Supporting Mental Health

May 1, 2024 by Lydia Hicks
Photo of Rosie Cheng, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in May, NATA Now is highlighting some of our Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders at the state, district and national levels.

Inspired by her father’s experience of incomplete care after he suffered a stroke, Rosie Cheng, MPM, LAT, ATC, decided to pursue a career in health care.

“[He] was supposed to receive physical therapy to help him recover,” Cheng said. “There was a language barrier between him and his therapist so, unfortunately, he didn’t get the appropriate care and never regained his strength or mobility.”

Although she had been interested in physical therapy as a secondary school student, Cheng’s health care aspirations evolved into athletic training.

“I played sports in middle school and high school,” she said. “It wasn’t until high school that I met our athletic trainer. Athletic training combined therapy and sports into one career. It seems like a perfect fit for me.”

Now, Cheng cares for not only athletes in the collegiate Division III setting, but also fellow ATs, through her volunteer service with the Pennsylvania ATs Care Program.

She reflects on her impact from a high school volunteer to a current leader in the profession.

What was your first volunteer position within the athletic training profession and why did you get involved?

My first volunteer position was at my high school, where I became the first athletic training student aide. I got involved because I suffered an ankle sprain and had to go through therapy. My athletic trainer was amazing and I wanted to learn more about the profession.

Tell us about your work with the Pennsylvania ATs Care Commission and what you hope to accomplish in this role.

I was in the ATs Care Critical Incident Stress Management team coordinator role for about three years.

When I started in the role, my goal was to create regional teams throughout Pennsylvania. This would help streamline our caseloads. I would be able to forward a case to the regional team, where the case was located. Each region would have a “regional leader.” Their role is to answer any questions or concerns for members within their region. Most ATs in their respective regions knew and have worked with each other. This helps with communication and teamwork.

If regional leaders had questions or concerns that they weren’t able to resolve, they would contact me directly and I would help.

We are currently transitioning me out and the new team lead in, so we are working together for a smooth transition. I will be responding to cases in the western Pennsylvania area. 

Why is representation in leadership important and how does it impact the profession?

Representation is so important because it helps increase the self-esteem, support and validation of underrepresented and marginalized groups. If you don’t see others that look like you in leadership roles, you can’t see yourself as a leader. It’s hard to be something when you can’t see it.

How has volunteering helped you grow personally and professionally?

Volunteering helps me appreciate the things and people around me. I want to continue to help my community and strengthen relationships. Volunteering allows me to meet new people and increase my network.

What’s your fondest memory of serving so far?

My fondest memories would be volunteering for the Special Olympics and Best Buddies events. I love interacting with the athletes, cheering them on and celebrating their victories.

I am really passionate about the mental health of athletes. This past fall, I reconnected with a student athlete I was able to help while she was in college. She talked about how grateful she was for the support I was able to provide her. It was a hard journey for both of us, but she realized, after she graduated and through her adult life, that it was worth it.

What advice do you have for other athletic trainers who want to give back to the profession?

When you decide to give back, pick something you are passionate about and you really want to make an impact with. Learn how to set boundaries and know your limits. If you extend yourself too thin, you won’t be able to dedicate the time and energy your project deserves.