Roanoke graduate excels in the field of sports medicine and athletic training

Erik Wikstrom ’01 receives award for doctoral dissertation

Erik Wikstrom's education and career path led him to discover something new every step of the way. In high school, he developed an interest in athletic training and sports medicine while playing sports and taking a course on the subjects. When it was time to choose a college, Wikstrom didn't know if he had the skills to excel in playing a sport at the collegiate level but he knew he wanted to pursue his interests, so he chose to attend Roanoke College and received a B.S. degree in athletic training. His education furthered, and as he received his master's and Ph.D. at the University of Florida, he made another discovery: he had a zeal for research.

That passion has paid off. He recently was awarded the National Athletic Trainers' Association Research & Education Foundation's Doctoral Dissertation Award. For his dissertation, Wikstrom sought to identify differences between those who have ankle instability and those who have sprained their ankles but have not developed ankle instability. He believes these projects are the first step in the development of a classification scheme that could identify individuals more likely to develop ankle instability.

Nominated for the award by his dissertation advisor, Dr. Paul Borsa, Wikstrom says it was a great compliment to be selected. "It validated the work it took to finish my dissertation," Wikstrom says. "Winning the award meant that my professional colleagues felt that my work had an impact in the field of sports medicine."

Currently an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte teaching in the department of kinesiology, this Maroon feels that he has come full circle in his experiences. Wikstrom says he was inspired to go to graduate school and become a teacher because of his own mentors at Roanoke. "My hope is that I can have the same positive influence on my students that they had on me," Wikstrom says.

His appointment at UNC Charlotte is 50 percent research and 50 percent teaching. He teaches two courses a semester, and the rest of his time is spent conducting research. Wikstrom says he ties his own research as well as the research of others into teaching his students. "I am a very big supporter of evidenced-based medicine and critical thinking, so I incorporate a lot of research dealing with the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions on the treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal injuries," Wikstrom says. "I absolutely feel that introducing research into the classroom is beneficial to the students."

Wikstrom feels that his Roanoke experiences continue to influence him in many ways, as the College is where Wikstrom was first introduced to evidenced-based medicine. "These faculty really stressed the importance of approaching problems from multiple vantage points and applying the theories taught in the classroom to practical situations," Wikstrom says. "Roanoke also continued to encourage and reward the work ethic that my parents had instilled in me. These experiences gave me the drive and confidence to go on and complete my graduate studies."

Wikstrom learned a lot while at the College, but what has made a lasting impression is who taught him what he learned. He says that the most important professional mentors he has are both from Roanoke College. "Mr. James Buriak and Ms. Cheryl Staver were my teachers, advisors, friends and parents away from home," Wikstrom says. "They helped me become a skilled athletic trainer, introduced me to evidence based medicine and emphasized critical thinking. I will be forever indebted to them for everything that they have and continue to do for me."

Released: September 1, 2010