Athletic Trainer Alumna Emily Gaddy shares how she is an allied health care professional

Emily Gaddy

Name: Emily Jones Gaddy MS, LAT, ATC, PES

Degree & Graduation Year: Campbell University Bachelor of Science Athletic Training, 2011

Job Title: Head Athletic Trainer

Job Setting: Secondary School – Orange High School (Hillsborough, NC)

What things did you learn at Campbell University that you credit to guiding your professional success? Campbell provided me with an excellent, well-rounded education that has allowed me to succeed; however, it is the people that I met at Campbell who have truly guided my success.

Professors, specifically former program director Cat Simonson, are mentors in the profession and serve as listening ears and guides. Classmates turned into colleagues and provided a network of information, ideas, and opportunities. The athletic training program has changed leadership, but the Campbell connection has allowed me to mentor current students and expand professional opportunities.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I met my husband at Campbell. His unwavering support, which often involves him shouldering more than his fair share of home and family responsibilities, has contributed immensely to my success as a wife, mother, and professional.

How did the Athletic Training program prepare you for your current position? The athletic training program at Campbell provides a solid foundation for any athletic trainer. More specifically, this program prepares future athletic trainers to succeed in clinical settings. Medicine is ever changing, making a solid educational foundation crucial to the continued growth as a practicing clinician.

Three specific lessons that have allowed me to succeed:

  1. Never address a problem unless you also have a possible solution. It may not be the right answer, but thinking the problem creates an environment of problem solving versus complaining.
  2. It is okay not to know the answer to a question. It is never okay to not seek out those answers. Searching for answers allows for continued grow and the expansion of knowledge.
  3. Sometimes you just have to put on your “big girl pants” and deal with a situation. Perhaps this is an unpleasant task, working with a difficult person, or trying something new. It is important to break the status quo by stepping out of our comfort zones

What advise do you have for an individual interested in becoming an Athletic Trainer? Take the time to explore this profession. Most people assume we only work with athletes; however, athletic trainers work with artists, astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, police officers, rodeo, and industrial workers. Athletic trainers can be found in doctors offices, research labs, clinics, factories, operating rooms, backstage, and in education, not just on fields and courts. The opportunities for ATs are endless.

Please list any awards or honors you have received:

  • NCHSAA Lifesaver Citation: 2018
  • NCATA Athletic Trainer of the Year, Lifesaver Award: 2018
  • Gatorade Secondary Schools Athletic Trainer of the Year, District 3: 2017
  • Training and Conditioning Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Finalist: 2017
  • Orange County Schools Employee Excellence Award: 2016
  • NCATA Life Saver Award: 2015

What made you want to become an AT? I had never heard of athletic training before my senior year of high school. Anatomy quickly became a favorite subject of mine, and I told my anatomy teacher that I wanted to teach anatomy. My teacher spoke with my mom and encouraged me to go into medicine. My mom did some research and suggested athletic training as a major. The more I looked into it, the more I fell in love with the profession. As an athlete, and one that suffered from injury, it was the perfect blend of athletics and medicine.

What is your favorite part of being an AT? Urban Dictionary defines an athletic trainer as follows: “Athletic trainer (n.) 1) an exhausted health care professional that despite the name, does not train athletes.  2) part psychologist, part first aider, part hydration technician, part relationship counselor, part physical therapist…this individual is trained to do it all…for the athletes.

“athletic trainers have the best seats in the house during athletic events, but there’s a whole lot of work that goes into that seat.”

Although this definition is mostly tongue in cheek, it perfectly summarizes my favorite parts of being an athletic trainer.

This job can be exhausting, but I love being a health care professional and working with my patients on a daily bases. Caring for the total patient is important! Medicine often becomes segmented and patients are viewed as an injury or illness instead of a person. Many days I am a listening ear or shoulder to cry on as much as I am there to fix a physical injury. I love that aspect of my job.

Our education as an athletic trainer crosses so many disciplines and allows us to care for our patients in their entirety, not just their injury. Athletic trainers have the best seat in the house, but we worked hard in the classroom, during clinical rotations, and in continuing education to earn and keep those seats.

What makes you a quality AT? I believe my dedication, work ethic, and ability to build relationships makes me a quality athletic trainer. If an athlete or patient does not trust or believe in me, they will not come to me with their injuries. At the same time, if I want my patients to work hard for me, I have to be willing to do the same. This could mean working through policy and procedure, injury prevention, continuing education, rehabilitation of injuries, or even researching solutions.

What is the hardest challenge you face as an AT? By far, the hardest part is name recognition. There is so much misunderstanding behind the name “athletic trainer”. We are not “trainers.” We are allied health care professionals. We also work with any physically active person, not just athletes.

What is the most rewarding part of being an AT? The most rewarding aspect of being an athletic trainer is being able to see the total picture. I am often the first person to give my patient bad news. Sometimes that bad news is just for a game, but it could also be for a season or a career.

I have wiped tears of athletes when I have told them their ACL is torn. I have reassured individuals while splinting broken bones. I have held parents while their children were in emergency brain surgery. I have the honor and privilege of working day in and day out with my patients. I get to watch them meet their goals, make improvements, and work their hardest to get stronger and heal. I get to be on the sidelines when they return to the sport they love, graduate, or return home from 2 months in the hospital. Being able to be there for them in their worst moments and in their best is the most rewarding.