LSA junior Morgan McCaul has been selected by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, pending state senate approval, to serve on the Michigan Board of Athletic Trainers as a representative of the general public. McCaul, a sister survivor and sexual assault prevention advocate, said her personal experiences with athletic trainers give her a different view to bring to the board.

“I think I have a unique perspective to bring to the board, because not only was I introduced to the profession of athletic training as a patient, but I was also victimized during that introduction — under the guise of medical treatment — and the failure to ensure that proper procedures were taking place,” McCaul said. “My priority is really the safety and wellbeing of all Michiganders both in their lives outside of that exam room, but also inside of it.”

The statewide board is tasked with overseeing the continued education and competency of those who hold licenses and taking action against those who have adversely affected the health, safety and welfare of the public. It is comprised of 11 total voting members — six athletic trainers, two physicians and three public members — with terms lasting four years.

Tiffany Brown, Whitmer’s press secretary, wrote in a statement to The Daily that Whitmer sees McCaul playing an active role in ensuring the work of athletic trainers is conducive to rehabilitation and improved health.

“Athletic trainers are vital to the treatment and management of individuals to prevent injury and aid in rehabilitation and conditioning,” Brown wrote. “The administration is proud to appoint Morgan McCaul to further the mission of the Michigan Board of Athletic Trainers.”

McCaul works at SafeHouse, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual abuse, and is involved with the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awarness Center. She also serves on the board of the Jane Doe Fund, a pro-choice advocacy group, and as a consultant for Survivor Strong, a support network aiding survivors through advocacy and education.

Part of the reason her abuser could work for so long without anyone raising a red flag was his alleged expertise in the field of athletic training. One of McCaul’s goals as a public member, she said, is to make inroads in increasing accountability as well as educating patients. McCaul also said she hopes to create a culture of trauma-informed care among athletic trainers and other medical professionals.

“Especially as a representative of the general public, I want to do outreach,” McCaul said. “It’s a passion of mine to be a facilitator of connections and education, so I think using my background  and my professional experience in the violence prevention sphere can be something that’s really beneficial. I hope to bring trauma-informed discussions into the medical profession, both inside and outside of my role as a board member.”

According to the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, an organization run by the National Council for Behavioral Health, trauma-informed care recognizes the widespread impact of trauma, as well as the signs and symptoms of trauma and integrates knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices. With the goal of avoiding retraumatization, trauma-informed approaches are linked to positive health outcomes for patients.

University alum Laura Sinko, who wrote her Ph.D. in Nursing dissertation about trauma and inclusive healthcare, said survivors should have a seat at the table in health care discussions. Just as medical professionals do not know the full extent of their patients’ injuries without listening to them, she said, care cannot be as effective as possible without listening to those who seek it.

Sinko said trauma-informed care at its core is helping patients receive the professional medical treatment they need in order to reach their desired physical state. She said this type of care is like wearing gloves when touching blood because it is an approach that ensures every person is being treated safely, regardless of prior experiences.

“Whenever you’re touching blood products, you need to wear these gloves, because you never know what’s going on in their blood and what they’ve been through,” Sinko said. You want to protect yourself but you also want to protect them. I think of this similarly to trauma-informed care — you always want to be wearing those gloves when you’re interacting with patients, because just because a patient hasn’t disclosed a traumatic experience to us doesn’t mean it hasn’t occurred.”

Sinko noted that many people have faced some form of trauma, and a trauma-informed approach can reduce stress among patients. A study from SAMHSA-HRSA found 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women report exposure to at least one traumatic life event.

A key part of trauma-informed care, Sinko said, is respecting both the patients’ boundaries as well as including survivors in conversations about health care.

“Far too often, we don’t bring survivors voices to the table,” Sinko said. “We try to assume and make decisions, but we’re not really asking them and asking the right questions about what they need and what would make their interactions with us better. And we’re really doing them and us a disservice, especially when we think about survivors. A lot of survivors are used to being silenced, they’re used to not being believed or used to their stories not feeling important. It’s important on our part as healthcare providers that we let them know their stories do matter and they really are the experts in their own healthcare.”

Ultimately, McCaul said she hopes to use her new role to do just that — advocate on behalf of all people in Michigan and ensure all patients are educated on the treatment they are receiving.

“A successful for tenure for me will be upholding my values and advocating on behalf of my community members across the state of Michigan,” McCaul said. “For anybody who touches the athletic training profession — all patients of all walks of life — I want to make sure that they’re safe and they’re taken care of and they’re informed. I will measure the success of my term by how well I think that I have fulfilled that goal.”

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