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bill ankrom presenting at student symposium

After three years of virtual events and gatherings, the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society (PATS) was back in person for the PATS Student Symposium, and for the first time ever the University of Pittsburgh hosted the event. From educational presentations and lectures to hands-on exhibits and activities, the experience provided Athletic Training (AT) students from across the state with an opportunity to connect, network and share their experiences with one another.  

Assistant Professor Devin Kielur, Pitt Athletic Training, was excited to see the Symposium arrive in the Steel City.  

 “The organization and execution of this event directly demonstrates the quality of the education delivered at the University,” says Kielur.  

Plus, he adds, the chance that this provides for students to network is instrumental to their careers, with “the potential to accelerate a student’s career through a variety of collaborative experiences.” 

The event provided a great opportunity for Pitt to showcase all that the University has to offer, “from facilities to the tremendous staff and faculty, but most importantly the current and leading sports medicine knowledge,” he says.  

The event was held at the Hotel Indigo and coordinated by a Symposium Planning Committee including AT Clinical Education Coordinator William Ankrom, Sports Medicine and Nutrition Department Chair Kevin Conley, Sports Medicine Program Director Mary Murray, Pitt Athletic Trainer Brittany Buchheit, Associate Professor and PATS President Shelly DiCesaro and Pitt Athletic Training student Nina Soffer.  

Unparalleled Programming 

The dynamic programming featured opportunities for attendees to get professional headshots, a career fair with more than 10 employers and a compelling slate of guest speakers, all moderated by Pitt Athletic Training student Nina Soffer.  

“The most exciting part of moderating the 2022 PATS Student Symposium was meeting all the speakers,” says Soffer.   

Among the speakers were some of Pittsburgh’s foremost leaders in Athletic Training and Sports Medicine: 

Dr. Jeanne Doperak, a Pitt team physician and medical director of the Athletic Training Program, a role she has accepted following the passing of Sports Medicine legend Dr. Freddie Fu.  

Larry Cooper (BS ’83), who served as a closing speaker discussing professional development. Cooper was inducted into the National Athletic Training Hall of Fame in 2021 and was enthusiastic to share his wisdom with the attendees.  

UPMC Physician Dr. Kentaro Onishi, who has worked with the U.S. Olympic Team and is a leading expert in musculoskeletal ultrasound use in the field of Sports Medicine.  

“This event is a unique way to meet athletic training students from other Pennsylvania universities and learn about material not covered in the standard curriculum. This opportunity was extraordinary because I was able to collaborate with Pitt faculty, professors from other universities and individuals from UPMC,” Soffer adds.  

Overcoming Challenges 

While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, the University of Pittsburgh ensured a safe conference environment.  

“Navigating the recent challenges of institutional change through the COVID pandemic was not a barrier for SHRS to coordinate the event,” says Kielur. “The COVID Medical Response Office had the safety of all students, staff, faculty and guests as a top priority.” 

“The pandemic has brought many new challenges not only academically but socially,” he continues. “The opportunity to facilitate a large, in-person academic and networking opportunity for growing athletic training students brings a sense of forward motion to the future of health care.” 

But the pandemic wasn’t the only challenge facing the planning team, as the profession of Athletic Training continues its extended transition from a BS to accelerated MS, a challenge which Kielur notes the SHRS leaders were able to effectively balance.  

“The ability to host the PATS Student Symposium aligns with who we are as an academic institution,” says Department Chair Kevin Conley, recalling the University’s mission statement “to make available to local communities and public agencies the expertise of the University in ways that are consistent with the primary teaching and research functions and contribute to social, intellectual and economic development in the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.” 

“There were many obstacles that needed to be addressed in the planning of this event and could not have been navigated without a team that was motivated to deliver a quality educational and networking experience,” adds Kielur. “In Pittsburgh, we have some of the world’s top leaders in medicine and health care and the opportunity to deliver this kind of experience to students across the state was one of the biggest motivators driving the planning process.” 

#PittProud of Alumna Molly Trott (BS ’14)  

At SHRS, all students are driven by a passion for helping others, but Athletic Training alumna Molly Trott (pictured above) elevated that sentiment to new heights last year, donating her kidney to 4-year-old Daniel, the son of Pitt Strength & Conditioning Coach Mary Beth George. This selfless act earned Trott the PATS Lifesaver Award.  

“Receiving the PATS Lifesaver Award was somewhat of a surreal experience for me,” says Trott. “Almost 10 years ago now, I was an Athletic Training Student looking up to the professionals I was learning from in the very same Athletic Training education program, and to receive an award and congratulations from those same people 10 years later was very emotional for me.  

“I used to dream of becoming a positive role model and professional in the sports medicine community. I hope that my kidney donation not only inspires others to explore living donation for those in need, but also inspires people to live fully in their capacity to change this world for the better. As athletic trainers, we come to work each day preparing to save a life if needed, and I feel as though I was operating in the same capacity… just in a different way.”