August 15, 2012

SLU AT Student Wraps Up a Busy Summer!

A Summer to Remember!
By: Bridget Quirk (SLU MAT Class of 2013)

Bridget Quirk (MAT Class of 2013) received a 2012 NATA Foundation Scholarship this summer.
Over the course of the summer, I was fortunate enough to experience not one, but three amazing opportunities. My triad of experiences included: providing medical coverage for Nike Elite 100, helping the MAT class of 2014 with their summer courses, and interning with Dr. Matt Matava at Washington University Orthopedics. There are an overwhelming number of career paths in the field of athletic training to consider as I begin my final year of the program. This summer, I had the unique opportunity to explore the role of an athletic trainer as an educator and as a physician’s extender.

I kicked off my summer in a traditional athletic training setting: the basketball courts. My classmates and I provided medical care to the Nike Elite 100 athletes under the supervision of the SLU athletic training faculty. We stayed busy taping and stretching the athletes before each practice. We were also responsible for assessing, treating, and documenting any injuries that occurred throughout the weekend. I have worked with high school basketball in the past; however, this experience was standout. The nation’s top 100 high school freshman and sophomore basketball players were invited to this skills development event. This elite-level of training brought about a high intensity atmosphere, which added a new dynamic to the experience.

Most of my summer days were spent working with the MAT class of 2014 as they entered the professional phase of the program. I was the teaching assistant for their summer athletic training course as well as a private and group tutor for gross anatomy. Although it was still a challenging class, I enjoyed gross anatomy much more the second time around. I was able to apply concepts from my kinesiology and musculoskeletal assessment courses to the cadavers, which reinforced my understanding of the material. Nonetheless, I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the textbook and identifying structures in the cadaver lab. The most enjoyable part of this experience was getting to know the incoming graduate class. The entire group is enthusiastic about the profession and eager to begin the program, especially now that they have survived gross anatomy. Over the course of the summer, the MAT students developed a basic skills set in preparation for their first clinical rotation. They will put these skills to use this week when football camp begins at their assigned high school or college. I am excited to hear about their first clinical experiences this fall.

The highlight of my summer was my internship with Dr. Matt Matava at Washington University Orthopedics in Chesterfield. Dr. Matava is the head team physician for the St. Louis Rams and Washington University athletics, and the assistant team physician for the St. Louis Blues. He specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, particularly injuries involving the knee and shoulder joint.

For the first few days, I observed Dr. Matava as he examined patients in the clinic. Most of these patients complained of activity-related injuries. After taking a history, evaluating the injury, and analyzing the radiographs, Dr. Matava would advise the patient on the suspected diagnosis and recommended course of treatment. He used a combination of laymen’s terms, analogies, and 3D anatomical models to effectively communicate with the patient. As soon as I became familiar with the clinic, Dr. Matava would allow me to see the patient first. I was responsible for taking a thorough history and documenting it appropriately. I would then present the case to Dr. Matava and suggest a possible clinical diagnosis. Often times, Dr. Matava came up with relevant history questions that I did not think to ask the patient. His feedback allowed me to greatly improve and refine my history taking skills throughout the summer.

Over the course of my internship, I became proficient in recognizing the signs and symptoms of common knee and shoulder orthopedic conditions. However, the most valuable piece of information I learned from this experience was the primacy of the patient. Dr. Matava constantly stressed the importance of interpersonal communication and showing interest in the patient’s activities and goals. This experience gave me insight to the role and responsibilities of an athletic trainer working as physician’s extender.

Washington University Orthopedics provides an excellent learning environment for graduate and medical students. The medical staff I worked with was amazing. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn alongside Dr. Matava’s medical residents and fellow, but also I was able to learn from them. They shared personal experiences, explained patient cases, and encouraged me to ask questions. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn from Dr. Matava and his colleagues. I look forward to staying connected with Dr. Matava and the Washington University sports medicine team as I start my fall clinical with Washington University athletics.

Students in the Saint Louis University Athletic Training Education Program have a required internship in the summer between their two professional years in the program.  This blog post details a student's reflection on their internship experience. 

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