For the People and the Profession

June 1, 2023 by Lydia Hicks

To commemorate Pride Month throughout June, the NATA Now blog is highlighting members of the NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee and their impact on the profession.

NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee Chair Jen Sturtevant, MBA, LAT, ATC, found her love for athletic training in the intersection of sports and health care – people.

“I had always participated in athletics, playing sports through high school and eventually college, and wanted to find a way to combine my love for sports with my desire for wanting to help people and be in a health care setting,” she said.

Despite not knowing much about the profession, the potential she saw in her success as an AT spurred her on to pursue what is now not only a thriving AT career, but also her platform to serve the LGBTQIA+ community in health care.

Working in the hospital administration/secondary school outreach setting, and volunteering in various local, district and national roles, Sturtevant has impacted the lives of not only her patients, but also her athletic training peers.

Read on to learn more about her leadership and mark on the profession.

What was your first volunteer position within the athletic training profession and why did you get involved?
My first volunteer position within athletic training specifically was in 2018, when I was selected as the District One representative on the newly formed NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee. I had already started doing advocacy work around LGBTQIA+ health care issues locally, and was excited when I got the chance to be a part of something so important that would have a profound impact on our profession. Prior to that, I sat on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Youth Concussion Advisory Board as well as committees within my organization. My experience starting out on the NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee fueled my passion for advocacy as well as gave me the opportunity to grow and develop into the person I am today.

Tell us about your current position with the NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee. What do you hope to accomplish in this role?
I started my term as chair back in June 2022. My hope for us is to continue to have the same impact that we have had since this committee started, evolving and adapting to the current needs of our membership and diverse patient populations. Through education, collaboration, research and meaningful discussion, we hope to continue to identify challenges, barriers and gaps that exist, and address those effectively.

How has volunteering helped you grow personally and professionally?
I have gained so much confidence in myself and my abilities, but more importantly, I have learned so much from all my colleagues who I’ve had the opportunity to interact with, not just on the committee. It has been invigorating being around others who are just as passionate about what we do and has given me a feeling of belonging. Volunteering has also allowed me to continue to build on and improve leadership skills that have translated well into my role within my own organization. The friendships that have developed are some I truly value and that I am forever grateful for, as I would never have had the chance to meet so many amazing people otherwise.

Why is representation in leadership important and how does it impact the profession?
Representation is vital as it would be impossible to address the needs of athletic trainers or understand what our patient populations are experiencing if you don’t have the right people involved in discussions. To truly understand challenges and barriers, and to be able to have growth, we need to be willing to talk to those that are different from us, listen with empathy and with the intent to learn from each other. We can’t be content with doing things the way they have always been done or with the status quo. Change is necessary to continue to progress as a profession and be regarded as highly competent health care professionals.

Why should ATs get involved in leadership and service?
ATs should get involved if they want to; not everyone does and that is OK! We are all leaders in our own ways. For me, it motivates me to be a better person and has provided me with a sense of purpose and a responsibility to be a voice for others who may not have the same opportunities.

What advice do you have for other athletic trainers who want to give back to the profession?
I feel that being the best health care provider you can be for your patients is a great way to give back to the profession. Each of us as individuals have the capacity to educate and bring awareness of who we are and what we do to our communities and organizations, which can help to open so many doors of opportunity. I would also encourage ATs to continue to speak up, continue to pay attention and continue to advocate for change!