BLOOMINGTON, In. – Dr. Bradley Sage, athletic training program director and associate professor at Indiana University (IU), has made history as every student in his Master’s program passed their certification tests on their first attempts.
There is such a thing as breaking records, it is another to blow one out of the water. The former resident of Salamanca has found a great amount of success within his IU Master of Science in Athletic Training (M.S.A.T.) cohort this year. The program is designed to prepare students to become athletic trainers, a profession that has been thrust into the spotlight in lue of latest events.
“It’s a professional degree program to prepare students to become athletic trainers,” Sage said. “Most notably with the Damar Hamlin situation last year, the athletic trainers that performed CPR and saved his life on the field, that’s who this program trains students to become. That’s the profession that we are in.”
For the nation, the average passing rate for students in a program such as Sage’s for the first time sits at 74.1% according to the 2022-23 Board of Certification (BOC) for the Athletic Trainer analytic report. Sage’s program outpaced this mark by 25.9%. To this, he credits the top-notch faculty that are brought to the university and dedicated bright minds that enroll in the program.
“I think we have a very strong faculty,” Sage said. “Being a large institution we are able to recruit some of the best faculty from around the country. Also our students do their clinical work … do throughout the program with the athletic trainers at IU Bloomington and across the country. So I think they’ve had experience with some of the best health care professionals our program has to offer.”
While the rate testing success may speak for itself, there is more to it than meets the eye. Across the nation, cohorts in other M.S.A.T. programs contain an average of 8.6 students. However, Sage’s group of disciples within the university’s school of public health numbered at 13 students. As the program gains notoriety, Sage says the students enrolling in the course are some of “the best and brightest” and that the work ethic of the students continues to stay at a high level.
“Being a large program we are able to recruit the best and brightest students,” he said “They did all the work, they prepared hard for it, studied hard and their efforts were definitely shown by all of them, passing on that first try.”
SAGE TAKES a great deal of pride when it comes to the success of his program. For students to come to him with a dream that he is able to help come true, is something he does not take for granted. However, his pride does not simply exist within the confines of his classroom and what the numbers may say. He is also proud to know that his students are going to continue to uphold good standards in the field.
“I take great pride in that because the students come to me with a dream … I often tell them I’m the bridge from where they came from to where they are going next,” he said. “So to see them take that next critical step towards achieving their dreams, I take a great deal of pride in that. I also take a lot of pride in knowing the health care of the people they are going to treat in the future is well preserved. They are very well prepared and ready to enter the field.”
The certification test that these students are required to pass is not easy per se. Despite being classified as an entry level exam, students need to be able to not only retain what they learned, they also need to be able to apply it.
“It is a rather difficult exam, Sage said. “It covers the five domains of athletic training so students really need to put in a lot of time to prepare and much of the exam is geared towards scenario based application of knowledge.”
The BOC describes these five domains as Risk Reduction, Wellness and Health Literacy, Assessment, Evaluation and Diagnosis, Critical Incident Management, Therapeutic Intervention and Health Administration and Professional Responsibility.
It is worth noting that the sort of program that Sage teaches has evolved in latest years. According to him, athletic training used to simply be a Bachelor’s level program and the shift to a Master’s level was to be closer on the level with healthcare professionals. This is something Sage believes draws students to IU’s program. Another thing that attracts students is the pass rate and job placement following Sage’s program.
“Students are very well-informed about what makes a successful program,” he said. “They do look at things like pass rate and job placement and we are actually held by our accreditation to make that information publicly available to them … and since we’ve started our Master’s program we are over 96% for our first time pass rate and all of our students have gotten jobs within the first six months of graduating from our program … (Students) want a program that is going to prepare them to pass the exam on the first try and to not waste any time. They (also) more than likely want to be able to get a job after they graduate.”
ANOTHER PROSPECT that plays a role in students coming to IU and enrolling in Sage’s program is the opportunities for experience while at the university.
“Being able to come to a Big Ten institution and provide their clinical experience with Big Ten athletics and also our track record of putting students in successful summer immersion opportunities, like in the NFL … have allowed us to recruit a good number of quality students,” Sage said.
The M.S.A.T. program was first brought to IU in 2019 and since Sage has been in charge of the program, the level of job placement has been superb across the board with students using what they’ve learned in levels from high school sports all the way to the professional level.
“We have had students get a job in the high school setting as athletic trainers … (In) the last two graduating cohorts, the majority have actually gone on to collegiate athletics,” he said. “We’ve had some all the way from division one all the way through division three.
The last cohort included two working season-long internships with NFL teams in Detroit and Washington and another in a minor-league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
“So those wishing to pursue professional athletics, they will go into those organizations as well,” Sage said.
While making history with his most latest cohort, Sage looks forward to the future where he hopes he and his students will continue to uphold the tradition of excellence that Indiana University stands for and bring athletic training “into the future.” His ultimate goal being “that any athlete … has access to the healthcare they deserve” and to achieve that he must continue to do his part in helping his students become the best athletic trainers they can.