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CMU's Athletic Training Program celebrates more than 40 years

Meeting the demand for entry-level athletic trainers

Contact: Curt Smith


​By Josh Palmer
Reprinted from The Pulse

From the hands-on classroom experiences to the valuable hours spent working with athletes, CMU’s athletic training program is known for how well it prepares students to work in the profession.

The program got its start in 1973 when physical education and sport faculty member Ken Kopke implemented a minor in sports medicine at CMU. A few years later, in 1976, Ron Sendre was hired to develop a sports medicine major to meet the demands of the industry. By 1980, Kopke and Sendre had established the first sports medicine major of its kind in the United States at CMU. The minor ceased to exist and the sports medicine major, what today is called athletic training, became one of the top majors on campus.

The first three students to graduate from the program in 1983 were Karin Pearson, A.T.C; Erin Erickson, A.T.C.; and Britta Neilsen, A.T.C.. They wrote a letter of thanks to the university for the education they received.

“We’ve come to realize the symbolism involved in diplomas – the truest essence of knowledge lies in what is within, what was taught and also the self-sacrifice toward the goal,” they wrote. They continued with thanks for all of the people who were involved with the program: Dr. Thomas Keating, Ken Kopke, Ron Sendre, Anna Boyd, Deb Knight, John Mason and Greg McGillvary.

“The standards set at CMU are by far superior to many institutions. Our expectations are clearly high due to the vision you’ve given us. The professionalism ingrained into our training room shall forever be a strength and credit to CMU. As we venture across this nation, it is what you’ve done for ‘the program’ that has made it respected throughout the United States. The pride we have when we can answer ‘our degree is from CMU’ is tremendous.”

The tradition of high standards and intense training continues today. Students spend their first two years in the program’s preprofessional phase where they learn the basics and spend 10 hours per week completing field experience for 12 weeks. Each semester, students are selected to move on to the professional phase where they complete athletic training program classes, clinical education exercises and an internship.

“I was provided with a hands-on experience through patient care skills in the classroom that we could later use during our clinical experience,” says Harbor Beach alumnus Chris Hagedon. “This culminated with the professional program’s internship where I was able to utilize all of my education to work as an athletic trainer.”

Hagedon said that his professors provided clinical and managerial skills that have prepared him as he enters his first year of CMU’s graduate physical therapy program.

Senior Erin Smith is entering her final year at CMU where she will continue working with a wide range of patients and health professionals. She is spending this semester preparing for her internship experience, which will pave the way for her to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy following graduation.

“My experience with CMU’s athletic training program has been unforgettable,” says Smith, a Streamwood, Illinois senior. “Through the long hours spent with the athletic teams, to all the patients I met while working in the clinic, each experience offered a new perspective on athletic training and the health field.”

Graduates who do not enter the workforce as an athletic trainer often pursue master’s or doctoral programs in athletic training, exercise science, kinesiology, nutrition, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies or medical school programs.

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The Pulse features stories about how the programs, people and events within The Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions at Central Michigan University meet the health care needs of our communities.

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