|Copyright ©1997-2002 American Society of Exercise Physiologists. All Rights Reserved.|
Vol 6 No 2
The EPC EXAM
ASEP contact page
Code of Ethics
ASEP Public Forum
is devoted to informative articles and news itmes about exercise physiology.
It is a monthly magazine of news, opinions, exercise physiology professionals,
and events that shape exercise physiology. We welcome interested
practitioners, researchers, and academicians to e-mail the Publisher their
thoughts and ideas.
Editor: Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, MA, FASEP, EPC
“It’s time to listen to your
instincts. If your gut tells you it’s the right decision, then make
a commitment to pursue your dream and give it everything you’re got.”
-- Don Gabor
Articles Published in the ASEPNewsletter
January 2001 (Vol 4 No 5)
Critical Thinking: A Critical View by the Editor
Electronic Publishing: The National Office Perspective
A Matter of Importance
What has changed is the department name from physical education to kinesiology for the obvious reasons, or the change to exercise science. Whether it is the traditional name or some other name, the curriculum is essentially unchanged. It is clearly a physical education degree with the same types of physical education courses with, perhaps, a few science-based courses substituted for the original education courses. However, even with the substitutions, the degree title is often times exactly the same as the tradition title -- physical education -- even though the students may think otherwise.
Many faculty members who teach in these academic programs do not have a clear understanding of what has happened, both in the course changes and in the multitude of department names. The entire "physical education-kinesiology-exercise science" name complex is a complete academic mess (1). Worst yet, the academics simply don't seem to have any idea of the consequences of the mess. As a matter of fact, most college teachers appear to be divorced from their students when it comes to discussing "what's in a name?" and the reality of an emerging profession of exercise physiology hasn't even crossed their minds.
One thing we know is that college teachers do teach and, in general, appear to do a reasonably good job of doing so. But, even excellence in teaching isn't desirable if the message is misplaced. That is, what can the students do with the concepts, ideas, and content of the courses if the courses seem to be inappropriately aligned with the students' opportunity for jobs in the public sector? This point may seem harsh but, in reality, what we need is more teachers with an understanding of the challenges before the students and less emphasis on research for personal promotion and/or tenure.
What is also needed is a commitment to doing something about "what's in a name?" A person’s name, title, or position does matter. Title is everything, especially to those who understand its impact on professional opportunities. It is no longer acceptable to say to the students something like the following: "It is not the program's name but the curriculum and the faculty that determine the quality and expertise of its graduates." (2) Of course the curriculum and the faculty determine the quality, but the expertise of its graduates are recognized only by the "title" of a program. Title does matter. Ask any physical therapy student or a graduate of a physical therapy program. The physical therapy or medical doctor title opens doors, provides job opportunities, and is associated with a certain respect for having accomplished a professionally recognized program of study.
Point in fact, if a physical education department should offer exactly the same courses that physical therapy students are required to take, can the graduates of the department refer to themselves as physical therapists? Of course not. To suggest otherwise is an appeal to ignorance or lack of knowledge. Clearly, the value in a name (or title) lies not only in the course work led by good teachers but also the "actual" title granted to the students after having successfully completed the academic program. It is exactly the reason for departments having individual names that are aligned with specific titles for academic degrees. It is how things work. To argue otherwise is a waste of time, misleading, and ethically questionable.
Whether we like it or not, the topic "What's in a name?" is directly linked to the quest by ASEP for leadership in exercise physiology. How are we going to find ourselves if we don't have leaders to show us where to go? We all possess a certain predisposition for leadership but we have failed to see it, even in ourselves. Ask others where is our leadership and those who have published research are likely to be identified as leaders. Hence, in exercise physiology, researchers are leaders. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, students also need leaders who understand the importance of professionalism and the professionalization of exercise physiology.
Students need leaders with the courage to accept that a person's professional title is important. To say that it isn’t makes no sense at all. Students need leadership who understands this point, and who have the ability to turn vision into results. For me, our title as exercise physiologists creates our reality.
Nature of Hope (by
It was all there, more papers on my desk, books everywhere, ASEP applications and checks mixed with research articles and the department budgets. As I looked at more stuff on the floor, files on the top of books, still more papers on the computer monitor, and the photographs, art work, and diplomas on the walls, I experienced a moment when it all seemed too confusing and totally unmanagable. I could have closed my eyes, taken a deep breath, and transported myself elsewhere. Maybe, if I relaxed enough, I could stay in that dreamy and organized place. How, after 34 years did I get myself in such a mess.
