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Debra Willardson MS, PT, ATC-L


Debra Willardson attended Utah State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Health Education in 1975. Debra recalls a bad case of shin splints, while at Utah State, and meeting with the Head Athletic Trainer after hours. He loaned her some literature and taught her the basics for evaluation and taping. She became the “go to” person for injuries for the women in the early stages after the passing of Title IX. She was offered an interview at the University of Utah, and “the rest is history.” Debra earned her Master of Science in Physical Education and Health Science at the University of Utah in 1977, where she worked as the first female Graduate Assistant. From 1977 to 1992, Debra worked as an Assistant Athletic Trainer—responsible for softball, volleyball and women’s basketball—while she pursued an additional BS in Physical Therapy at Utah. She spent the entirety of her career at the University of Utah, serving in different capacities as an Associate Athletic Trainer, teacher and Clinical Instructor for the ATEP program. Debra worked as an Athletic Trainer for the U.S Olympic Committee for two summers and has served as a volunteer Athletic Trainer for numerous events leading up to the 2002 Olympics. She has spoken at numerous High School Coaches clinics and at the elementary school level, discussing playground safety and basic skeletal anatomy. When asked to share a story about her career, Debra mentioned that “it has been incredibly rewarding to mentor athletic training students. I had the best seat in the house, so to speak, to watch young people mature, gain confidence and excel beyond what they thought was possible.”

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