Dancer/Athlete Brings Passion to Orthopedic Medicine

Becca Rodriguez, DO, is an osteopathic physician certified in family medicine and sports medicine. Most recently, she served as the medical director for the high-performance center for Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

When you talk to Becca Rodriguez, DO, you would never suspect she was once extremely shy. But that was before her father enrolled her in dance classes at age 3.

“My parents wanted to get me out of my shell,” Rodriguez laughs. “That did the trick.”

It also launched her 12-year career as a professional dancer, and exposed her to the world of sports medicine.

Today, Rodriguez is an osteopathic physician certified in family medicine and sports medicine. Most recently, she served as the medical director for the high-performance center for Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

But her roots are in dance.

Launching a career

During her 12-year dance career Rodriguez worked with many household names, including Paula Abdul, MTV, Star Search, and Warner Brothers’ Power Rangers. But it was dancing for the Disney Pediatric AIDS Benefit Concert at age 13 that put future plans in motion.

“I was able to see a sports medicine family physician who was there on the set to take care of the dancers, and also was there to take care of the children with AIDS who were there watching our rehearsal,” Rodriguez recalls. “That was probably my first thought that I definitely wanted to do more with my life. And even though I loved dance, it was really special to see this physician use his knowledge to take care of the dancers.”

She also benefited from the guidance of Craig Phelps, DO, current president of the medical school Rodriguez attended—A.T. Still University, Kirksville College of

Osteopathic Medicine. Phelps had been the team physician for the Phoenix Suns as well as the Arizona Ballet.

“I saw what he was able to do and the different types of athletes he took care of,” Rodriguez says. “I could see the hands-on approach that he had with the athletes

and the dancers, encompassing the whole person, to help them be at their best.”

She shadowed Phelps at the college and at his office, and he’s been a mentor ever since.

Setting goals

Rodriguez did more than just dance as a youngster. She ran track and field as well as cross country in high school, and was a cheerleader in college, so she was no stranger to athletics. And it was Phelps who told her that if she truly wanted to work with top-level athletes, she needed a sports medicine fellowship.

“That was placed on the table pretty early,” she says. “He would always ask what my goals were with sports medicine. And the Olympics was always one of them.”

That goal was attained when she served as medical director of the high performance center for Team USA in Rio this past summer. She says that she was able to bring everything she has ever learned, from medical school to what she currently does in practice, to the athletes’ preparation. From osteopathic rehabilitative treatment to boosting spirit and confidence, Rodriguez got to experience it all from a front row seat.

“It was amazing,” she says of the experience. “It was just such a height of positive energy and emotion and being so proud of where you come from in the United States. It’s hard to put into words.”

A strong foundation

Four years ago Rodriguez and a close friend, Petra Fimbres, started the Latina Strong Foundation to help Latina women shape their culture through healthy diet and exercise to prevent disease.

“I was asked to speak at the National Women’s Conference in Arizona, and we noticed I was the only health-related topic,” Rodriguez says. “Everything else was business entrepreneurial.”

Rodriguez knew the health statistics. She knew that the Hispanic population has experienced an increase in specific disease states, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and different types of cancer. She felt it was the right time to reach out and help the Latina population.

“The growth has been unbelievable,” she says. “We’re helping to reshape some traditions that a lot of us grew up with like unhealthy eating and not much emphasis on exercise. We’re helping to reverse that trend.”

Partnerships with organizations including the American Heart Association and NASCAR, along with schools and a strong social media campaign, are helping increase awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.

“[Latina health] has always been something I wanted to focus on,” Rodriguez says. “Really try to help the country, one step at a time, to live healthier and have exercise in their daily lives.”

Moving on

Rodriguez has had significant success in family and sports medicine in a relatively short period of time.

“I’m pretty young in my career,” she says. “I’m only six years into my practice.”

But getting to this point was challenging because it meant giving up dance, which she says was her passion. As a senior in high school, Rodriguez was faced with a choice: accept academic scholarships and proceed with college, or move in with her agent and his family in Los Angeles and continue to pursue the “whole Hollywood experience” of dancing and acting. One of her parents thought she should continue to pursue dance, the other, her mother, thought taking the scholarships was the better option.

College won out.

“I felt fulfilled in dance,” Rodriguez says. “I kind of had the experience I needed, so I was okay to proceed with medicine and an osteopathic education.”

Today, when she’s not practicing her craft, Rodriguez enjoys a wide range of activities. She can often be found spending time with her two dogs—a Dachshund and a Poodle Pointer. She also takes boxing lessons, and regularly engages in reformer Pilates. You might also find her at the beach where she continues adding to a seashell collection she’s had since childhood.

And of course, Rodriguez and her husband still love Latin dance.

“That occurs in our living room quite frequently,” she laughs.