Teaming Up for a Home Run in Health Care 

How Emory Healthcare’s partnership with the Atlanta Braves means comprehensive health care, better trust and even greater outcomes.

Braves team members out on the field Braves team members out on the field

When two longtime – and passionate – Atlanta Braves fans have seats next to each other at the stadium, a lot of talking can happen.  

When one is the president and CEO of the team, and the other is the director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center and the VP of Innovation for Emory Healthcare, one conversation can turn into an opportunity.  

That’s how the Emory Healthcare and Atlanta Braves sports partnership began to take shape nearly a decade ago.  

Talking Baseball, Then Talking Business  

“Along the way, Derek Schiller and I started having conversations about team medical care and the idea of a partnership as opposed to a sponsorship – really changing the relationship – where we view each other as community assets and we connect to reinforce the mission of each organization,” said Scott Boden, MD, director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center and Chief Strategy Officer for Emory Healthcare.  

The days of sports teams having a single private physician are in the past.  

So when Dr. Boden began talking to Derek Schiller, President & CEO of the Braves, back in 2016, he knew Emory Healthcare was positioned to offer the team what they needed: A collaborative, team approach to sports medicine. 

"At Emory, we had built up a very strong team of non-surgical sports medicine expertise.

So, that is something I think the Braves identified as a potential gap and an opportunity."

It’s a Team Approach 

For Emory Healthcare, it’s all about giving their professional sports teams the best and most comprehensive care to keep them healthy. When the Braves named Emory as their official team healthcare provider, the team and employees gained access to advanced facilities, equipment, and physicians in more than 70 medical specialties.

“Thankfully, Emory has relatively endless resources to get patients plugged into when needed,” said Lee Kneer, MD, physiatrist and head primary care sports medicine physician for the Braves.  

The Braves know teamwork, and recognize that same team approach with Emory.  

“We have a great medical team to keep our athletes on the field,” said Jim Allen, senior vice president of partnerships for the Braves. “We’ve always needed that, but Emory provides it at the highest level.”  

The care teams at Emory make it a priority to get patients to the right doctor at the right time – no matter what time – even if it’s not sports medicine or orthopaedics.

UNKs coffee shop signage
Player holds brave hat behind his back

It’s a team approach. If I’m not the expert, I’m not embarrassed to say ‘Hey, my partner is more knowledgeable.’” 

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“We had a player who didn’t even play for us, who got hit in the face with a ball and had facial fractures and dental injuries while they were out of town,” Dr. Kneer said. “We were able to get him in to see an ENT 45 minutes later, and he ended up having surgery, recovered and is fully participatory.”  

Accelerated care during spring training, regular season and post season isn’t the only fast decision-making coming out of the Emory and Braves partnership – they were able to come together during COVID-19 to get vaccines to the entire Braves roster, and fans who were attending a game.  

“I got a call on Friday, and by Monday we had a plan in place,” Dr. Boden said. “Being able to have that conversation over the weekend in the middle of a pandemic is another reflection of  our level of partnership – and I think COVID highlighted that.”  

Access to Innovation 24 Hours a Day 

“The team that we have supporting the Atlanta Braves is always connected. They see each other every day, they practice together, they conference together, they discuss the latest research together. The Braves can get help 24/7 no matter what the issue is,” Dr. Boden said.  

That help can be sports medicine related, but it doesn’t have to be.  

It could be help navigating the healthcare system for a family member, or access to top specialists outside of sports medicine who are at forefront of innovation when it comes to medical research. 

people in a stadium during daytime

Photo by Erin Doering on Unsplash

Photo by Erin Doering on Unsplash

“We have had players on the team who were type 1 diabetic.

Because the researching endocrinologists are at Emory Healthcare, we don’t just send them to an endocrinologist.

We send them to the endocrinologist that developed that treatment.”

Go Where the Players Go

Hiring managers across Emory Healthcare head out to Truist Park multiple times a year to help health care professionals grow their career – from RNs, nurse residents and surgical techs to respiratory therapists, rad techs, and more. They answer any questions about the application process, and even conduct on-site interviews.  

Career seekers who attend these hiring events – held on a game day – are also given tickets to attend that day’s game.  

It's easy for prospective employees to feel good about applying to work for the Braves' trusted health care provider. “That’s a big benefit from an employee perspective,” Allen said. “To know we’re getting strong health care advice and services from a trusted partner.”  

The advice and services aren’t limited to players, either. Emory has a motto – Go Where the Players Go – to let fans know they can receive the same top tier treatment that athletes receive at Emory Healthcare.  

“Whether you are an elite athlete, a weekend warrior, a student athlete or someone aging gracefully – you won’t have to travel far to receive Emory’s exceptional care for any musculoskeletal ailment,” Dr. Boden said when Emory’s Musculoskeletal Institute’s building opened up in 2021.  

And when medical decisions need to be expedited, the team at Emory steps up to the plate.  

Teaming Up to Do Good

The Braves and Emory Healthcare also team up for other patient services, like annual skin cancer screenings held at the ballpark to raise awareness for skin cancer prevention, and hiring events for open positions across the Emory Healthcare system.  

In past years, the Braves and Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University worked together to provide skin protection tips for the summer, and include a free Braves hat and sunscreen for fans. The initiative, called  “Play it Safe in the Sun,” also includes a ceremonial first pitch – several patients treated for melanoma at Winship have thrown the first pitch over the last few years, including Christina Wilkins, stage 4 melanoma survivor.

people in a stadium during daytime

Photo by Erin Doering on Unsplash

Photo by Erin Doering on Unsplash

Championing Healthcare, Cultivating Champions

“One of the most rewarding moments in this partnership, for me,  was in October 2021, when we cut the ribbon on our new musculoskeletal building. We had Derek Schiller here before he got on the plane for the first Braves playoff game,” Dr. Boden said. 

During Schiller’s visit, he praised Emory for keeping the Braves healthy and ready for post season.  

“We have a very special connection with Emory. When you play 162 games, you have injuries, you have all kinds of adversity, and we look to Emory Healthcare and their team of physicians and medical professionals to help get us to this point in time: getting the Braves on that field to help us get to the point that we’re in – and ultimately – win the World Series,” Schiller said in October 2021. 

“We all know what happened four weeks later,” Dr. Boden said.  

A World Series Synergy 

The excitement and pride of a World Series win was felt among the Braves, Emory, and the larger Atlanta community of avid fans – a ripple effect that keeps both the Braves and Emory Healthcare excited for a future of excellence when it comes to the partnership.  

“We’ve won our sixth consecutive division title,” Allen said. “You don’t do that if you’ve got a lot of players who are hurt.” 

The goal: Keep the momentum going and deliver care – which, for Emory – wouldn’t be possible without the collaborative support from the Braves.  

“The Atlanta Braves organization has been so supportive with our decision-making,” Dr. Kneer said. “It’s a culture of professionalism, and a culture of excellence. We bring that from the medical side, but they bring it from the administration and professional side.” 

“It’s a two-way street. The Braves are sincerely interested in the best care for their athletes and their entire team. And for us, it’s an honor to be the chosen trusted partner, because it’s a recognition of what we try and do every day which is put the patient and the care as our first priority.”  

About Emory Healthcare Sports Partnerships

Emory Healthcare  is the official team healthcare provider for the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Dream, Overtime Elite and the Atlanta Vibe.