Active Voice: ACSM President Elect Places a Priority on Children, Inclusiveness and Challenges to the College

By Carol E. Garber, Ph.D., FACSM

Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.

ACSM President Elect Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., FACSM, RCEP, is the Director of the Graduate Program in Applied Physiology and the Applied Physiology Laboratory at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she is proud to follow in the footsteps of ACSM Founder, Dr. Josephine Rathbone. As chair of the Program Committee, she has enjoyed working with the dedicated and talented members of that committee and the spectacular ACSM staff to develop an exciting Annual Meeting next month in Orlando which commemorates the College’s 60th Anniversary.

Dr. Garber shared some of her goals during her Presidency.

SMB: Dr. Garber, you have indicated that you want to focus on children. How do you expect to carry this out?

Dr. Garber: Firstly, we have a number of exciting sessions at the annual meeting that will focus on children’s health, fitness, academic achievement and youth sports. These sessions will showcase the scientific research, clinical care and policy issues around physical activity and sports affecting children and their families. In a correlated initiative, a writing group is now preparing ACSM’s first evidence-based Position Stand on physical activity and academic achievement in youth. Having this systematic scientific foundation will be essential for furthering our advocacy efforts to ensure that every child has access to quality physical education and opportunities for daily physical activity. Expanding ACSM’s efforts to promote the healthy youth athlete is yet another related priority and, in this area, we will work to advocate ways to increase opportunities for children and adolescents to participate in safe and enjoyable sports. Continuing our advocacy, scientific and clinical work in sports concussion, screening, and return to play is critical, and I hope to extend our leadership in that area to other troublesome areas, such as bullying. Devoting ACSM energies toward developing training and credentials for coaches of youth sports is one way to step forward in this area. In addition, youth sport provides an excellent vehicle to reach kids, parents and adult caregivers to promote lifetime physical activity and other healthy behaviors, such as abstaining from tobacco products. It is important that ACSM programs directed toward youth athletes capitalize on opportunities to promote the broader message about physical activity and health to youth athletes and their families. In this way, sports can be a vehicle used to combat sedentariness that accompanies “spectatoritis”.

SMB: You have mentioned that you want to continue efforts make ACSM an inclusive organization.

Dr. Garber: Thanks to leaders, NiCole Keith, Barb Ainsworth, Andrea Kriska and many others, ACSM has made excellent strides to encourage inclusiveness. Due to ACSM programs such as the Leadership and Diversity Training Program, students, trainees, scientists and practitioners who are from underrepresented or marginalized groups can feel welcomed and supported in our organization. Symposia, Colloquia and Free Communications on diversity and inclusiveness are prominently placed in our Annual Meeting. Nevertheless, we must continue to find ways to extend our outreach and inclusiveness, so ACSM becomes more reflective of the diversity of the athletes and populations with whom we work.

SMB: What do you see as the biggest challenges to ACSM in the future?

Dr. Garber: There are two critical issues that threaten the “health” of ACSM and its members, and where we must act decisively. These include advocacy for funding for health-related physical activity and exercise research, and the development of a career path for students in Kinesiology and related fields. Firstly, our research enterprises are threatened by reductions in funding from governmental and private resources. Physical activity and exercise research is particularly vulnerable, as these areas traditionally have not been a funding priority and are not associated with their own study sections for grant application reviews. Labs are being forced to downsize, pre- and post- doctoral funding is constricted, and junior investigators have trouble launching and maintaining research careers. While ACSM is actively engaged in advocacy efforts along with our FASEB partners to raise the visibility of the importance of physical activity and physical activity policies and research, we need to engage more of our members and colleagues in these efforts to be effective.

Secondly, there has been an explosion in the number of undergraduate students in Kinesiology and related programs, but the lack of clear career options with significant growth potential available has resulted in many promising young people leaving sports medicine-related fields at the same time we are facing a pandemic of physical inactivity. Thus, I am very much committed to ACSM’s ongoing and future efforts to strengthen the myriad of professions that are essential to the health and well-being of our global community. We clearly need professionals who can help people become and stay physically active. Exercise IS Medicine and we need the workforce to dispense and fill the prescriptions for this most powerful medicine; otherwise many will not have access to care.