health. She splits her clinic time evenly between sports medicine and primary care. She's also an associate team physician for the San Diego Padres and a team physician for U.S. Figure Skating.

Leu provides primary care to the Padres' players, team employees and family members, and also works some Padres' home games. The team's doctors, two other family physicians and three orthopedists,(www.mlb.com) also provide care for the organization's minor league affiliates, including traveling to the Dominican Republic once a year to provide medical care and physicals to the franchise's Dominican Summer League players.

Leu travels with U.S. Figure Skating to national and international competitions a few times a year, offering full-spectrum care to athletes, coaches, judges and staff. Her international stops have included Croatia, Japan and Taiwan.

"It's been phenomenal," said Leu, who will be traveling to Grenoble, France, for another international skating competition this fall.

Leu, who stays active by surfing and participating in triathlons and half marathons, also provides medical coverage for high schools, UCSD intercollegiate and club sports, and mass participation events, and has served as medical director for the California State Games, an amateur event offering competitions in more than a dozen sports for thousands of athletes.

"Sports medicine has offered so many unique opportunities I would have never been able to access otherwise," she said. "I've been able to provide care to world-class athletes. But one of my favorite patients is an 11-year-old hip hop dancer. She was this shy kid who liked to dance, and now she's competing nationally. I've been able to see both ends of the spectrum, and I feel extremely lucky and grateful for that."