Ferndale High School junior Jayse Applegate initially had little interest in sports medicine. But Jayse quickly found himself engrossed in the subject. Now, he hopes to become an athletic trainer.
“About a month into the class, I realized, ‘Wow, this is awesome,’” said Jayse, 17. “Diimmel made me realize I wanted to pursue a job in this field.”
Tom Diimmel, MSED, AT, ATC, AT/L, has been teaching multiple health sciences courses at FHS, and leading the school’s sports medicine extracurricular club, for 15 years. In that time, he's built a program that inspires local students to pursue allied health science careers such as physical therapy (DPT), athletic training (MSAT), nursing (RN), and even full medical doctors (MD). And even for students who might opt for a different career path, the club is still an exciting extracurricular opportunity that’s outside traditional options in athletics or the arts.
“It provides them with something bigger than themselves, to help our sports teams be more successful,” Diimmel said of the program.
In April, the FHS sports medicine team traveled to the annual Washington Career and Technical Sports Medicine Association competition in Tacoma, where they placed 8th in state. And Diimmel was named Instructor of the Year by the association – an award his students say is well-deserved.
“Diimmel cares about the well-being of his students, and he wants his students to go on and have a successful life,” said FHS senior Signe Bloomquist, who nominated Diimmel for the award. “He will push you to your limits to get all your work done, but also to have fun with it!”
Students interested in the program first take the Intro to Health Science Careers class, which touches on basic anatomy and the various health science careers. After that, students can take classes specifically focusing on applied application in sports medicine, exploration of terms of the body (medical terminology), and exploration of the human body (anatomy and physiology).
There’s also the application in sports medicine practicum, where students assist Diimmel in helping FHS Golden Eagle Student-Athletes with prevention, rehabilitation, evaluation, and emergency management of injuries and general medical conditions.
“They’re right there with me, doing all the work,” Diimmel said. “That is empowering and provides a sense of belonging.”
Many students in the sports medicine program said they planned to pursue careers in the healthcare field after high school. Signe, 18, plans to attend Skagit Valley College to study physical therapy after graduation. Fellow seniors Savannah Bennett and Samantha Paez will join the nursing programs at the University of New Mexico and Washington State University, respectively.
All of those students had nothing but positive things to say about Diimmel and his mentorship.
“He’s the one who opens your gates to opportunities,” said Samantha, 18. “He cares about you, and he’ll do what he can to help you succeed.”
Diimmel puts that praise right back on his students. He lauded the sports medicine team’s performance at the state competition in April, especially considering that the past two events had to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“None of my students had been to state before, so it was cool for them to have that opportunity,” he said. “They did an awesome job getting into it, feeling excited, being energetic, and getting involved.”