I pushed back in the chair as if to reflect, but knowing full well that I had but a few minutes before my first class. In seconds it occurred to me that I might be failing my students at the college. I have been so busy doing organization and web stuff that a feeling of having overlooked some obvious opportunities to be helpful bothered me. The feeling was inevitable and, to be absolutely truthful, it wasn't the first time. But, how could a person know just how much time it takes to do what has to be done? Even when I was told that it was impossible, does anyone really understand the forces and the struggles yet to be experienced? No, when the cause is right, struggles and experiences take on a passion that transcend the simplicity of knowing.
With a deep breath and my back pressed fully in the chair, I turned to glance at the email list. Again, no change. Imagine looking at the computer day after day intrigued by possibility, yet disappointed by reality. With a hopeful expectation for someone having the ability to see what others have failed to see, I looked harder at the screen. Yes, as strange as it might sound, I looked even harder for fear of failing to see a new listing. Surely, somewhere on the freeways, parkways, and study halls of America, there is another person interested in exercise physiology students and professionalism?
It has dawned on me that my writings may simply be a twist of my mind only. Could I be caught between hope and no reality, after creating a professional electronic journal and after writing for several years about professionalism, to discover (as my wife has said more than once) that I'm the only person reading the articles? Is it possible that my wife is right and, if she is right, should I stop writing? The question has crossed my mind for the obvious reasons. Take the question, "What do you see when you look at PEPonline?" Only 5% of the articles have been written by someone other than myself. What do you see? To some extent, PEPonline equals my thinking, my thoughts, and my efforts and, frankly, when I sat out to create the journal, I honestly believed that dozens of other exercise physiologists would contribute to it.
Talk about a mistake! Not only are academic exercise physiologists not interested in thinking or writing about professionalism, only a few exercise physiologists seem to have the passion for professionalism. Frankly, I thought at least the ASEP members would submit material to motivate others, including themselves and to help with the professionalization of exercise physiology. Hello, it hasn't happened. Urging members to get the feeling and to gear their thinking towards professional issues hasn't helped either. Some are locked in ivory towers, others work with corporate fitness and wellness, still others are members of cross-education as students of other departments, and inspite of their ability and experience do not submit to the journal.
The crux of the problem appears to be the growing gap between what we think we are and the reality of what we are, and our willingness to understand the difference. However, we can't close the gap unless we take an inventory of the kind of world we've got and a vision of the kind of world we would like to have. The kind of world we have is an impulse within us which urges us to do research. While research is good, it isn't enough to convert a discipline to a profession. This point should come as no surprise to anyone. G.B. Shaw once said, "Some people see things as they are and ask why. Others dream of things that never were and ask why not?" The art of asking why is imperative to understanding what we think we are or what we think we ought to be. We improve upon asking "why not" by coming to terms with the kind of world we've got.
To which, I looked again at the computer for an update on the email. No change. The email list is exactly the same. Sometimes it seems that if more colleagues would ask why can't exercise physiology be a profession, why can't we have our own professional credentials, and why can't we have our own professional organization, we would increase the probability of a successful transition to professional status. It is clear to me that we need to get moving. To quote Richard Borden, the President of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, "The NSCA is poised to move forward on the issue of professionalism, and with careful thought, your input, and planning it can be done." While NSCA is about strength and conditioning, it also about improving athletic performance and fitness. With NSCA moving toward professionalism, (meaning: the identification of a body of knowledge, an established academic curriculum, State or Federal statutes to protect a designated title, professional membership criteria), exercise physiologists need to "stand up and get ready" for individuals other than physical therapists and nurses who will compete for the same jobs they have been academically prepared to do.
Movement towards professionalism is critical to surviving the job market in the 21st Century. Everyone and, seemingly, every orther organization understand this point. This is "the" reason for the existence of ASEP, and I find myself guided by this belief more and more as I read and re-read the PEPonline articles.
