You don’t have to ask Dr. Richard Haigler , an orthopedist, who his favorite National Football League team is. You can tell from the Atlanta Falcons jacket and polo shirt he wears around Novant Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine – Clemmons . And, you can safely assume what team Haigler will be cheering for on Feb. 5, when the Atlanta Falcons play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51.

Haigler spent a year at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta after finishing his orthopedic surgery residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and receiving his medical degree at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. Once arriving in Atlanta, Haigler began training with four faculty physicians, with each serving in different capacities for the Atlanta Hawks NBA basketball team, the Atlanta Falcons NFL team, Georgia Institute of Technology athletics and the WNBA Dream basketball team.

“I spent significant amounts of time working with each of these faculty physicians in their roles,” Haigler said. “I traveled with the Georgia Tech football team, as well as the Atlanta Falcons. I would be on-site during practices and games. I often assisted in the operating room and clinics for the athletes we took care of.”

Haigler, who has always been interested in sports, also attended the NFL Combine and helped perform free agent physicals. “I thought the NFL Combine was an invaluable experience,” he said. “I developed a sense of camaraderie with my faculty members, the associated staff and the organizations we helped with.”

He also completed a six-week fellowship in Nice, France that specialized in shoulder surgery.

Haigler said he applies knowledge from his fellowship every day, especially the ability to tell the difference between a patient who needs and doesn’t need surgery. “Understanding who will do better without surgery, and how to manage the patient’s problem is one of the things I apply from my fellowship a daily basis.”

Haigler, a North Carolina native, received his first bachelors of science degree from Wake Forest University and is excited about being back in the area. “When I left Winston-Salem years ago to pursue my medical training, my goal was always to return to the area, and provide a level of care based on the training I received at great institutions, both nationally and internationally,” he said. “Despite my exposure to high-level athletes, I feel like my place is to connect to a local community and provide that same level of care to high school students and weekend warriors.”