Scoring Real-World Experience

Gannon’s New Master of Athletic Training Program in Ruskin, Florida Provides Students with Valuable Clinical Experience with a Nationally Ranked Team

When Stephanie Deschamps and Hannah Merrifield ’17 considered graduate schools, both looked for a Master of Athletic Training (MAT) program that offered small classes and year-round clinical application. Enrolled as the two inaugural students in Gannon’s new MAT program in Ruskin, they have found just that and more.

Master of Athletic Training Students

Deschamps and Merrifield entered their first clinical placement at the start of the program in August, working with the athletes, licensed athletic trainers and coaches on the University of South Florida’s (USF) nationally ranked football team. 

“It makes me proud to be part of Gannon and also representing USF,” said Deschamps. “We’re there as students assisting the certified athletic trainers and doctors. If somebody has a cut, we wrap it and get them back on the field. If they have a cramp, we get them hydrated and stretch them out.”

Merrifield, who earned her undergraduate degree in sport and exercise science at Gannon’s Erie campus, added, “We do a lot of preventive, acute care and rehabilitative treatment at USF, applying what we’ve learned in the classroom. To have this type of opportunity in our first clinical is incredible. We’ve learned so much right away.”

Fostering the partnership with USF and providing that classroom knowledge is Program Director and Assistant Professor Susan Wehring EdD, ATC, LAT. “It’s a hands-on program with full-immersion experiences; they’ll have a clinical experience as a course every semester,” she said.

"To have this type of opportunity in our first clinical is incredible. We’ve learned so much..."

Master of Athletic Training Student

“The partnership in clinical education with Gannon University’s Athletic Training program is off to a great start,” said Steve Walz, MA, ATC, LAT, Associate Athletic Director of Sports Medicine at USF. 

“Stephanie and Hannah have done a tremendous job applying the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom. They have been an asset to USF’s sports medicine team and keeping our football student-athletes healthy. I look forward to watching them progress in their careers and to continuing clinical education with future Gannon students.”

Students in Ruskin Care for Caregivers


Students in Ruskin

Sue Ram showcases the Prince of Peace Church bulletin, where the student and caregiver group work was featured.

Serving and hands-on learning in the community is a central part of the student experience at Gannon University, so when the Ruskin, Florida, campus opened, these traditions put down roots there as well.

Uniting the two traditions, a group of students in Gannon’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program participated in a yearlong research project involving an outreach ministry to provide support to caregivers at Prince of Peace Church in nearby Sun City. 

Students conducted a needs assessment and designed a weekly program to address the areas in which they identified that caregivers needed the most support.

Sue Ram, one of those students, said, “What we learned was that occupational therapy is needed in all areas, even with caregivers in terms of preventive measures, health promotion and education.”

The model of extending classroom work to the community is one that Dianna Lunsford, OTD, assistant professor of occupational therapy, hopes to continue. 

“You could probably call all 22 of our first-cohort OTD students and find that they’ve all done something amazing,” Lunsford said. “I’m so impressed with them.”

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