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Alumna Spotlight: Jennifer Watters

Jennifer Watters, DC, LAc, DACBSP ‘08

Dr. Jennifer Watters ’08 (LACC, CEM) is a full-time clinician with Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU) Sports Medicine Department. Since February 2017, she has worked with the USOC Chula Vista facility representing SCU. Beginning in May 2017, Dr. Watters has devoted her Wednesdays and Fridays working exclusively with USOC athletes.

As a collegiate rower for the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Dr. Watters suffered an incapacitating lower back injury. Through consistent chiropractic and acupuncture care, she was able to fully recover and return to her position on the rowing team. The experience left an indelible mark on Dr. Watters, leading her to pursue her life’s calling—a career as both an acupuncturist and chiropractor.

Once completing her undergraduate studies at UCSD—where she received dual degrees in Biochemisty and Psychology, Dr. Watters continued her dual degree pursuit by completing both the Chiropractic and Acupuncture programs at SCU. “I came [to SCU] specifically because the university offered the dual program and I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to complete first,” she says. Dr. Watters was an active and engaged student during her time at SCU. She was a member of the Delta Tau Alpha Fraternity, served as chair of EAC, and she earned numerous awards during her studies, including the E. Maylon Drake Humanitarian Award.

Dr. Jennifer Watters

After graduating from SCU, she started her own sports medicine focused practice in Santa Monica, CA, and also worked at the integrated Soft Tissue Center at DISC as an Acupuncturist. Additionally, Dr. Watters completed her Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (DACBSP)—which allowed her the opportunity to support Team USA as a medical provider.

“Once I completed my DACBSP, I kept volunteering for as many other events as possible,” she says. Her persistence paid off. She got her big break with USA Volleyball after volunteering for an event. She was asked to treat an individual who turned out to be the medical director for the team. After providing treatment, Dr. Watters was offered a job. “I had no idea; it was an interview.”

Since then, Dr. Watters has provided medical support to USA Beach Volleyball, USA Fencing and USA Weightlifting, traveling with teams both domestically and internationally. Currently, she is the only acupuncturist onsite at the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Chula Vista facilities, but she notes, “It’s not uncommon for me to have an acupuncture patient that then wants an adjustment.” Her dual degrees are distinctive, as only a small number of practitioners in California are licensed in both chiropractic and acupuncture.

As part of her work, she has had the opportunity to travel with teams across the world. The list of countries is extensive, including the Netherlands, China, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Cuba, and Tunisia. It’s hardly a vacation though; she warns aspiring sports medical doctors to be prepared for long hours if traveling. “When you travel with a sport you are typically the only medical provider that travels, so like with beach [volleyball] I’m doing pre and post competition and event coverage. So you’re there for several hours a day, sometimes 18 hours.”

After operating her practice for numerous years, Dr. Watters returned to SCU in 2016—this time to lead the university’s Sports Medicine Clinic. During that timespan, Dr. Watters has quickly made an impact. As much as she loves working with athletes, her favorite part of working on campus is teaching new clinical students. She also appreciates the new Sports Medicine Department on campus. She joked that when she was a student “it wasn’t how it is now, sports medicine was in Pod C” referring to the pods in the University Health Center.

So what advice does she have for students with aspirations for careers in sports medicine? Volunteer. “I know it seems kind of like ‘ehh alright, whatever,’ but I would not have had the opportunities that I have now if I didn’t put in the volunteer hours before. They see how you work; they see your work ethic. You have to want to work, but if you love sports med, it’s play work.”

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