Opening Doorways – UIW Athletic Training Welcomes Madison High School Students

March 1, 2024

Submitted by UIW Athletic Training

On an overcast morning, when the ground still carried the dampness of evening rains, a charter bus emblazoned with the markings of the University of the Incarnate Word pulled up to Madison High School. While the bus usually carries UIW athletes to their games, on this day, the driver’s task was to pick up a group of high school students. Seventeen students who spend their days and weekends volunteering as student athletic trainers and their faculty boarded the bus to experience tours of UIW’s Broadway campus and the School of Rehabilitation Sciences. 

Athletic Trainers (AT) serve as allied healthcare professionals within their organizations. Jack-of-all-trades, they often facilitate athlete care by coordinating prevention through emergent medical care and ultimately returning athletes to their sport. The coordination component requires that they be savvy at orchestrating with strength and conditioning coaches, sport coaches, campus nurses, physical therapists (PT), parents and physicians. Of the seventeen students making the trek from Madison High School, four had an interest in exploring careers in athletic training, four others expressed interest in physical therapy and several expressed wanting to attend medical school. 

Dr. Reid Fisher, Athletic Training program director, says he didn’t create this experience for the sole reason of promoting the Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program.  

“Most of these kids will change their minds,” he said. “Statistics show 80% of students change their minds, but most don’t know the pathways to get to what they think they want. We sought to bridge those chasms and help them see what’s possible.” 

After touring the natatorium and seeing the primary athletic training facility, sports science optometrists welcomed the group to try vision science training games regularly used by UIW athletes. The lead athletic trainer over UIW football, Augie Melendez, also took time to discuss the athletic training profession. The group later made their way across town to the UIW Saidoff Center where a tour of the facilities showed what graduate studies feels like in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences. Doctor of Physical Therapy student and UIW alumnus Gabe Matous, gave a tour of the cadaver, pediatric care and life skills labs used by physical and occupational therapy program students. Dr. Mica Rutcshke, UIW ODT doctoral capstone coordinator, met the group to discuss the profession of occupational therapy and its differences from physical therapy. 

UIW hosts a myriad of pathways into healthcare with even more options on how to gain admission to those programs including regular decision, early decision, direct admit and the MSAT’s accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s program. It can be daunting. This trip sought to give an impactful exposure to UIW’s undergraduate campus and offer names and faces who can provide guidance on next steps for high school students. Joe Marquez, assistant athletic trainer at Madison High School, is also a two-time alumnus of UIW, having earned his bachelor’s degree in rehabilitative sciences and master’s degree in athletic training. Now when his students have questions about next steps, they’ll be able to turn to him as someone who has been through the journey they are about to embark on. 

Last year, 60 students from three separate schools experienced a similar visit. The unique collaborative nature of athletic training and the typical early introduction that the profession can have to many different healthcare professions makes it a unique gateway. Through continued efforts like this most recent collaboration with Madison High School, Dr. Fisher hopes to reduce the barriers to accessing medical education.