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It is no secret that the skillset ATs have run the gamut. From organizing injury protocol at a rodeo to performing clinical research at a university, ATs do it all. That’s why the Convention Program Committee (CPC) decided to incorporate themes into the 70th NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo. The goal is to provide high-quality programming that represents the diversity of sports medicine while showcasing best practices and innovations within the profession.

The themes this year are: performing arts, care across the lifespan and manual therapy.

These themes were chosen about two years in advance by the 15 CPC members and were partly inspired by NATA member suggestions and forecasted hot topics.

“We feel the themes are based on currency,” said CPC Chair Kavin Tsang, PhD, ATC. “Sometimes, it can be trendy. But, we’re always trying to be a little ahead of the game. We try to project things that will be very relevant. Though, we can’t predict the future, we can discuss what we feel may be a hot topic down the line.”

Aside from attempting to forecast trending topics, the concept of presenting sessions based on themes was implemented to prevent presenter overlap and allow NATA members autonomy over their schedules.

“[Themes] allowed the members to know what to expect when they go to the conference, or to decide if they want to go or not,” Tsang said. “For some, cost may be an issue and they may look at the themes and say, ‘This is not what I’m looking for.’ We’re not trying to keep anyone out; we’re just trying to give members the space to say, ‘This is not what I’m looking for,’ if they don’t see enough sessions that are for them. And, hopefully, we’ll see them at the next one.”

One of the biggest changes to hit the 2019 NATA convention is the schedule structure. Rather than dedicating each day to a particular theme, CPC has decided to make each theme span all three days for maximum impact and attendance.

“I think what they’re going to see is a flow,” Tsang said. “I think they’re going to see that intentionality. … They can go to a session on any of the themes every day … and if they want to throw a dart at the program and go to whatever it lands on, they can do that, too.”

There was also a concerted effort to make the sessions more interactive.

“What they would probably see is there will be lecture content and application content,” Tsang said. “Crossing from traditional lectures to learning labs, the idea is for the members to get knowledge and see how to apply that information … I think that cross-formatting is very important.”

Though many large sports medicine conventions choose to stick to one theme for the sake of ease and cohesion, the CPC decided not to take this approach because committee members felt the ATs in attendance would benefit from variety – especially as the scope of an AT’s career possibilities expands.

“I’m going to date myself, but the modern AT isn’t the same as they were years ago,” Tsang said. “We have ATs who have PhDs, who are faculty, who are also clinically active. You could have ATs who are program directors who are in the performing arts. You have collegiate ATs who are in the performing arts because of the acrobatics that goes into cheerleading. … So, today, we have all sorts of ATs attending all of the sessions.”

According to Tsang, the CPC has been working hard to make sure the 2019 NATA convention is 25 hours packed with sessions meant to inspire critical thought, affirm standards and provide guidance in applied practice.

“The goal of the CPC is to develop and offer programming that is impactful to the clinical practice of athletic training and aspirational to the research and education facets of our profession,” Tsang said.