After a final strong breath and at the very instant I reached for my lecture notes, I realized the feeling I was experiencing is the substance of faith. None of us can come full circle with the unknown until it has been tried. We must try and try again, and continue trying no matter how long it takes. As Marcus Bach put it, "It is up to the doer to take the first courageous step and start the experiment." As I look back over the past three years, there have been several doers who have guided important aspects of ASEP. Take the matter of certification, accreditation, three annual meetings, and the other very important administrative details. Each and every contribution resulted from the feeling that it isn't possible to feel so strongly about ASEP and not have it happen. This may be the heart of it, which reminds me of the following quote:
"It is not uniformity we need, but understanding, not tolerance, but insight, not points of view, but points of connection, not appraisal, but emphathy, the ability to feel the commonly unfelt, and when we begin to practice this virtue we instantly widen our world." -- Marcus BachTo my surprise a student met me at the door of the lecture room to say that he had written an article for PEPonline. I took him literally. I always do. Leaning over to make sure I heard him correctly, I asked what? He said, "I've written an article, and I would like it to be reviewed for publication." I stood there intently, trying to register what he had said. Again, he said "Please, will you look at the article?" I said, yes. Sure. Where is it? He said, "I'm just about finished with it. I will have it in your hands in a couple weeks." A couple of weeks, I thought. I have learned that "a few weeks" generally means that it will not come to fruition. Others have said the same, including a few from my email list, but it does give me hope.
WE MAY NOT WANT to admit it, but “we have
met the enemy”. By now, the limitations we are experiencing are directly
a function of own fallibility. Overall, we are less committed than
we need to be. The biggest challenge before ASEP members is managing
the speed at which important initiatives need completion. ASEP needs
people who bring passion, energy, and expertise to the organization.
The partnership opportunities for all members are different than when we
were in a different place. Being intimately aware of the differences
is invaluable in leading the transformation from a discipline to a profession.
We feel the best way to get where we want to be is to embrace our professional
activities and thus reinvent ourselves. And, of course, there is
the crucial advantage of knowing we have each other and our online documents
that highlight our achievements. We are therefore in an enviable
position by comparison to a just a few years ago. Many observers
believe that ASEP has made (and is continuing to make) a difference.
All we need to continue to do at the end of the day is to be sure we put
our best foot forward for integrating all exercise physiologists into the
MY IMPRESSION AFTER some time in this business is that we are turning out copycats. The next PhD is almost an exact copy of the mentor. This is evident by the lack of new ideas in the field. There is also the problem that no one questions anything. It isn’t that the professors don’t think well and fairmindedly. They do! The problem is that they are only fair-minded about their work and, yes, the work taught by their mentors. What they don’t do so good is think well and fairmindedly about beliefs and research conclusions that are diametrically opposed to their own. They are locked into yesterday without an understanding that potentially threatening viewpoints and beliefs are important to learning how to think.
The point is that critical thinkers suspend judgment (1). When is the last time you talked to an exercise physiologist who didn’t know everything. Forget about humility, it is an unfortunate byproduct of the head-in-the-air teaching that is non-practical and seldom down-to earth. Students are taught to think like the professor who seldom teaches students the skills to analyze accurately the problem at issue. It is easier for the professor to teach students not to question and to accept the reality of the professor. After all, the professor is the teacher. Who else is prepared to analyze complex and ambiguous issues? Most, including students, would say, “the teacher is the teacher”. Who can argue or would want to argue with the teacher? Anyway, it takes a certain amount of knowledge to take over the teacher!
Critical thinking is absolutely essential to professionalism. If we don’t adapt our minds to thinking critically and straight, then we are predisposed to uncritical and crooked thinking. The latter simply won’t work when the purpose of an education is to learn how to re-think systems and ideas. Failing to learn how to think is a major problem. When we fail to cultivate minds that understand the lack of permanence in research, we enable ideas if not put into motion individuals with the inclination to continue the notion of what was believed to be right versus what might actually be right. Not knowing what is right insulates the person from the reality of what is right and, thus not knowing what is right sets the stage for fads and delusion.
Do professors want to unwittingly master the past traditions or do they want to teach students how to think? After careful reflection, I have concluded that professors are always focused to do their very best. The question of course is, “Are professors dodging new ideas, equivocating over possibilities, or side-stepping the obvious?” The answer is easy to come by, especially given the disciplined nature of the PhD tradition. Who in their right mind would go against or question the well-meaning education at the doctorate level? Today, few if anyone would stand up and say, “Hello, Dr. so-and-so, are you really sharing with your students the complete and unbiased version of the information under discussion? No one is going to put the knife at his neck and ask such a question.
