Do you enjoy sports and physical activity, the human body, solving problems, caring for patients, and working with people?
If so, have you considered pursuing a career in athletic training?
The Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program at UW–Madison is a 24-month program that prepares students seeking a health care career in athletic training.
To give you some insight, following is a Q&A with Erin Malec, who graduated from the MSAT program in May 2023. Malec recently took the time to share her thoughts with us about her experiences with the Athletic Training program.
Where are you from and what drew you to UW–Madison? I’m from West Bend, Wisconsin, and went to UW–Milwaukee for my undergraduate degree in kinesiology. I was drawn to UW–Madison for my master’s degree because I have always loved the sense of community in Madison. The endless support for athletics and academics alike made it an easy choice when deciding where to pursue my education in athletic training.
How did you decide to study athletic training, and when did you graduate with your master’s? I grew up dancing competitively and knew that I wanted to go into a profession that allowed me to help dancers going through injuries. When I was in my kinesiology program, we learned about different professions in health care and athletic training sparked my interest. When I was dancing, I did not have access to an athletic trainer and I began to think about how much of an impact an AT would have in different types of settings, such as performing arts. I graduated from the UW–Madison MSAT program in May 2023.
What can you tell me about where you work and what you do today? I work for Select Medical as an outreach athletic trainer. My role is to provide athletic training services to different types of performers in Orange County, California. My team values injury prevention and helping our performers recognize the early stages of injury.
What was your most meaningful experience with the AT program? Part of my final clinical rotation was spent with Emily Eckman, the athletic trainer for UW–Madison’s Dance Department. She helped me navigate my transition from a student to an AT hoping to work with dancers. We spent a lot of time together in the Lathrop Hall clinic studying for my board exam, practicing skills, and learning about her journey as a performing arts athletic trainer. She was a great mentor and support system throughout my final semester as an AT student.
What class or faculty member had the greatest impact on you, and why? Each of my professors and preceptors had such an impact on me and my future as an AT. However, most of my classmates would agree that Shari Clark, our clinical coordinator, is one of the most impactful educators out there. Shari knew how much dance meant to me and worked so hard to make my dance rotation happen. Shari created such a welcoming, safe space for us. We knew that we could come to Shari with anything and she would take the time to listen.
What has it been like moving into the real world, so to speak, as an AT and working member of the health care field? I think most new graduates face a challenge when transitioning from being a student to working in the real world. It’s a very different lifestyle that changes very fast. Personally, this is the first time I have lived outside of Wisconsin and so far from my family. With that being said, I believe change promotes growth and I was both excited and nervous to step outside of my comfort zone. When I started my job, I realized how fortunate I was to be surrounded by a team that values work-life balance, supporting new graduates, and creating a space where each of our thoughts and ideas are heard. I am excited to grow in my position as an AT and continue to make an impact.
What is your favorite part about working for your current employer? My favorite part of my job is getting to meet so many new people with different backgrounds and future goals. I am so happy to be a small part of their journey.
What do you enjoy most about being an athletic trainer? My favorite part about being an AT is finding creative solutions to different issues. What works for one individual may not work for another and that just means I get to attack a problem from all different angles. I love learning people’s stories and helping them have a better understanding of what they may be going through.
What has been the most difficult part of your career as an athletic trainer? I think as a new graduate, the biggest challenge is gaining the confidence in your own skills to practice on your own. I am thankful for my preceptors throughout my clinical rotations who invested their time in me, as a student, to help me be as confident as I could be going into my first job. I still remember how excited my preceptors were for me when I shared that I had passed my BOC (Board of Certification) or got my first interview. Knowing that I had a whole system of people supporting me made that transition easier.
How did the UW–Madison Athletic Training program influence who you are and where you are today? The UW–Madison MSAT program allowed me to create amazing friendships, learn from some of the best professors and providers, and gave me once–in-a-lifetime experiences. One of the biggest takeaways I gained from the MSAT program was when working with individuals, to treat the person in front of you not just what you see. That idea has stuck with me and has helped me become a better provider for the performers I work with every day.
Athletic trainers (ATs) are multi-skilled professionals who collaborate with physicians as part of the health care team to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. For those who seek dynamic, exciting, and challenging work within the health care field, athletic training is an incredibly rewarding career with a positive employment outlook. For more information visit the MSAT program’s website.