Tom Franek

Associate professor of athletic training says clinical opportunities get students started on the right foot

Dr. Thomas Franek started at Alvernia University during the 2015-2016 year, but has nearly 20 years of experience as an educator and 30 years of practical experience.

Once an active high school athlete, the associate professor of athletic training recalls a positive relationship with one of his high school athletic trainers as the spark that moved him to pursue the field.

“He was knowledgeable and compassionate and really modeled a way to merge healthcare with the physically active population,” said Franek, who works in athletic training at Commonwealth Orthopedic Associates and with the Berks Youth Rugby Club.

It’s what Franek hopes students in Alvernia University’s Athletic Training Department will go on to do for others upon graduation. The clinical opportunities they receive while at Alvernia get them started on the right foot. Students learn from certified athletic trainers with terminal degrees, getting cutting-edge experience with athletic-based training opportunities in high school, collegiate and semi-professional arenas, as well as in non-traditional areas, including industrial settings and at physician practices, sometimes serving a diverse population.

“The clinicals represent potential workplace settings," Franek said. "They give students the opportunity to experience what they may get to experience as a clinical athletic trainer. They can graduate feeling prepared to take on their chosen future role. The foundation they receive at Alvernia prepares them to practice.”

Susanna Pirollo, MS, LAT, ATC said one of her most vivid memories from her first visit to Alvernia's campus was meeting Franek.

"I was greeted with a warm smile and was struck by how it felt as though I had known him for years by the end of our conversation," the resident athletic trainer said. "He was extremely knowledgeable about the field of athletic training and it was easy to see how passionate he was about educating his students. Five years later, Dr. Franek continues to be just as knowledgeable, passionate and supportive as he was when I first met him. I know I am the athletic trainer that I am today thanks to Dr. Franek and I couldn’t be more grateful." 

Franek made the move to academia after a teaching experience with a good friend and mentor left that mentor encouraging him to see himself as an educator.

He’s embraced the role since. Beyond Alvernia he’s an accreditation Site Visitor for the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) and a scientific reviewer for publications including The Journal of Athletic Training, The Athletic Training Educators Journal and the International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training.

But Franek's heart lies in Berks County, where he was raised and attended Exeter Township Senior High School. He asserts that contributing to his community means a lot and it certainly played a role in taking his position at Alvernia, where he finds joy in helping students find their “lightbulb moments.”

“It’s really rewarding when you see the connection between theory, person and practice come together," he said.