However, the issue is not whether a student will question the professor, but whether the professor will question him- or herself as a critical thinker. Self-improvement begins with the professor, and without changes in teaching, students have little opportunity to articulate the hope of learning how to think. It is also not just about the inability of professors to think straight, but whether they are willing to check up on themselves. For example, are they willing to evaluate their thinking skills in accordance with certain intellectual standards, including but not limited to relevance, accuracy, and precision? Are they willing to develop their thinking skills to help students improve their own thinking?
WHAT IS IT? Electronic publishing! How does it compare with print-copy publications? These are just three questions. There are literally hundreds of unanswered questions about electronic publishing. Some of the questions arise from the tension between authors, publishers, and copyright material. Who owns the electronic manuscript? Other questions have to do with concerns by professors. They want to know if the electronic publications will help them get promotion and tenure.
There are answers to these questions, and all the questions yet to be asked will be answered. The mystery of the electronic era isn’t any more complicated than the times spent decades ago working through the development of hard-copy journals. After all, publishing is publishing and both forms require an author (or authors). The only thing that is different is the medium. What is the big deal? Electronic publishing is not an experiment. It is reality, and like all real jobs, it requires some work to see it through. Perhaps, it would be of some interest to know a few of the steps to publish an article in the PEPonline journal. The article is:
1. Written and saved in Microsoft Word.The transition from paper to electronic publishing presents several challenges for ASEP, as the publisher, and the Editor of PEPonline. The most significant challenge is the time involved creating the web page and linking the article to other online pages. Pagination is only possible with conversion of the Microsoft Word document to the pdf format. Is it worth it? You bet. Is it having an impact on the exercise physiology community? We hope so. It is one of the goals of the Board of Directors to publish articles for all exercise physiologists who need to make use of the information.
A STUDENT STOPPED ME in the laboratory and asked, “How do I write something about professionalism if I don’t get it?” My first thought was that she was joking with me. Then, I realized that she was serious. It was all there in front of me. An excellent student without a notion of what I’ve been writing about. Talk about caught with your pants down!
Following a brief discussion, as if to put closure on the problem, we walked to class reflecting on the power of knowing or, if you will, the lack of power due to the lack of knowing. I had failed to understand that the act of writing about professionalism isn’t enough. I should have known this all along, but such is life.
It dawned on me just how much I needed to learn about writing and the power of words. By a twist of events I now understand that I have little knowledge of what is important and, perhaps, convincing in published work. As I look back I have more questions than answers. Talk about stopping in your tracks. Confused and suddenly filled with emotions, “How could this happen?” left me wondering if we strive too hard at times.
I guess I had the impression that if you write the articles, they will read them (and, yes, understand them). Talk about what horse I rode in on! My wife, I think, knew all along. She has asked me more than one occasion, “Tommy, are you the only one reading the articles?” Generally, I smile and laugh a little and say, “Of course not Brenda, look, see the counter on the page. What does it say? Nearly a1000 hits on the PEPonline articles since October." Not bad, right? Now, I realize that even if there are hits (and possibly readers), still, remarkably, no one may understand the purpose of the articles.
Behind the things we think are obvious to the reader, there is another reality. When finally realizing it, I remembered the awesome power in face-to-face conversations. We didn’t have the computer back when, and feelings were associated with on-the-spot facial and physical expressions of a passionate speaker. Talk about talking then and in getting an idea across to your audience. Today, it is different. On the one hand, the computer has opened the door of words to an international stage. There are web sites with the power to cause a person to think, and yet the written word without a body is a bit like a language without words. Even writing straight, that is, saying it like it is, and even writing with “passion” are but rough comparisons to the real thing.
Whether we like it or not, if we are going to close the gap between what is written and what we believe should be practiced, we need more physical reality, more body language, and more of each of us face-to-face, talking and sharing our ideas about professionalism. It is not enough to live for the few moments that allow for the questions about exercise physiology certification, licensure, and accreditation and, yes, all the other generally non-discussed issues that relate to the professionalism of exercise physiology. Clearly the coming together face-to-face is a matter of importance
Until then, and until we have workshops
on professionalism, and for the moment anyway, I will continue writing
an endless number of articles with the hope of speeding up the reflection
process. Once our eyes are open, the possibilities are inexhaustible.
