About Us

Founded in 2002, the San Diego Sports Medicine Foundation was established to fill an existing health care gap for the youth of San Diego. We believe all kids deserve the opportunity to participate in life and we are dedicated to providing a medical safety net to injured youth who have no access to care. The founders represent a strong partnership between local physicians and community leaders. Dr. David Chao is the founder and current president of the SDSMF.

With the combination of sports and the active San Diego lifestyle, unavoidable injuries sometime occur and sadly, many of these injured kids do not have health insurance. Most of these families do not qualify for government assistance because the parents are employed in low-wage jobs and have no means for these kids to receive appropriate medical care. It is unacceptable to penalize the kids and ask them to wait until they have saved the money up to have the necessary medical or surgical care.

Our physicians are of the highest caliber and serve as team physicians for the San Diego Chargers, ESPN X-Games and USA National Rugby Team. It is the goal of the SDSMF to bring this top-quality care to the injured youth of San Diego who are in need. Thousands of San Diego’s young athletes have already benefited from non-reimbursed medical care, with a hundred of them receiving free MRIs, surgery, postoperative care, and bracing.

The hallmark of the Foundation is that no professional fees are paid to participating physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and therapists. Funds raised by the Foundation are used to help defray the hard costs related to surgery, such as medication, gloves, drapes, and non-reusable equipment. In addition, the SDSMF operates free Saturday morning injury clinics for high school athletes, provides pre-participation sports screening examinations, Sports Medicine/Athletic Trainer year-around support, educational symposiums, research, preventative medicine and fellowshipopportunities. For the third straight school year, the SDSMF will subsidize the salaries of full time certified Athletic Trainers in local San Diego high schools and has plans to expand the student athletic training program throughout San Diego County. Through these valuable programs, the SDSMF is able to offer a medical safety net to the youth of San Diego.

Our Staff

David Chao

President/ Founder – David J Chao, MD

Dr. David Chao started the SDSMF with Dr. Charles Camarata in 2002. He and the other medical board members provide free orthopaedic surgery and pre/post operative care to kids with medical needs, the Foundation hosts free Saturday morning injury clinics and once a month Thursday afternoon injury clinics in the winter and spring along with educational seminars. The San Diego Sports Medicine Foundation has served as a framework to coordinate doctors throughout the San Diego community and provides a pathway for willing physicians to donate their time and services to the community. The Foundation has given hundreds of thousand of dollars in services, including treatment to such famous athletes as Heisman Trophy winner, Reggie Bush.

Taste at the Cove is the signature fundraising event for the San Diego Sports Medicine Foundation. Every year, over 800 people attend a sold-out, sunset, oceanfront event at La Jolla Cove. Over $300,000 is raised annually by this event, thanks to over 40 restaurants, fashion show participants, and unparalleled auction items.

Since 1995, Dr. Chao has been practicing Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in San Diego. In addition to his orthopaedic surgeon duties, Dr. Chao serves as a team physician for several sports teams and events, including the San Diego Chargers for almost 12 years. He has been the Chief Medical Officer for ESPN’s X-Games at over two dozen summer and winter games. Dr. Chao has consulted on multiple MLB, MBA, NHL, and NFL athletes, and has served as team physician for multiple local universities and high schools.

Dr. Chao’s endeavors do not end there; he is an active member of many community organizations including San Diego International Sports Council (Board of Directors), Junior Seau Foundation (Board Member), Wells Fargo Bank (Community Board Member), Floyd Landis Foundation (Founding Member), and San Diego Chargers Community Foundation (Leadership Team Member).

Kathryn Welch

Executive Director - Kathryn Welch, MEd, MA, ATC

Kathryn Welch, a native of San Diego, discovered her passion for sports medicine and athlete safety in her high school sports medicine course at Helix Charter High School. From there Kathryn attended The Pennsylvania State University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in Kinesiology, Athletic Training. While at Penn State, Kathryn worked with Men’s Lacrosse, Men’s Volleyball, and several local high schools.

Following her time at Penn State, Kathryn returned to Helix Charter High School as Head Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine Teacher. In her time at Helix, Kathryn has expanded the Sports Medicine department on several fronts. She hired two additional athletic trainers to expand event coverage, brought in Point Loma Nazarene University athletic training students for clinical hours rotations, and implemented rigorous standards in concussion prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. In 2017, she oversaw the design and opening of Helix's brand new, state-of-the-art sports medicine facility. She continues to teach sports medicine courses, and focuses her work on developing Helix’s Sports Medicine Career Technical Education and Athletic Training Programs.

Kathryn has referred Helix athletes to the Foundation for many years, and she's excited to drive the foundation's growth into the future as their new Executive Director.

Kira Finkenberg

Event Director – Kira Finkenberg

Kira started with the SDSMF in May of 2003. She is the Event Director for Taste at the Cove, the SDSMF’s annual fundraiser event. With her many years of experience in marketing and ticketing in the music industry she started The Kira Co. www.thekiraco.com in 2003. In 1997 she graduated from University of San Diego with a degree in Business Administration. She has lived in San Diego for almost 20 years and enjoys spending time with her family and her dogs Jake and Jackson.