Dr. Melissa Thomas believes athletic training is a calling. As program director of the new Master of Athletic Training program at the University of Mobile and a certified athletic trainer, she knows what it takes to succeed in the field. She says the best athletic trainers possess empathy, kindness, perseverance, humor, a strong work ethic, emotional intelligence, cultural acceptance, dedication, intelligence, determination, and a passion for the profession. Those qualities are evident in the first class of students to enroll in the new Master of Athletic Training program (pictured above). We asked Thomas about the field of athletic training and UM’s new master’s degree in the School of Health and Sports Science in the College of Health Professions.
Q: What can you do with a Master of Athletic Training degree?
A:The field of study focuses on prevention of injury/illness, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients across a lifespan and in various settings. The profession has expanded to include job opportunities in college and high school settings, physician extenders, industrial, professional sports, performing arts, and emerging settings.
Q: What is unique about UM’s Master of Athletic Training program?
A: The University of Mobile has one of only a few Master of Athletic Training programs within this region. It’s a two-year program with 62 credits for completion. Students are selected through an application process based off cumulative grade point average, personal statement, prerequisites, and an interview process. The program links classroom to clinical with an opportunity to learn from a variety of healthcare professionals. Some of the highlights of the program include: human gross anatomy class, clinical immersions, state-of-the-art simulation lab in the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice, clinical skills lab courses, and experienced faculty and preceptors. The program leads to graduates being eligible for the Board of Certification exam.
Q: You are an associate professor of kinesiology and a UM graduate. What is your background?
A: I have been full time at UM for 20 years. I played college softball at UM from 1993-1997 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in sports medicine in 1997 and Master of Arts in physical education with teacher certification in 2001. I completed my Doctor of Education in 2012 at the United States Sports Academy with an emphasis in sports medicine. I have been a certified athletic trainer since 1999 and worked in both the high school and college setting.
Q: We say UM is a place where students can “Know and Be Known.” What does that mean to you?
A: I think that faculty and staff do an incredible job in getting to know students. Faculty pride themselves in knowing their students. Over the course of a student’s time at UM, we seek out intentional moments to learn about their families, their home life, their passions, their spiritual path, their struggles, and their accomplishments. I believe we invest in student’s lives and can commit to helping them achieve their professional goals.
Q: What do you like most about UM?
A: I like the family atmosphere. It is what drew me to UM in 1993 as a student and what has kept me here over the years. The faculty, staff and students are some of the best. I firmly believe the first time a student drives onto campus for a visit, it becomes an “ah ha” moment for them. I have been told by several freshmen over the years that the drive into campus was when they knew God was calling them here for college.