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Sunday, January 23, 2011
Updated: January 25, 11:17 AM ET
Steelers' female orthopedist part of the team


Think Super Bowl rings are only for men? Think again. After Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers fashioned a woman's version of the championship ring (at her request) for Robin West. That's Dr. Robin West, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Assistant Orthopedic Surgeon for the Steelers. The ring might be sized smaller, but it has the same number of diamonds as the man's version (pictured above) -- and goes beautifully with her Super Bowl XL pendant. If the Steelers emerge victorious in today's AFC playoff, and earn a trip to Super Bowl XLV, there could be more jewelry in her future.

West may not be suiting up on Sundays during football season but, without her, neither would a number of Steelers' players. She's been with the team since 2003, and is one of only two female NFL team orthopedists (along with Dr. Leigh Ann Curl, head orthopedic surgeon for the Baltimore Ravens). She assists injured players on the sidelines and in the operating room and is considered a regular member of the team. Does she ever feel uncomfortable in this virtually all-male environment? "No," said West. "I've never had an issue with it. Since the beginning, the players have always been respectful."

West thinks that acceptance may be, in part, because many of these athletes identify a woman, such as a mother or grandmother, as the strongest force in their personal lives. And she credits the Rooney family and the Steelers organization for being open-minded in their hiring processes. She also credits Ariko Iso, an athletic trainer with the Steelers since 2002 and the only female athletic trainer in the NFL, with establishing respect among the medical staff prior to her arrival.

West has had a passion for sports and medicine since she was a child growing up in southern California. When she was just five she asked for a Gray's Anatomy textbook ... and got it! She would then stay up nights poring over the detailed pictures. Her mom -- a huge sports fan -- took her to numerous games and events, including occasional court side seats for Los Angeles Laker games. Her influence stretched beyond the world of sports; she was also the first female partner at the accounting firm, Arthur Anderson Consulting. "She always told me you can do whatever you want to do," said West.

When West, a collegiate swimmer at Johns Hopkins, was sidelined with mononucleosis her sophomore year, she began working as a student athletic trainer, which ultimately led to medical school. Upon completion of a sports medicine fellowship at University of Pittsburgh, she was offered a position by Dr. Jim Bradley, the Steelers' chief orthopedic surgeon. Bradley says simply, "She was the best candidate for the job."

In addition to her work with the Steelers, West serves as the head team physician for Carnegie Mellon University as well as the University of Pittsburgh's men's basketball team. Her husband and two daughters often attend the games, making her sports medicine career a family affair.

If the Steelers happen to win another world title, West's husband thinks she should get a ring he can wear.