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Am Samoa's Certified Athletic Trainer

American Samoa’s only Certified Athletic Trainer Florence Wasko attended the IOC World Conference last week for an update on the latest within the field of sports medicine. She works for ASDOE — Athletic Division — and is seen here during a local football game treating a player who was injured during play.  [SN file photo]
Attends Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport IOC World Conference

The 2017 IOC World Conference on Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport: Call for proposals was hosted in Monaco this past weekend, March 16-18, and American Samoa’s Certified Athletic Trainer, Florence Wasko took part in this global sports medicine event, which is held every three years. Its focus is to promote athletes’ health through prevention of injuries and illnesses.

Being the only active ATC in the territory, Wasko told Samoa News that she took part in this conference to get an update on the latest within the field of sports medicine and her participation at her first IOC World Conference came by way of a scholarship through the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC).

Wasko told Samoa News, “This was a World Conference the IOC hosts every three years. I received an Olympic Solidarity scholarship through our NOC because IOC was looking for women in medicine, and young professionals. So I was asked by our NOC to apply and I was granted the scholarship and it paid for everything from airfare, accommodation, and registration.”

Since 2009, the IOC, under the leadership of its Medical Commission, has supported and partnered with established research centers from around the world which have demonstrated clinical, educational, and research expertise in the fields of sport medicine and elite sports.

Wasko, who has been an ATC since 2011, said she was always drawn to medicine. “My mom is a nurse, her mom was a midwife, my other grandmother was a nurse as well — medicine is fascinating in the sense that it is always evolving and changing.”

She told Samoa News, “I discovered athletic training as it combines two things that I enjoy, medicine and sports, and stuck to it. I enjoy taking care of injuries the minute they happen. It’s exciting.”

Wasko added, “Many times, the care provided in the first few minutes of an injury determines the outcome of recovery.”

She said, “Once I chose this career path, my long term goal was to always move back home and provide medical care to our athletes and here I am today.”

Reflecting on how she started out as Certified Athletic Trainer, Wasko told Samoa News, “I’ve been an ATC for six years now, and I completed both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Hawaii- Manoa. Instead of writing a thesis for our masters program, we have to sit our board exams. Once we pass and become certified, we must maintain our certification by completing 50 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), every two years”.

She said, “If I don’t maintain that, I lose my license and certification and I can’t work.”

Samoa News notes that Wasko’s presence was heavily felt throughout our ASDOE’s sporting events over the past couple of years. Asked about the pressure and stress that comes with the job, Wasko explained, “You’re constantly under pressure to make the best medical decision for an athlete/ patient. When I’m at football games, many times, the entire island is watching an injury occur either from the stands or on TV.”

She said, “I enjoy my job and I am confident in what I do, but a lot of people don’t understand exactly what it is I do — when I’m standing on the sidelines doing nothing (because no one is hurt) people make comments that I’m doing ‘nothing’. It’s a very good day for everyone when I’m not doing anything. It just means that there are no injuries that need to be taken care of.”

This being her first IOC World Conference, Wasko told Samoa News, “I’ve attended smaller IOC sports medicine conferences, but this is the first time I’ve joined a global conference. Science is always changing with new research coming out everyday. These conferences provide the latest information on medical care and what different countries and healthcare professionals are doing.

“If we don’t constantly learn and adapt to new emerging medical practices, we will be stuck in prescribing ‘old medicine’, that might not even be recommended anymore – science and medicine are always evolving.

“New knowledge is key to being a good health care professional. This is why the CEUs are required to maintain their credential – something I might’ve learned 10 years ago in school may not even be used anymore in practice and we need to keep up with the times,” she pointed out.

Wasko works for the DOE Athletic Division and usually covers high school sports, but because she cannot cover all sports at once, she says, “you’ll usually find me at the sport with highest incidence of injury – this season, I will be at the soccer games in Pago.”

For private sector and church organizations that are looking to host sporting events – and are trying to reach out to the ATC, she said, “They can contact our DOE Athletics Office if they would like to contract medical services for their events.” She noted her priority is the DOE athletic events.

Wasko wanted to acknowledge and thank those who have played a large part in her life as an ATC, saying, “I still keep in contact with my mentors from college. They definitely have helped me throughout college and continue to do so today.

“My parents are always my biggest supporters in my work, and have always encouraged me to continue to do good work, even on my hardest days,” she said.

She concluded, “The governing body for all Athletic Trainers is the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). When I first started working in American Samoa, we were not recognized as being part of NATA.

“I was a recognized healthcare provider, but American Samoa was not – I then petitioned American Samoa to be included in the Far West Athletic Trainers Association (FWATA- covers Hawaii, California, Nevada, etc.). Soon after my initial attempt, the board voted and now, American Samoa is officially recognized as a part of FWATA. If you check out the website, you will see American Samoa in the official logo now.”