EVERYTHING! Title is important. I am an exercise physiologist. I am not an exercise scientist. The academic area I work in is exercise physiology. It is not exercise science. The name of the department I Chair is the Department of Exercise Physiology. It is not the Department of Exercise Science. My students get either an undergraduate or a graduate degree in exercise physiology. My students graduate as exercise physiologists!
In the same building I teach, there are academic programs for nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and so forth. At the completion of their course work, the students from these programs graduate into their respective professions. The nursing student, as an example, is a nurse. The physical therapy graduate is a physical therapist. Rightfully so, the academic specificity of each program sets the stage for both professional work and title.
What is in a title? Everything! I can't imagine my students would want to graduate from college with an academic major in exercise physiology to be told that they can not refer themselves as exercise physiologists, but rather exercise scientists (or worst yet, exercise specialists). Would you?
I suppose it is possible to totally miss the point of an academic major. Most people wouldn't think that would ever happen. Yet, I have had one such experience in recent months in which a graduate from my department was led to believe that h/she could not be an exercise physiologist without a doctorate degree. Many people who tend to believe such nonsense have PhDs! They worked hard for the degree and, therefore, unless everyone else walks the same walk, they can not be one of them.
When I look back at the courses I took at the PhD level, I can appreciate that undergraduates who are in an academic exercise physiology major are taking courses very similar to my graduate work. This point is especially true if the exercise physiology professors are doing their job. Therefore, in short, one could understand that certain undergraduate students have the right to refer to themselves as exercise physiologists (even if they have not published one article). Why? Because publishing per se, while important, does not make an exercise physiologist. Moreover, there are many exercise physiologists who do not publish!
Bear in mind that I understand the difference between an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree. Clearly, there are differences between the two which isn't the issue in this paper. The point is my students are required to take the following core courses: kinesiology, biomechanics, physiological assessment, cardiac rehabilitation, exercise prescription, ECG/stress testing, advanced exercise physiology, sports nutrition, psychophysiology and so forth. Depending upon their specialization in the exercise physiology major (athletic training, sports psychology, research, sports management), they are required to take additional courses. They are also required to do an internship in three of the four options.
In addition to taking a significant number of exercise physiology courses, the students are responsible for paying college tuition in the amount of $60,000 or $70,000. Naturally, after graduation, the students are required to start paying for the loans, which is even higher than the amount indicated because of additional college expenses and loans!
What is in a title? Everything from money to pride. It defines the person and, in many cases, it is the person. For example, I have been an exercise physiologist since I completed the PhD from Florida State under the mentorship of Dr. Ron Byrd (an exercise physiologist). I stopped being a physical educator in 1971. It is amazing to me that I'm still explaining this point to other educators. I can still remember a colleague at a previous university who was determined to convince me that I was a physical educator. Why? Well, because my undergraduate and master's degrees were in health and physical education.
I can only imagine how the reader may view such an idea. It doesn't make sense to me. Rather, as a person gets more or different degrees, that person has a right to the new academics titles. In fact, although I haven't worked in public health since earning the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, I have the right to refer to myself as a public health professional. By the same token, when I finish the Master of Arts degree in Management, I have the academic right to the professional title and all that it defines (and so it is with my students who graduate as exercie physiologists).
Titles are important! They define who we are and what we do. The problem with exercise physiology as a career field is that unfortunately there isn't an academic history to examine and study (i.e., outside of contemporary version of the closure of the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory). Surely, someone other than I has figured out that we, as exercise physiologists, are (and have been) more than the idea of two decades of outstanding productivity from the "fatigue lab."
Exercise physiology has without question been influenced by the great men and women of the past. Their contributions to the scientific discovery of facts about human performance are tremendous. We owe them plenty because they created a window of opportunity where it did not exist. That doesn't mean, however, that it would not have been created at some point along the way. Physical educators have, for example, accomplished much of what physiologists and/or medical doctors set out to do decades ago. Our heritage is rightfully more in the hands of educators than doctors. It is more aligned with academic course work than laboratory experiences, although the latter is changing.
