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Athletic Training professor honored with International Service Award

On June 25, 2019, Greg Gardner will be honored with the International Service Award from the International Committee (IC) of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). Gardner is a clinical professor of athletic training in The University of Tulsa’s Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences.

Certified as an athletic trainer since 1985, Gardner has wide-ranging experience in the field. Among his many accomplishments, Gardner served as the U.S. vice president of the World Federation of Athletic Training & Therapy. Thanks to his efforts, the WFATT Global Program Recognition Standards were developed and approved.

Advancing athletic training globally

In its announcement, NATA’s International Committee thanked Gardner for his “dedicated service and outstanding commitment to advancing the education and development of athletic training globally. The NATA IC Service Award recognizes your contribution to moving our profession forward.”

“I congratulate Dr. Gardner and I am grateful for his work with this and other international committees,” said Robin Ploeger, the dean of TU’s Oxley College of Health Sciences. “Through his connections with athletic trainers across the globe, our students have benefitted from having opportunities to travel abroad via study abroad trips, interact with professionals from other countries who visit Tulsa and connect with international students through electronic means.”

Upon hearing the news of this award, Gardner, in typically humble fashion, said, “I find it difficult to believe that I get recognition for following a passion. Working to help establish athletic training in other countries has been such a privilege. I have met some of the most absolutely fabulous and dedicated professionals that have also grown to become some of my closest personal and professional friends. The old adage really is true: A labor of love is not a labor at all!”

This has certainly been a memorable year for Gardner. Just a few months ago he was also honored with an Outstanding Teacher Award from TU in recognition of his immense dedication and contributions to students’ success.

New direction: From exercise and sports science to an MBA in health care delivery sciences

A not uncommon career aspiration for students in Oxley College of Health Science’s bachelor of exercise and sports science program is to become a physical or occupational therapist. Those were two of the professions Mary Beth Sawyer contemplated when she began her undergraduate studies at The University of Tulsa.

Somewhere along the route, however, Sawyer’s interests began to change. Now, in the summer after she graduated with her BS EXSS degree and a minor in Russian studies, Sawyer is looking forward to beginning her MBA in health care delivery sciences and certificate in health care delivery sciences at TU in just a few short months.

“I came to TU with a very different idea for my life, and the one I’m coming out with is even better,” Sawyer commented. “I wouldn’t be able to say that if it weren’t for the amazing professors we have here and the community I’ve been able to find at this university.”

This does not mean that Sawyer will be giving up on athletics. Rather, she will have an opportunity to channel her interests in a new direction.

A health care system that needs to change

A major source of inspiration for this change arose through Sawyer’s participation in spring 2019 in the course In Sickness and In Health: Analyzing the U.S. Health Care System. Taught be Jeffrey Alderman, the director of the Institute for Healthcare Delivery Sciences, led the course and introduced Sawyer to many new topics and perspectives. These included, Sawyer noted, “the different ways we provide health care and some of the ways we handle insurance. It made me angry, but I want to go out and help to make things better.”

In particular, Sawyer was drawn in that course to the potential of “preventative care” to make a profound difference. This was something she had actually had a foretaste of during study-abroad trips to Germany and Hungary as a freshman and then to Spain with Greg Gardner and Rachel Hildebrand to learn about that country’s health care system.


“Mary Beth wants to make a difference in caring for competitive athletes, but she knows that to be successful the health care system needs to be overhauled,” said Alderman. “With the MBA program, she will study ways to generate meaningful changes, allowing her to take better care of her patients while making the system more accessible, affordable and satisfying for everyone coming to see her.” 

On research, boxing and the road to wellness

One of the things that surprised Sawyer about exercise and sports science was the scope for research, something that will prove beneficial to her as a graduate student. Currently, Sawyer is putting her research training to use in her job as manager at Engine Room Boxing in Tulsa, where she is part of a team assisting and studying people with Parkinson’s disease.


“Boxing is great physical therapy for people with Parkinson’s,” said Sawyer. “People accept that fact, but there’s not a ton of research on the subject.” Sawyer and her team conducted preliminary research, which has set the stage for more investigations.

Reflecting on her work at the boxing gym and what she has learned in the last couple of years of her undergraduate studies, Sawyer noted that “it’s helped me realize what I want to do with my life. They’ve gone hand in hand. I’m very passionate about what we do at the gym, and I want to keep working there even while I’m pursuing my MBA.”

Mary Beth Sawyer at the University of Tulsa football stadium
Sawyer has worked with TU’s football team since spring 2016 as an athletic training and nutrition aid, as well as assisting managers with the practice/lift laundry. Her contributions were recently recognized with a Wilson Holloway Ultimate Service Award.


Interested in helping bring about change in America’s health care system? Learn more about TU’s MBA in health care delivery sciences.