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University of Lynchburg athletic training program looks to add diversity

When the Master of Science in Athletic Training program at the University of Lynchburg had its first class of students in 2016, they had just six students.

Three were African American, two were Caucasian and one was international, according to professor of athletic training Tom Bowman.

Bowman said they have been fortunate the program’s cohort of students remained diverse as it was something that organically happened.

“We have intentionally made that one of our focuses in the program, building off of that first cohort,” Bowman said.

In 2017, the MSAT program received a $2,815 grant from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee, according to a news release.

The program used the to travel to six historically Black colleges and universities: Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Shaw University, St. Augustine University and Virginia Union University.

The program was able to get a handful of students from those schools directly, according to Bowman.

Alyssa Smith, a second-year student in the program who attended UL after finishing her undergraduate studies at St. Augustine University, said she first heard about the program from her academic advisor at St. Augustine, where she studied exercise science.

Smith said the change was a way to break out of her shell and indulge in a different culture of people. The new setting and the small cohort of students made it a good fit for her. It was a way for her to break out of her shell and indulge in a different culture of people.

“I really needed that, considering I came from a small undergraduate school,” Smith said. “I still needed that intimacy to be a great student.”

Smith is scheduled to graduate from the program next spring. She currently is undecided on what the next steps are for the future as physical training school and entering the athletic training profession are options.

She said this move to a new school and environment was important.

“I think that sometimes, we as people get comfortable with who we grew up with and who we surround ourselves with,” Smith said. “And I think to be successful or to make it I think it’s important that you bridge out and try to engage in different cultures, heritages and people.”

The master’s program is 24 months long. First- and second-year students take classes in the fall, spring and summer. During their studies, students take clinical classes with the opportunity to get hands-on training under other trainers.

Bowman stressed the general importance of adding more diversity to the profession.

He gave an example of how there are a small number of athletic trainers who are Black, Indigenous or people of color, compared to the number of BIPOC athletes playing collegiate sports.

The professor said people actually end up getting better care when they have a provider that looks like them.

“When you look at the literature for health care, concordance between provider and patient, them having the same racial identity, is important from a trust building standpoint,” Bowman said. “The literature shows that patients are more likely to see their provider if they share that racial concordance and they are more likely to be forthcoming with their current condition.”

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