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East Meets West in Study Abroad Course for Athletic Trainers

Published: September 19, 2017
Jamie Cummings and Nicole Strout, both senior athletic training majors, studied Eastern medicine in a study abroad experience in Taiwan.
Jamie Cummings and Nicole Strout, both senior athletic training majors, studied Eastern medicine in a study abroad experience in Taiwan.
One of the therapies they practiced included cupping, which is used by Olympic athletes for muscle relief.
One of the therapies they practiced included cupping, which is used by Olympic athletes for muscle relief.

»Watch video on Nicole Strout '18

Jamie Cummings and Nicole Strout, both senior athletic training majors, are spending this semester back in high school.

They are interning with the high school football teams at Shorecrest Preparatory School and Clearwater Central Catholic, respectively, an opportunity saved for the final stretch in the athletic training program. For Strout, it’s been a study in professionalism in working with students not much her junior.

It wasn’t that long ago Strout was playing soccer year-round in high school and finding herself injured and hanging out with her athletic trainer, who inspired her to a career in the field.

“It’s funny because I’m 21 going on 22, they are at most 18. We’re close in age. One of the big things it teaches us is that we have to be professional with them,” Strout said. “They listen to the same music; they use the same language. But I’m a health care professional. Yeah, we can joke around and have fun together, but you have to keep that professionalism.”

The way the athletic training program is designed at UT, students receive a lot of academic buildup prior to their senior internship — two terms of examination and assessment of illness and injury, the medical and surgical aspects course, two semesters of therapeutic interventions, plus clinical rotations.

“They are getting a lot of exposure to different patient populations — high school, middle school and college athletes, and interacting with UT team physicians,” said J.C. Andersen, chair of the Department of Health Sciences and Human Performance. “In the first two years, we focus on all of the athletic training specific content, and they have clinical rotations. We hope it helps them be better prepared and stand out among their peers.”

Cummings, of Westport, MA, said UT has shaped her career goals by exposing her to different professions in the health field. She’s worked with athletic trainers, shadowed general medicine and orthopedic physicians, as well as observed up close a handful of orthopedic surgeries such as an ACL replacement.

“My program also has a class where an orthopedic surgeon of a different specialty comes in each week to talk about common surgical issues with said body part, and it's in that class where I truly discovered a passion for surgery,” Cummings said.

For Strout and Cummings, the preparation was also clear during their study abroad experience in Taiwan this summer.

For three weeks, the two took courses in global issues in athletic training and clinical experiences. The program was offered through the University of Georgia and had 20 students from universities across the U.S. They stayed on campus and studied at the National Taiwan Sport University where they had class daily in the mornings and physical therapy clinics in the afternoon. They’d rotate to different sports (like tai kwon do, badminton, baseball, tennis) and observe their athletic trainers, sometimes assisting in therapies like massage, icing and cupping.

Strout said table tennis athletes tend to have a lot of elbow and wrist tightness, (“You would think oh, it’s ping pong, but it’s intense,” Strout said.) Archery tends to cause rotator cuff injuries. And then there’s judo.

“It’s no rules wrestling. ACL, concussions, fingers or hands breaking or getting jammed or needing to be taped, a lot of ankle issues,” said Strout, of Blairstown, NJ. “If you’re throwing each other on the ground and tackling each other, anything can happen to you.”

Learning traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbal remedies and cupping piqued Strout’s curiosity. After graduation in May, she wants to pursue graduate school and focus her research on taking a Western approach to the traditional Chinese techniques she learned this summer.

For Cummings, she said it has made her think more creatively.

“Academically I learned to think outside of the box more. Our curriculum in Taiwan allows for a more holistic approach to healing injuries,” Cummings said. “I am a more well-rounded sports medicine clinician, because I now have knowledge and skills from two very different medical cultures.”

Andersen said athletic training, while traditionally a U.S.-centric field, is growing abroad. Taiwan and mainland China’s marketplace for athletic training is poised for growth. Canada and Ireland have a mutual recognition agreement with the U.S. so students in athletic training fields can become credentialed in those countries. The opportunities to study abroad in Taiwan just adds to Strout and Cummings’ marketability after graduation.

“It’s understanding healthcare in a bigger context, understanding the differences in our Western approach versus Eastern medicine approach,” he said. “As well, it’s just a great experience to travel and see the world.”

Have a story idea? Contact Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer   
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