With the right course work and hands-on experiences (both practical and research), students can be academically prepared to be exercise physiologists. They should be academically prepared by exercise physiologists and not by medical, physiological, or biological science departments. The acquisition of knowledge and its organization for dissemination in college classrooms by exercise physiologists prepares the students for service in the profession of exercise physiology.
But, of course, not all academic programs are equal and, for the most part, there are significantly more "exercise science" programs than "exercise physiology." Not only are there problems with lack of consistency from one college program to the next, there are disagreements as to which courses should be included in such programs. To be sure, since there is a difference in what constitutes an academic degree versus an academic emphasis, programs that offer a degree in exercise physiology are (potentially) better than programs with an emphasis. Generally, therefore, students from academic programs with a major in kinesiology or human performance and an emphasis in exercise science (or even exercise physiology) are not as well prepared as students from departments with a degree in exercise physiology.
Even a degree in exercise science is not without problems because one doesn't know (without analyzing the course work) if the major (by title) is a new program of study or simply a change in the department name in which the old course work still remains in place. All one has to do is look up several colleges on the internet to verify this point.
The problem is multi-dimensional, but it shouldn't take from what has already evolved as a natural state of academic and professional development. Consequently, only academic exercise physiology programs graduate exercise physiologists. Programs by the name of exercise science can not graduate exercise physiologists no more so than an academic major in science can graduate a biologist.
The problem lies not with the academic exercise physiology programs, but instead with programs that do not offer a major in exercise physiology. Such programs should be updated with an adequate listing of course work. In some cases, many of the college instructors may require better academic training. This is not a new thought or criticism. The issue of quality instructors dates back for decades. Part of the problem is the lack of a professional organization to guide the development of the professional and, in particular, the development of the instructional courses in exercise physiology.
Not surprisingly, it is difficult to emphasize the importance of title without discussing the importance of qualified faculty to oversee rigorous requirements for exercise physiology students. In fact, it is now time more than ever before to address both issues at the undergraduate level and not just at the doctorate level. Exercise physiology is now more than only an in-depth academic preparation at the doctorate level. Graduate programs are important but now undergraduate programs that offer exercise physiology course work are important too.
Hence, the era has ended when only PhDs can be called exercise physiologists. With the ending of one era and the beginning of another era, there is justification in acknowledging an exercise physiologist by title. This approach is consistent with the earlier examples of being a nurse after earning an undergraduate degree in nursing.
Since physiology societies and sports medicine organizations have not worked to promote the identification and/or upgrade of the content of what constitutes an exercise physiology curriculum, it the responsibility of the exercise physiologists who teach in the academic settings to do so. However, college professors have been very slow in addressing this point. Exercise physiologists have joined the college ranks as professors, and have ended up teaching essentially the same three or four exercise physiology courses year after year. The professors have not addressed the issue of curriculum revision from an exercise physiologist's point of view. Essentially no one has addressed which courses should be taught, how they should taught, how much hands-on experiences or laboratory opportunities are required and so forth. Not until the organization of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) has there been an emphasis on academic development and consistency from one college to the next.
Given the lack of significant in-roads into communicating "what is what" -- exercise physiologists have thus done their work without considering the pitfalls of continuing without serious thought given to professionalism, program prerequisites, and cognate course requirements at all levels of the students' education. As a result, there is the notion that certification by sports medicine groups will legitimize the field. Surely, everyone realizes that any certification process that doesn't require a specific educational foundation (as in a college degree) is essentially useless. It is truly a bandage that will not work. It can not correct the problem of lack of attention paid to professionalism.
Because ASEP is the professional organization committed to the unity of exercise physiologists and the professionalization of exercise physiology, it will attract the attention of national and international thinkers. Many of these thinkers will embrace the move towards more academic programs (majors) in exercise physiology and less in exercise science. Specialization will gradually fall by the wayside as professionalization through better and more comprehensive course content and hands-on laboratory and internship opportunities become commonplace. The academic structure will be degree specific with professional expectations and outcomes. The Society will empower exercise physiologists thus enabling them to advance in the job market. It will embrace all aspects of exercise physiology, particularly the title of the profession.
What is in a title?
