School of Medicine & Health Sciences celebrates 30 years of athletic training at UND Homecoming
GRAND FORKS, N.D.—The UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) is welcoming graduates from each of its healthcare programs for UND Homecoming 2023, Oct. 2-7.
Taking this spotlight this year is the School’s Department of Sports Medicine, whose athletic training program is celebrating 30 years of being housed in the SMHS.
Smiling at the early-1990s memo that he collected as part of a fuller report on his department’s history, Chair of the Department of Sports Medicine Dr. Steve Westereng reflected on just how risky and profound such a move felt at the time.
“In 1993, nobody had done that,” explained Westereng of the effort to embed UND’s athletic training program into the SMHS, which began in 1990 and was official in 1993. “This was the first athletic training program in the country to go into a medical school. And now that’s where everybody else is – it’s actually a standard now. You should be doing this.”
Crediting former Director of Sports Medicine Jim Rudd and former Chair of the UND Department of Family & Community Medicine Dr. William Mann with making the move happen, Westereng noted how the transition 30 years ago marked the first of what was to become many trendsetting decisions by the Department.
“In 2011, the NFL mandated all teams have a physical therapist on staff, whereas we already had this in place at UND since 2000,” Westereng continued. “A more recent development was working with the Department of Physical Therapy on a Sports Residency for physical therapists who work within the UND Center for Sports Medicine and with the athletic training faculty on student athletes. This program is interdisciplinary, educational, and contributes to the service of area athletes.”
Giving another example of his program’s cutting-edge ethic, Westereng described how based on advice and input it received from the National Athletic Trainers Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) approved, in 2016, new rules aimed at guaranteeing medical independence for athletic training and sports medicine staff.
As one NCAA report put it at the time, schools’ sports medicine staff – team physicians and athletic trainers – must be given “unchallengeable authority” over the medical treatment and return-to-play decisions for injured athletes. That is to say, the NCAA recommended schools take both athletic training programs and injury reporting out of university athletics programs, advising instead that they reside in academic and/or health-adjacent departments.
“NCAA-mandated independent medical decision making in 2016, but UND was already there back in 1993 because of its placement in the School of Medicine & Health Sciences,” Westereng stated.
Thirty years after making its first pace-setting decision, then, North Dakota’s premier athletic training program celebrates the inaugural leg of its marathon at the School’s 2023 Homecoming Week festivities, Oct. 2-7 on the UND campus.
As the star of the annual SMHS Homecoming Banquet this October, the athletic training program will be the focus of Westereng’s keynote speech to UND alumni who are back in Grand Forks not only for Homecoming events but for the UND football and hockey games that will feature Department of Sports Medicine alumni, faculty, and students.
Events at the SMHS kick-off with a Continuing Education Symposium from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 6. The multidisciplinary symposium will focus on wellness and feature presentations on sleep hygiene, mental health, trauma-informed care, and cross-cultural communication, among other topics. The symposium, which is open to all health providers and can be accessed virtually, includes the following presentations:
- Jeremy Holloway, Ph.D. - “Cross-Cultural Communication”
- Nicole Benson, B.S.S.W. - “Blue Zones Project Story”
- Gary Schindler, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D., A.T.C. - “Wellness in Motion Beyond the Clinic”
- Mark Poolman, B.S.A.T., M.P.E., A.T.C., C.S.C.S. - “Sleep and Recovery Strategies to Improve Wellness”
- Rhonda Roed, M.O.T., O.T.R./L. - “Promoting Health and Well-being Using a Universal Approach to Trauma-Informed Care”
- Andrew McLean, M.D., M.P.H. - “Mental Health is Health”
Later that day, the School will host its banquet for SMHS alumni. In addition to honoring all milestone alumni, the event provides SMHS faculty and administrators an opportunity to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its medical college-based athletic training program, which recently added a Master of Athletic Training (MAT) degree.
Sara Bjerke, assistant professor in the Department of Sports Medicine, described how the years-long effort to convert a Bachelor of Athletic Training degree program into one of only a few MAT programs in the upper-Midwest will both boost enrollments at UND and diversify the applicant pool.
The new degree “will improve the care future athletes receive on and off the field,” said Bjerke. Why? Because athletic training is no longer just for those in action on the field, court, or rink.
“Athletic training has moved from the sidelines to where now we’re in clinics, industrial settings, and really anywhere there are active people,” Bjerke said. “We’re much more ingrained in the healthcare setting generally. Being in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, we’ve been the anomaly – historically – in that most athletic trainers were hired solely within university athletic departments. We’ve really been on the forefront of being within the healthcare setting, though – and we’re pushing even more.”
Homecoming 2023 wraps up for the SMHS on Saturday, Oct. 7, when it participates in the annual Homecoming Parade, which begins at 10 a.m. and follows a route along University Ave. between Columbia Rd. and Stanford Rd.
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