May 17, 2015
Catching Up with Kent Scriber

The following article appears in the May/June 2015 issue of Training & Conditioning.

In 1992, when Training & Conditioning was in its third year of publication, the threat of HIV was a topic of national discussion. For athletic trainers, questions loomed about proper disposal of biohazardous waste in their facilities. To address these concerns, we turned to one of the profession’s pioneers: Kent Scriber, EdD, ATC, PT, FNATA. Then in his 17th year as Director of Ithaca College’s Athletic Training Education Program, Scriber teamed up with two co-authors to write “Watching Your Waste,” which provided the most up-to-date information on medical waste disposal.

In the years that followed, Scriber became a frequent contributor to T&C and has served as a longtime member of our editorial board. He’s co-written several more articles, including “Teaching & Treating,” about working with athletic training students, and “A Consistent Path,” detailing the strength and conditioning program for Ithaca’s baseball team. Additionally, he’s provided his views on NATA educational reforms, professional development, and working with Generation Y athletic trainers to T&C readers.

Away from our pages, Scriber has been recognized at every level for his dedication to the profession. A founding member of the New York State Athletic Trainers’ Association (NYSATA), he has a NYSATA Recognition Award named in his honor and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2000. Also a NATA Hall of Famer, Scriber was named a NATA Fellow in 2011 and was awarded the Sayers “Bud” Miller Distinguished Educator Award in 2013, which is the highest honor given by the NATA Executive Committee on Education.

Scriber has enjoyed a rich tenure at Ithaca as well, having been hired the day after he graduated with his physical therapy degree in 1972. After simultaneously holding the positions of Athletic Training Education Program Director and Head Athletic Trainer for more than a decade, he started transitioning into academia full time in 1985. Since 2005, he’s served as Clinical Education Coordinator for Athletic Training and Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences.

As T&C celebrates its 25th year of publication, the timing is right to catch up with Scriber again, who is retiring from his alma mater after 43 years. Before he plans for what is ahead, he’s taking a look back. In the following article, he talks about his teaching philosophy, how Title IX affected athletic trainers, and what he feels is missing in the profession’s preparatory education.

Why do you think “Watching Your Waste” was an important article to write?

It came out at a time when there was a lot of confusion in athletic departments about how to get rid of medical waste such as contaminated bandages and sharps. But there wasn’t much information about how to do so safely. In particular, I remember fellow athletic trainers wondering whether athletic tape was considered a biohazard and if it could be a potential carrier of blood-borne pathogens after being worn. The article was meant to help athletic trainers handle these issues by discussing how we were dealing with medical waste at Ithaca.

One of your co-authors was longtime colleague and Ithaca’s Head Athletic Trainer, Mike Matheny, MS, ATC. How has your relationship with him evolved?

We’ve worked together closely and have always been able to share ideas. Mike has been in our department for 28 years–the second longest behind me. He was hired when I was transitioning to the academic side of things, so I was able to put more time toward our undergraduate curriculum. Thanks to our partnership, I was able to still be a part of athletics by assisting in athletic training.

Why did you transition into full time teaching?

As the rules, regulations, and accreditation requirements for the athletic training education program kept increasing, I gradually moved away from the clinical setting. Focusing on just one of these very time-intensive roles meant I was able to do the work justice. By the early 2000s, I was focused almost 100 percent on the academic arena, though I still volunteered on the clinical side–which I continue to do.

What do you miss about the clinical aspect of the profession?

It’s challenging now when I go to a conference or read an article about a new practice. I sometimes think, “Boy, it would be really neat to try that.” But I’m not dealing with athletes on a daily basis, so I’m learning the techniques for the sole purpose of teaching them in class.

How can clinical athletic trainers and academics work together efficiently?

It’s a great challenge. In other programs I’ve consulted for, athletics and academics are very separate. When that happens, it’s harder for an educational program director to make sure the clinical experiential learning is in line with what is going on in the classroom. The clinical and academic lessons don’t need to be identical, but there should be some alignment, and the expectations need to be the same on both sides.

One of the strengths of Ithaca’s program is that all of our athletic trainers teach. They are hired through academics and involved in developing the undergraduate athletic training curriculum. It boils down to good communication and having a shared vision–we always put our heads together, whether we’re discussing an academic or clinical issue.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I’ve gone through phases where I worked too hard to motivate a student in class. At this point in my career, I’ve realized that what a student learns is ultimately their decision. I view myself as a guide and resource, and I hope students find the motivation from within themselves to use the information I present.

What’s been the biggest change in athletic training education since you started teaching?

It’s become much more medically aligned. The background and curriculum is now based exclusively on science. As much as I love that aspect, the feeling of being part of a team is lost. I think most young athletic trainers feel they are part of the medical staff as opposed to the athletic team. And because I know how special those team relationships have been for me, I don’t think people going into the field now have the same sense of bonding with the athletes.

Today’s students might be more knowledgeable in terms of academics, procedures, and rehab programs, but athletic training is still a people-oriented profession. We need to help students learn how to interact with athletes, coaches, physicians, and parents. Perhaps the pendulum needs to swing back a little toward professional issues. But that’s for someone else to figure out.

What do you hope your students learn from you?

My goals are to help them think critically, apply clinical reasoning, and develop people skills. All athletic trainers want to be as knowledgeable as we can, but our interactions, communication, and core values are what hold the profession together.

What other accomplishments from your career stand out?

I didn’t initiate it, but I certainly supported and followed through with providing greater opportunities for women in athletic training. Title IX was implemented my first year working here, and it had a big impact on our athletic programs. We immediately made the athletic training room co-ed. Previously, its only entrance was through the men’s locker room. The dean asked us what we could do to make the health care provisions better for female athletes, and expanding access to the athletic training room was the first step. Once we did that, females could more easily receive the same care as the males.

Then, as we were starting the athletic training academic program, we required our students to work with a team of the opposite gender during their clinical rotations. So the men had to work with a women’s sport at least once and vice versa, a practice that continues today.

From your perspective, how has T&C served athletic trainers over the years?

T&C hits more on the philosophical side rather than the academic and research-oriented side, and that’s an important role to fill. Some of what I’ve written for T&C wouldn’t necessarily be published in scientific journals, but were important and relevant topics, nonetheless.

You wrote many of your articles in concert with other athletic trainers. Do you see a benefit to co-authoring pieces?

Yes, definitely. For example, four years ago, I co-wrote the article “Training & Teaching” with Courtney Gray [MS, ATC, Clinical Associate Professor in Ithaca’s Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences] about teaching athletic training students. She’s younger than me and more connected with social media, so we made a great team.

When writing the article, it was great to talk about each other’s perspectives and discuss what is really important in teaching our students. Working together made us both think about what keeps us connected with them and what advice we could offer for other clinicians and supervisors.

What are your plans for retirement?

I’m doing a lot of reflection at this point since I’m moving on to the next phase of life, and I’ve got some mixed emotions about it. I’ll do the typical traveling and playing more golf, and I have a lot of hobbies. But I’m really looking forward to just seeing how things go for a little bit. I’m sure 10 years from now, I’ll be able to do what my friend Joe Gieck did in T&C’s March Q&A and rattle off a list of accomplishments. But I’m purposely not making a lot of plans. Of course, I’ve always been busy, so I suspect I’ll remain so.

To read Kent Scriber’s past articles for T&C, search his name on our website:

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