Everything! Exercise physiology defines who we are and what we do. Today,
we are a mix of exercise scientists and exercise physiologists. In the
near future, more of us will be exercise physiologists and less exercise
scientists. There is a difference. Interestingly, Charles Tipton used the
title "exercise physiology (ogists)" nearly 80 times in his paper entitled,
"Contemporary Exercise Physiology: Fifty Years...." I believe the title
"exercise science" was used one time in the 24 page paper. Also important
and of major significance is the title of the piece. Our power lies in
our title as exercise physiologist!
EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY leaders have in recent years challenged the exercise physiology community to examine professional issues such as credentials, educational curricula, and economic concerns. The challenge has resulted in the building of a consensus that the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) is necessary to the nature of a profession. The consensus is not 100%, however. ASEP does not have the collective efforts of exercise physiologists to solve its problems as quickly as everyone would like. The dichotomy between those who support ASEP and those who do not is expected. Discussion of matters as important as our right to an organization exclusively for exercise physiologists is more than a gray area for individuals linked to sports medicine. But, caring as we may be for their feelings, the discrepancies between what they think and what we think cannot be allowed to guide our thinking.
There are some serious ethical issues of professionals who are integrated into a social-research life of an organization that is non-exclusive. As an example, could you imagine attorneys, architects, and doctors not having their own professional organization? No, of course not. It is not logical. The nature of their individual, professional work would certainly be taken less seriously, along with the fact that they would suffer from lower social esteem, lower salaries, and less independence in the public sector. Does this sound remotely familiar? The idea of exercise physiologists existing outside of their own profession is not just a bad idea, it is does not make sense either. So, why has it taken so long for exercise physiologists to realize that they need to move from an occupation or discipline to a profession with their own professional rights? Also important is the question, “Why have the non-PhD exercise physiologists been excluded from the social group agreed to by sports medicine at large?” Answers to these questions are long overdue.
Part of the answer to the exclusion of non-PhDs to the exercise physiology title and recognition lies with the attitude that surrounds the doctorate degree. Another part is the lack of a regulated academic curriculum across the universities in the United States. Both are problems. Both distract from considering exercise physiology a profession. The answer to both problems is to figure out how to ensure that all exercise physiologists are recognized and that the required four-year college degree is upgraded. Equally important, we must adopt an attitude of being less self-serving. The growth of a profession is directly related to how well it looks after its members. Because ASEP is organized within itself to bring exercise physiologists together, the upcoming meeting in Memphis is a great opportunity for the debate of current issues. However, debates cannot happen very effectively if the deeper meaning of what is important is not shared.
A professional commitment is embodied in opportunities to clarify ambiguities. It is therefore our duty to act and to talk about exercise physiology, including ASEP and such matters that legitimately work in our favor. The commitment that exercise physiologists must make is “participation” in all ASEP matters.
IF THE WORLD OF exercise physiology that sports medicine tells us about is reality, how does it happen that we don’t feel more at home in it? This is the question before us. Why don’t we feel more at home in sports medicine? The answer is within the fundamental change that exercise physiologists have come to know as the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP). The profound transformations in thinking have been largely a matter of only a few exercise physiologists, but the process is not that different from global change in thinking.
What these few exercise physiologists have done is change the reality of the emerging profession. They believe in the idea that exercise physiologists have the right to their own professional organization. Hence, the assumption that exercise physiologists should continue as a discipline engineered by the academic PhD is no longer plausible. Their conviction today is an all-inclusive understanding that the assumption underlying the link between sports medicine and exercise physiology is false. This is precisely the thinking of ASEP, and thus the work of ASEP to “fight back”. That is, when members of the profession are not supported by a systematic advancement of policy and thinking, the ideal place to be is within an organization of members committed to the same values.
ASEP is the “within” that exercise physiologists can come to embrace each other. It is set up to reduce the emotional threats of continuing to work under current conditions. ASEP is about change, and “change” implies individual change. Thus, it is the purpose of ASEP to support change that is inevitable and long in coming. By now, it should not be a revolutionary thought that for decades exercise physiologists have not had their own professional organization. And, it should not be news to most of us that exercise physiologists have raised concerns and issues many times before within the sports medicine model. Most of us are also keenly aware that the mission of sports medicine has been and still is the promotion of sports medicine.
