In Athletic Training at UVA, Ties Run Deep

By Laura Hoxworth

Every program director since the program first began in 1975 returned to Grounds this weekend to celebrate the beginning of a new era for athletic training at UVA.


Photo: All four program directors in the history of Athletic Training at UVA, (left to right) Drs. Joe Gieck, David Perrin, Jay Hertel and Chris Ingersoll, pose inside the Rotunda’s Dome Room.






On Friday, every program director in the history of Athletic Training at UVA came together under one roof – the vaulted roof of the Rotunda’s historic Dome Room.

They were there to mark the end of one era and the beginning of a new one for UVA’s master’s program in athletic training. As part of a larger evolution within the field, the program announced earlier this year that it would retire the original 13-month master’s program and transition to a new two-year professional program. The final thesis presentations of the original program were held this past weekend, and faculty invited all four previous directors to Grounds for the occasion.

“Our post-professional master’s program in Athletic Training has a long legacy of excellence, and the current faculty thought that the best way to bring the program to a close was to honor that legacy by having the founding program director, Joe Gieck, and the previous program directors Dave Perrin and Chris Ingersoll join us for the occasion,” said Jay Hertel, current director of UVA’s graduate programs in Athletic Training and Sports Medicine and the Joe H. Gieck Professor of Sports Medicine. “These gentlemen helped make the program what it is, and we wanted to recognize them for their important contributions.”

Founded in 1975, UVA’s athletic training graduate program was a pioneer – one of the first of its kind in the country. In the years since, the program has attained a stellar reputation for leadership. More than 500 students have graduated and gone on to create a robust network of accomplished alumni.

The new program, instead of offering advanced education for certified athletic trainers, is designed to prepare students for certification through a rigorous schedule of academic courses and clinical training. It will graduate its first class in May 2019, and graduates will be eligible to sit for the national board exam to become certified athletic trainers.

The Rotunda presentations are a longstanding tradition, part of a celebratory weekend of events that also includes panel discussions and lunch on the Range. This year, fourteen students presented their thesis research to an audience of faculty, fellow students, families and guests – including the entire history of the program’s leadership.

Asked why they made the effort to travel back to Grounds for the occasion, Ingersoll said simply, “How could we not?”

“We had the privilege of having extraordinary students who are now leaders in all aspects of our profession,” he added. “I think they gave us a great gift in what they’ve done as professionals, and it’s the least we could do to be here to celebrate the program.”

As they recognize the past, they’re also looking toward the future of athletic training at UVA – and they’re optimistic about what comes next. “The University was a leader in that transformation so many years ago during an important part of the profession’s evolution,” said Perrin. “I hope that that’s replicated and they’re a leader again in this new evolution.”

For his part, Hertel is confident about the new direction. “Athletic training education and research aren’t going away at UVA,” he said. “Everyone is excited about our new professional Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program. The faculty members leading that program, Michael Higgins and Luzita Vela, have built an amazing curriculum, and everyone spoke this weekend about how committed we are to making the new program live up to the legacy of the previous program.”