NATM: Advocacy Through Awareness

March 22, 2019 by Beth Sitzler

By Kim Diggs

Photo by Bigshots Snapshots


As athletic trainers, it’s important to learn about different backgrounds. Views on health care, common health deficiencies and respectful interactions vary based on ethnicity, cultural background, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality and more. Because of this, Meghan McKay, MEd, ATC, LAT, champions cultural competence over tolerance in athletic training through her involvement in Southwest Athletic Trainers’ Association’s (SWATA) Ethnic Diversity Advisory Council (EDAC) chapter and NATA International Committee.


How did you first learn about SWATA EDAC and what compelled you to join? Walk me through the moment you made the decision to become active in the SWATA EDAC.

I had recently relocated back to my home town – Houston – and had been looking for volunteer opportunities within SWATA. I reached out to former SWATA EDAC President Natalie Trotter, ATC, since she is a colleague of mine from Auburn. She was excited that I was interested and informed me they had a vacancy on the committee. I was thrilled to get the opportunity on any committee, but EDAC and its mission is dear to me having studied under René Revis Shingles, PhD, ATC, as well as my international work with Wales Men’s National Lacrosse.


In a Google Hangout you participated in, Natalie mentioned that SWATA EDAC is moving away from focusing solely on ethnic diversity and moving closer to cultural competence, reminiscent of René Revis Shingles’ teachings. What does that mean to you and what does that look like in practice?

I think a lot of ATs just think of traditional race or ethnic minority groups when they think of “ethnic diversity.” Yet, it encompasses so much more than that. As a committee, it is important to not only help seek a diverse practitioner population for our profession, but to treat a diverse patient population. In practice, it looks like many things to many people.

For me, how this looks in practice includes a very wide range. I work with professional men’s rugby, primarily, so I have to consider the patients cultural differences from my own daily. Things such as how would a man feel about me having to treat in the player locker room or assisting a 6-foot-7-inch player from the field? What is best practice in implementing a SCAT5 baseline and post-injury test to a Spanish-speaking player? What is the best way to educate and communicate to an Irish, British or Australian player about our health care system and how insurance works? How can I get this Fijian player to trust Western medicine while understanding what traditional remedies he has been doing on his own? What is the best way to get this player to respect that time in the U.S. is firm even though, culturally, it is relaxed for them? When doing a BodPod, should I list my islanders as “general population” or “African-American”? Those are the two options currently given for normative data. What app can I use to help an English-speaking player fill out German insurance documents? All of these have actually crossed my mind in my daily practice. Even the smallest thing can have a huge impact on how we treat our patients and how they begin to trust us. I am constantly working on it!


In the beginning, what impact did you aim to have on athletic training through the work being done with the SWATA EDAC?

Honestly, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or what they needed. I just wanted to help. So, anything that was asked of me, I was happy to do. I also wanted to let other people know that SWATA EDAC isn’t just about race or ethnicity. I know a few ATs who said they wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in EDAC. To me, that is the point. To seek to understand what and who you don’t. To constantly seek to gain better understanding of my colleagues, profession and the limitations we face regardless of race or ethnicity. I also wanted to help push the focus to culturally competent care. It has had a major impact on my education and subsequent career. I hope that the more work SWATA EDAC does, the more others will be aware and want to get involved themselves. So, if you are looking to get involved, volunteer.


What major changes or deliverables have you been involved in while working with the SWATA EDAC?

As a member of SWATA EDAC, I have been fortunate to help with our conferences for the past three years. I have also been a speaker in two of our last three conferences. I helped our committee partner with the NATA Be The Match campaign and we will be participating in that again this year, as well. Please come look for the Be The Match booth during the 70th NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo this June in Las Vegas. As a committee member, I also helped develop our social media platforms. Find us on Facebook and like and share our page. For the past two years, I have helped with the logistics of the committee’s National Athletic Training Month features on our Facebook page. In addition, I have helped advocate by participating in the Sports Medicine Broadcast as well as local presentations to diverse high school student populations in Houston about the athletic training profession. Lastly, we have had three years of successful community service projects associated with SWATA convention. We have been fortunate to help do health screenings for community members through the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA and others, in addition to presenting the athletic training profession and its accessibility to diverse student populations.


How have your advocacy goals evolved over the years?

I used to get very frustrated having to do the same “elevator pitch” explaining the athletic training profession to people over and over. Then, I realized that even making one impact meaningful helps us in the long run. I’ve also found consistency to be key. For example, changing my teams language from “trainer” to “athletic trainer” has been extremely successful if you are consistent and unwavering in your efforts. We hear coaches preach to their teams over and over that making the little changes adds up over time. I hold myself to that standard first and foremost, then expect others to meet that standard. I can only set the best example I can and encourage others to challenge themselves, also. If you can make any change or educate within your own culture or environment, it makes a difference Finally, no opportunity to advocate should be passed up. I have given presentations to high school STEM students, written blogs for my hospital marketing department, presented to oil and gas companies and given presentations to ATs. It all makes a difference, one just must be willing to try.


What is the biggest opportunity that you currently see in cultural competency within athletic training?

Frankly, the biggest opportunity is with the culture and patients you work within every day. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow as an AT in the clinical setting. Why not add learning more about culturally competent care and how you can improve in that area of your practice? I seek opportunities for growth and make a conscious effort to continue learning and improving my entire career. It makes the job so much more interesting and challenging. So, I encourage anyone to ask uncomfortable, yet appropriate, questions. Try to get to know a colleague or patient different from yourself, etc.