A Western Illinois University alumna was “at the heart of the action” at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which wrapped up last weekend in Brazil.
Mary Vacala—who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise physiology and athletic training in 1979 and 1980 from WIU— serves as the head athletic trainer for the men’s Paralympic basketball team.
A recent article on the ADVANCE Healthcare Network’s website, “Going for the Gold: A PA’s Journey to the Paralympics,” highlights Vacala’s contributions to the team and tells her story about working with Olympic and Paralympic athletes since 1993.
“These athletes have changed me forever and made me a better clinician,” she said in the ADVANCE article by Autumn Heisler. “[They] have taught me the real definition of hard work, athleticism, perseverance and teamwork. I will be forever grateful for the experience and friendship.”
According to the Paralympics Team USA’s website, “The men’s win in basketball marked the first time since 1988 – or 28 years – that the U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team won a gold medal.”
When she’s not working with the Paralympic athletes, Vacala works as a certified physician’s assistant at Chatham Orthopaedic Associates, which is based in Georgia.
“Mary is a published author, international speaker, and holds numerous awards in sports medicine and Physician assistant studies. In 2008 she was awarded The Distinguished Fellow Award of the American Academy of Physician Assistants,” notes the Chatham Orthopaedic Associates’ website.