Florence Salesa, who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the College of Education Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science (KRS), is the first recognized certified athletic trainer in American Sāmoa. Salesa has been certified since 2011 when she completed her master’s program with a specialization in entry-level athletic training.
“Flo was one of those students who always had a positive attitude and appreciated every opportunity,” recounts KRS Assistant Professor Kaori Tamura. “I remember her saying her dream was to contribute to her home, American Sāmoa, and I am so happy that she made her dream come true. Not only our program at UH, but the whole athletic training society in the state of Hawaiʻi is proud of her!”
Growing up in American Sāmoa, there were no athletic trainers or physiotherapists available to Salesa throughout her years on soccer, tennis, and paddling teams. In her senior year of high school, she tore an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and began shadowing a physical therapist at the hospital. Upon enrolling at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, she was naturally drawn to KRS and decided she would return home after graduation to work with kids in athletics.
“The KRS staff at UH is really a great group of people who challenge you academically and socially,” she said. “The program was so diverse in culture and experience that I couldn’t imagine getting my education anywhere else. They played a huge role in preparing me to be the best ATC that I could be.”
In early 2014, Salesa reached out to government officials, including Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga who agreed to a meeting with those who held degrees and were returning home to seek careers. Through this and the support of her professional peers, Salesa was hired by the Department of Education Athletic Division. Since then, she has designed a sports medicine program for nine high schools and plans to provide coverage for the numerous sport camps on the island.
KRS Chair Nathan Murata said, “The KRS department is proud of Florence Salesa and her accomplishments in athletic training. She is certainly a role model for those in American Sāmoa interested in becoming Certified Athletic Trainers. Florence will help increase the awareness, importance, and necessity of health care for those participating in sports.”
Salesa’s current focus is creating policies and standards of care and educating the community. She says she would like to model her program after Hawaiʻi and will work to have an athletic trainer in every high school.