Merrimack’s Master of Science in Athletic Training Panel Highlights Achievements of Recent Graduates and Current student

In a reunion at Merrimack, graduates and current students from the Master of Science in Athletic Training program came together for a special alumni and current student panel.
Group picture of Athletic Training Panelists
Panel event participants, from left to right: Marissa Ogar (M’21), clinical coordinator Dennis Fontaine, Matt Quinlan (M’23), Madison Merritt (expected ‘24), program director Birgid Hopkins and Taylor Hoagland (M’21).

Recently, Merrimack hosted the Master of Science in Athletic Training Student & Alumni Panel, bringing together graduates and a current student of the Master of Science in Athletic Training to provide insights into the program and navigating the athletic training field. The panel featured esteemed individuals Marissa Ogar, Matt Quinlan, Taylor Hoagland and current student Madison Merritt. This event provided a platform for each participant to share their own experiences at Merrimack and in their careers within athletic training. 

The event kicked off with an introduction from Dennis Fontaine, the program’s clinical coordinator. Dennis provided the audience with a background of the MSAT program and what it means to be a part of the athletic training community at Merrimack College. Then the panel discussion commenced. 

Matt Quinlan started the conversation by sharing his experience with the post-baccalaureate route within the program. He described Merrimack’s MSAT program offered a diverse clinical experience ranging from high school-level to top-rated Division I sports – hands on training that helped him secure a job serving as an assistant athletic trainer at Southern New Hampshire University following graduation. “Southern New Hampshire has provided me with an awesome opportunity that’s a little bit unique in the athletic training field: I have a great work-life balance,” Matt explained.

Alum Taylor Hoagland then shared her journey in the accelerated 3+2 program, which allowed her to earn her bachelor’s at Merrimack and transition directly into the MSAT, earning both degrees in just five years. Taylor detailed how her experiences in different clinical settings prepared her for her role as an Athletic Trainer at Excel Orthopedics. From her clinical rotations at Central Catholic High School, Holy Cross, Salem State University and then ended Sports Rehab Unlimited, Taylor said, “I definitely got to see a wide range of different settings which helps me excel in my job to this day.”

Reflecting on her time in the program, Marissa Ogar also highlighted the value of her clinical setting experiences. “I first worked at Essex Tech High School then UMass Boston,” Marissa recounted. “For my full immersion, I got to work with the Merrimack football team and got to see how their day-in-day-out worked in the athletic training room.” But it was her final clinical experience, at Billerica High School that was her most meaningful. “That experience made me want to be a high school athletic trainer and do the same thing that my preceptor was doing,” she recalled. Marissa currently works at Grafton High School, where she helps train about 400 athletes a season. 

Current MSAT student Madison Merritt then provided a glimpse into her educational journey, describing what it’s been like to navigate through clinical rotations and academic coursework as she nears completion of her master’s degree. As part of the 3 + 2 program, Madison received her bachelor’s in exercise science this past May before moving into her graduate AT studies. She spoke in depth about how much she learned in her clinical rotations at Essex Tech and UMass Lowell, highlighting how the hands-on learning opportunities offered by the program align with her career aspirations. She is currently in her full immersion at Salem State University.

During the panel, the participants also talked passionately about their day-to-day responsibilities, offering insights into their interactions, work hours and unique experiences within their respective roles. 

Matt explained that there is one head athletic trainer and four assistant trainers at Southern New Hampshire University, and his primary teams are women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and men’s lacrosse. For Matt, this means he concentrates on one varsity team for each sport season. As for his day-to-day responsibilities, he explains on game days he is with the team, prepping them, getting the field set up and getting all their emergency equipment ready. For practices, he teaches his athletes how to be self-sufficient in taking care of their bodies, preparing themselves for practice and preventing injury through exercise.

Taylor was next to explain her professional experience. Though they both work as athletic trainers, her duties differ greatly from Matt’s. Detailing her responsibilities, she explained, “I’m with my specific doctor, then I’ll prep the day with notes for him. It is a lot like what you would do in the athletic training room. I get to interact with the patients and I give the doctor a brief synopsis of what’s going on. We have a variety of different physician’s assistants in the office, and each doctor kind of has a different specialty.” Reflecting on how fulfilling she find the work, she conclude, “I would highly recommend my job to others.”

As the sole athletic trainer for a whole public school system, Marissa offered additional insight into the wide range of possibilities in the AT field. She explains, “I work the same amount of days and same amount of months as the teachers do. My day-to-day responsibilities depend on the day.” Marissa also works as a team with the school nurse, who is the health care provider during the day, while Marissa serves as the health care provider in the afternoon.

Madison then offered an overview of her day-to-day life as a student in the MSAT program. The athletic training master’s program consists of 20 credits of clinical practice, plus 60 credits of classroom instruction. She explained that this semester she has classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays open to complete her hours of her clinical rotation. 

Reflecting on each of their experiences in Merrimack’s M.S. in Athletic Training, the panelists expressed appreciation for the comprehensive resources and supportive environment provided by the program. Matt offered, “You have all the resources available here to make it a successful journey and make it worthwhile.” Marissa and Taylor both called out how the program’s hands-on learning related directly to their current jobs, with Marissa stating, “I loved spending a lot of time in the lab and practicing hands-on skills.” Madison added that Merrimack caught her attention while she was a prospective undergraduate student by being one of the only schools that offered the 3+2 model. She said, “Right away, I knew this was the right opportunity for me because I knew that I always wanted to be an athletic trainer.“

Offering advice to future MSAT students, Matt concluded, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the faculty or peers. Everything you need to be successful in this program is here and right at your fingertips and you’re not in it alone. So take advantage of it!”

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