When I was an undergraduate athletic training student at Rowan University, our professors used to explain the importance of research to us. Even though I could see their passion for their research, I never felt that it was important to me for a few reasons. First, as a busy athletic training student, how was I going to find time to do research and stay motivated when I don’t find it interesting? Second, who am I to do research? After all I’m just an undergraduate student. And finally, how am I ever going to apply all this research and statistics into my clinical experiences?
These feelings all changed seemingly overnight. Late in my junior year, we had a lecture one night by our team physician. We knew it was going to be about the need for research in athletic training so my classmates and I weren’t overly excited to attend. However, by the end we left motivated. He broke down exactly how research could be interesting and why it is important to any medical profession. This is one of the busiest men I’ve ever met finding time for research in athletic training because he saw its importance. This opened my eyes and taught me that research could be interesting and there is always time, you just have to find it.
I continued to have those “light bulb” experiences throughout the end of my undergraduate education. At an interprofessional in-service where athletic training students, osteopathic medical students, and physical therapy students shared knowledge, my classmates and I had an epiphany that no matter the academic level, everyone has more to learn, especially in the medical community. A medical student and also an alum from our athletic training program spoke to me about the importance of research and collaborating between professions. I think this is when it finally clicked that even as an undergraduate student we had a responsibility to contribute to research.
However, there was still that gap in my mind about how research applied to my clinical experiences? This gap was bridged my senior year when I had a preceptor that would use research in his clinical practice. Not only did he show me his graduate thesis, and have a library full of information that he was always referencing, but he always was learning something new. He subscribed to many journals and encouraged me to find an article that I could apply to my practice. Finally, I realized how research and journals could be useful on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunately, by the time I realized all this, I was almost ready to graduate. However, I did have opportunities as I neared graduation to explore the value of research. I conducted a literature review to determine if ultrasound or friction massage were effective for treating patellar tendinopathy. The results helped me in treating a patient with this condition and I could see result in my patient that mimicked the evidence. I also conducted a literature review of Achilles Tendon Ruptures, and this paper won me the NATA Foundation’s Deloss Brubaker, EDD, ATC Undergraduate Student Writing Contest in the literature review category. In my senior seminar class, we designed a research project and presented it to fellow students, faculty, and medical students. Although this wasn’t a particularly lengthy r weighty assigned, we were expected to present for an hour, which required us to find something we were passionate about. I chose something that I am now developing for my master’s thesis, Physician’s Perceptions of Athletic Trainers.
So, I too had questions… does this stuff really matter? And sometimes it took a little active participation on my part for that light bulb to go on, but research is important… even for undergraduate or professional students. Research can help you to gain new knowledge and improve your clinical practice. Research can inspire your career path. Research can empower you to share what you know.
"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." – Zora Neale Hurston
Joe Vogler LAT, ATC