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Physician Spotlight: From Athlete to Team Physician for USA Swimming

Katie Edenfield in the physician spotlight

Katie Edenfield, MD, is a clinical associate professor at the University of Florida Department of Community Health & Family Medicine, specializing in sports medicine. She also serves as the associate program director for the sports medicine fellowship at UF, a provider for students at the UF Student Health Care Center and a team physician with the University Athletic Association.

A longtime athlete, Dr. Edenfield was named a team physician with USA Swimming in 2021 for the events leading up to and including the Olympic Games Paris 2024. This past summer, UF Health was named a U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Medical Center, meaning UF Health will provide top-notch care to Team USA athletes in addition to the patients in this region.  

We sat down with Dr. Edenfield to learn more about her motivation to help athletes and how her experience working with Team USA helped her become a better physician for all her patients.  

When did you know you wanted to be a physician?  

I was a senior in college before I realized I wanted to go to medical school. I didn’t have anyone in my family who practiced medicine, so I didn’t have a lot of exposure to it, but I have always enjoyed a challenge, I have always been academically driven and I knew I wanted to do something with sports. I looked at careers in sports such as physical therapy, sports nutrition and athletic training, but medical school wasn’t on my mind until a Florida men’s and women’s swimming and diving teammate of mine told me he was on the path to be a doctor. He shadowed a doctor and so I thought I would do the same, and I thought it was really cool! So, I became serious about it, took the MCAT, got a job as a medical assistant at a doctor’s office in town and applied to medical school.

How did you get interested in the Olympic Games?  

I played basketball for a long time and then started competing as a swimmer. I played both sports in high school and then continued swimming in college at the University of Florida. At UF, I swam with quite a few Olympians, and my head coach at the time had been a coach on some Olympic teams so I was surrounded by the history and tradition of the Olympic Games. When I came back to UF practicing sports medicine, I was working as a team physician with a lot of Olympic-level athletes. I knew that I was never going to make it as an athlete to the Olympic Games, but it is the pinnacle of sports, and it is a dream to be able to go and represent Team USA as part of the “team behind the team” supporting these athletes.

Dr. Edenfield with a patient

How has your experience as an athlete changed the way you treat patients?  

As a former athlete, I have a greater understanding of what competitive athletes go through. I understand there are a lot of high-pressure environments and a lot of stakeholders involved with athlete care, specifically at the levels I work with. I have to consider that the goals with competitive athletes are a little different while making sure I am looking out for the best interest of the patient. 

As a physician, what is your patient philosophy?  

I strive to help my patients accomplish their goals in a healthy way. Sometimes, though, I must be the voice of reason for patients, especially athletes. They are used to pushing through injuries, illness and feeling terrible. Sometimes that is necessary to be the best, but it can do more harm than good. I am there to help them sort that out; so ultimately, they can meet their long-term goals. I also want to help them be the best they can be. I can help from a medical point of view which encompasses their physical, mental and nutritional health.  

Tell us about your work with USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

During my first year as a faculty member at UF, I was looking for ways to get involved with Team USA, so I applied to a sports medicine rotation at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center. I was invited to attend and was able to work with sports I don't have much exposure to, such as wrestling, Para -swimming, wheelchair basketball, figure skating, modern pentathlon and others. I learned the ins and outs of the USOPC and worked with multiple disciplines such as physical therapists, chiropractors and athletic trainers. During this rotation, I was able to meet with individuals about my interest in getting involved with Team USA’s swimming athletes. The year following the sports medicine rotation, I was invited to the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 but had to turn it down due to family reasons. The USOPC continued to reach out to me regarding events they needed medical support at, but our schedules never aligned.

Dr. Edenfield in a boot sling

As a team physician for UF, one of the teams I work with closely is the swim and dive team, which has many Olympians. I was caring for these athletes daily, which included in preparation for their international competitions. USA Swimming invited me to provide medical coverage for events due to my experience taking care of these athletes. These events included various camps, world junior championships and the Pan American Games. I continued to work with many successful Olympians who train under Coach (Anthony) Nesty, who has been named head coach for the Team USA men’s swim team for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. I was then invited to be the head team physician for this current "quad" for USA Swimming, which included World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in 2022, the World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in 2023, and ending with Paris 2024.  

How has your work with USA Swimming and the USOPC influenced you as a physician?  

There are many volunteers from different backgrounds at these events, so I get to learn from and collaborate with these exceptional people and professionals. I give a talk titled “Mass Participation Events” and one talking point is, "Anything that can go wrong, will.” With international travel, I expect things will go wrong, and possibly in a country where I don't speak the language and don't know how to get to the hospital. I have learned that you must be able to think on your feet, be resourceful, be flexible, communicate well, use teamwork and plan ahead for everything you can. Those skills and experiences have made me both a better physician and a better person.  

What is your message to athletes?  

Many athletes have a difficult time separating who they are as a person from who they are as an athlete and get their entire identity from their sport. My advice is to recognize that you are more than an athlete and that you bring so much value as a human. Overall, I find athletes are much happier, and more successful when they have more balance and recognize that.  

Rapid-fire questions

If you were not a doctor, what would you be: A photographer or a marine biologist.

One little-known fact about you: I have completed an IRONMAN.

Favorite activity to do with friends or family: Anything active and on the water, like paddleboarding or being on the beach.

About the author

For the media

Media contact

Peyton Wesner
Communications Manager for UF Health External Communications (352) 273-9620