Oregon State athletic training program is a step ahead

On June 16, eight graduating students were the first to receive a Master of Athletic Training degree from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

All of the graduates have passed the national certification exam required to become a certified athletic trainer.

Although the accredited undergraduate athletic training program has been around for more than 40 years, in the summer of 2016 it transitioned to a professional master’s program. By the following summer, the program was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).

“We did not purposely aim to be one of the first programs to shift to the master’s degree model, but we did recognize early on that the educational direction of the profession was changing and that we needed to adapt,” says Kim Hannigan, athletic training program director. “Oregon State University has been continuously accredited by the athletic training accrediting body since 1974; a long and successful history of athletic training education. We did not want to jeopardize that streak!”

To date, the Oregon State program is the only public institution with a professional master’s program in athletic training in the state.

“The science behind what we do is growing, and this requires more in-depth educational experiences,” says Clinical Education Coordinator Sam Johnson. “A two-year intensive program allows students to not only gain the breadth, but also the depth of knowledge they need to be successful practitioners.”

To complement classroom instruction, each student is paired with a preceptor. “The clinical preceptors are certified athletic trainers who fundamentally believe part of their role is educating the next generation of athletic trainers,” Kim says.

Mackenzie Marques, graduating student and certified athletic trainer, was paired with Associate Athletic Trainer Deb Graff and worked with Oregon State gymnastics and men’s golf. Mackenzie has secured a two-year internship with the Buffalo Bills football team.

“I could not have imagined a better experience to prepare me for my next steps,” Mackenzie says. “Deb is an inspiring athletic trainer and provided me with the best experience as an athletic training student.”

“It was a pleasure to work with Mackenzie,” Deb says. “She is a bright, inquisitive and hardworking woman. Her passion for this profession is palpable, and that is what really makes being her preceptor special.”

Deb says Oregon State athletic training provides an opportunity for students to have supervised, hands-on clinical experience in a fast-paced setting.

“OSU Athletics offers a Division I and nationally competitive environment for both athletes and athletic trainers,” Mackenzie says. “Being able to learn in this environment these past two years has shown me what it takes to be a great clinician at such a high-level athletics program.”

Mackenzie’s experience aligns with what the program strives to provide – an exceptional clinical experience to complement coursework.

Sam says the long-term relationships with clinical preceptors is part of what sets the program apart. Faculty and preceptors gather to carefully assign students to clinical preceptors and discuss each students’ needs, where they need to be challenged and which preceptor would be a good fit.

Fred Tedeschi, director of Oregon State Athletic Training Services, says the relationship between athletics and the athletic training program is valued by every staff member for various reasons. One important reason is that somewhere along their own education an athletic trainer assisted them. It’s now their chance to pay it forward.

“The students in the program support us in providing high-quality health to OSU student athletes,” Fred says. “In turn, we give them the opportunity to develop and apply skills learned in the classroom to grow as a professional. It truly is a win-win. The fact that you supported a student on their path of growth in a profession is an incredible feeling.”

OSU Athletics is just one clinical location. Other sites include Western Oregon University and local high schools, including Corvallis High School, Crescent Valley High School, Philomath High School, West Albany High School and Central High School.

Mackenzie expressed overwhelming gratitude for the program. “I have not only become a better health care professional, but also a better individual,” Mackenzie says. “From program faculty, athletic training preceptors and my classmates to the health care professionals and student athletes I encountered along the way, they all made my experience extremely valuable.”

Her sentiment is shared by the program director. “Our greatest strength is that our students are energetic, committed and motivated to practice athletic training,” Kim says. “Their enthusiasm is contagious and a primary reason preceptors and faculty continue to push to best serve these aspiring athletic trainers.”