Secret Lives: R. L. Felipe Lobelo

Kay Hinton

Day Job

Associate professor of global health in the Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health

Secret Life: Soccer player

After years of playing soccer on the high school and club level in his native Colombia, Felipe Lobelo had a choice to make: pursue soccer professionally or give it up to go to college. Although his heart was set on the sport, his parents had different ideas, and Lobelo agreed that his best course was to enroll in a six-year program at El Rosario University in Bogota to earn his undergraduate and medical degrees. However, he bucked tradition by continuing to play soccer during college and medical school. During his medical school clinical rotations, Lobelo says, he had to switch with other students or plead with his professors to switch his hours so he could attend practices and go to tournaments. After medical school, Lobelo pursued a PhD at the University of South Carolina in the state’s capitol of Columbia, where he was the only graduate student on the university’s club soccer team. When he moved to Atlanta in 2008 to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he recruited colleagues to play for local soccer teams, eventually organizing the VaHi ATLetic Football Club in 2012. In 2013, in addition to playing with the local team in the Atlanta District Amateur Soccer League, Lobelo joined the US Medical Soccer Team. The team is composed of physicians from across the country and represents the United States in the World Medical Football Federation’s annual World Medical Football Championship.

His Words

“There is an association in people’s heads that if you are into sports, you are not as gifted academically, but research statistics show very strongly that cognitive abilities are better among people who are fit and athletic. Exercise is one of the main areas used to improve cognitive development in kids and to combat Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. Soccer is a sport that you can play at different levels of intensity—you can play for decades. It lets you stay healthy and active and engaged. I’ve been exposed to the world through soccer; it is a truly international sport and an interesting way to learn about the world.” —M.M.L. 

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