Many years ago when I was teaching at Wake Forest University, I was told by Dr. Paul Ribisl that if I didn’t like what I perceive as wrong, then I should “Stop talking about it, get involved and do something!” I have never forgotten and, in fact, I have always judged the conversation as one of the most important I’ve ever had with anyone. My guess is that he has probably forgotten our conversation just feet from the coke machine. My guess is that he is still thinking sports medicine, physical education, or exercise science is enough. It is highly unlikely that he understands the ASEP’s definition of exercise physiology or its role in the professional development of exercise physiology. It is much easier to avoid the basic mind change that is profound and far more revolutionizing than sports medicine. Yet, I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is an impressive person with a dedication towards health care and total fitness that is hard to match.
Like my friend and others caught in the sports medicine myth, they hesitant to fancy that ASEP might be right. The reluctance however can be tolerated for just a while longer. Eventually, it is expected that every straight thinking person will come to understand the historical significance of having an organization to support the fundamental issues and changes that must be addressed and corrected, respectively. This article is a deliberate attempt to stimulate a critical dialogue between those who believe in ASEP and those who don’t.
Imagine, once upon a time there were exercise physiologists who believed that sports medicine was their professional organization. They were academic PhD exercise physiologists from across the United States. As faculty members in small and large colleges and universities, they belonged to departments that offered dozens upon dozens of different academic degrees. While still working hard to teach exercise physiology and all kinds of hands-on experiences, they failed to be fascinated by the possibilities of an organization of exercise physiologists, and thus the story continues unchanged.
The story you just read is true. The sad aspect of it is that it continues today as a contemporary symbol that transformation is a slow process. Members of ASEP aren’t interested in a “revolution” per se. Rather, to their dissatisfication with sports medicine and the entrenched beliefs that the organization works on behalf of exercise physiologists, they have come to believe that exercise physiology cannot develop within the context of a multi-professional organization. Their faith no longer revolves around the sports medicine model. So, early on, members of ASEP set out to create an organization with a better fit. After careful study and some very hard work, members of ASEP published their thinking on the Internet. The re-examination of exercise physiology within the ASEP Internet pages has been interpreted by some members of sports medicine as heresy. Some even have stated that the “…leadership of ASEP is a disgrace to exercise physiology….” To others, however, who have found the ASEP message a breath of fresh air, they are very much attracted to its mission, goals and objectives.
The implications of another organization of “exercise physiologists by exercise physiologists” is simply too much for some sports medicine personalities. No longer will they have the full opportunity to be either in control or the catalysis for change to promote sports medicine. In truth, they should have known that the change in thinking was imperative. In fact, what is obvious is that heresy on a grand scale has been happening for some time. Sports medicine has looked the other way far too long. We now know that philosophical debates occurred within sports medicine for some years without the opportunity to develop a professional academic foundation. The attempts some decades ago to focus significant organizational efforts on exercise physiology were tabled “forever”. Talk about mis-guided thinking. Here again, however, the primary function was (and still is) to build sports medicine, not exercise physiology.
The overwhelming evidence is that every “emerging profession” must have its own professional organization. The development of professionalism is directly related to the articulated ideas that result from the organization’s advancement in understanding the link between it and the well being of its members. The most recent ASEP National Meeting in Memphis has been defined by some of the participants as the hallmark of change, given the unity in thinking about exercise physiology. In a measurable way, the participants left the meeting with a better understanding of who we are, what kind of conditions we are in, and what is important to us. What is also interesting about the meeting is that those in attendance seem to perceive and think about exercise physiology in a different way. As a result, it is more than logical that they have made a direct break with the long-established doctrine of sports medicine. It is probably one of the most discernible subjective experiences that is anticipated to cause action.
We need more meetings
like the one in Memphis, especially since it helped those in attendance
to get past the illusion of understanding. It may seem strange, but
I left the meeting with a declaration of faith in the members’ ability
to shape the visible world of exercise physiology. For some reason,
the smaller the numbers in attendance, by comparison to earlier meetings,
the better the opportunity for the members to confront their belief system
that has been shaped by decades of built-in assumptions. Because
they learned a little about trusting themselves, they are able to do what
they can do without fear and distrust. Therefore, a new day is dawning
for real leadership and a collective sense of purpose specific enough to
form the basis for action. In the end, life goes on as an exercise
physiologist, but with a profound difference. It could be characterized
as a deep commitment nudging us towards the path we most deeply desire