By Joan Hannant, Founder & CEO of The Soma Institute
Watching our students succeed fills me with pride. They come to Soma as adults of all ages from all walks of life. Some enroll with complete confidence they have what it takes to be a clinical massage therapist. Others aren’t so sure. But every year there is one part of their training that stands out, where students walk away with their heads held high as they exhibit a new sense of confidence. That event is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
The marathon is a world-class event, and Soma is proud to be the only massage therapy school providing sports massage to the runners. It’s the type of real-world experience we’re committed to giving our students. It validates their training and empowers them. The 2021 marathon was no exception.
Cameron Sand was days away from graduating and finishing our program when she volunteered at the marathon this year. She said one experience really stood out to her. “A woman came into the medical tent with SI joint issues. She had shooting pain down her leg. One of the doctors helping wasn’t sure what might be causing the pain and asked for my opinion. I suggested it could be nerve pain caused by a multitude of different things. The doctor agreed and was able to help the patient,” she said. “In that moment, I realized I am an expert. It felt great.”
Juan Rios was another student on the Soma team who was helping runners that day. He said, “Being in that setting, having to make decisions and make them quickly will be a tremendous value as I enter the field after graduation. It was interesting to me how often nurses and MDs in the tent were referring people to our Soma team to help with pain relief. At the end of the day, it proved to us that the things we’re taught work, and we can help people.”
Another beautiful thing about marathon day is how our whole community comes together. Soma Program Director Mike Hovi assembles a group of students, alumni and staff to form our full team.
One of our graduates, Lisa Sun, shared a great photo with us. She was working along the marathon route and helped a runner with cramps prior to him finishing the race. After he was done, he walked back to find her! He told her he wouldn’t have been able to finish the marathon without her help. The beauty is that these types of stories are happening over and over again for our team on race day.
Devin Gobrick is a teaching assistant at Soma. He was working in a medical tent past the finish line and said the real-world experience was a huge benefit. “It was great to see how students progressed from the beginning of the day, when they were a bit shy and reluctant, to the end of the day, when they were eager for the next cramping person in pain to enter the tent so we could help them. We were surrounded by other doctors, nurses, athletic trainers and physical therapists, and it was empowering for them to come to me and say, ‘I need you. Can you come to help relieve pain for this person.’”
I never tire of hearing these stories. Clinical Massage Therapy is a powerful tool to treat all sorts of pain and other issues. At Soma, we place a huge focus on the science of the body so our students truly understand how to assess and help people. The marathon allows them to put those skills to use and see, in real time, how powerful their ability to help really is. Here’s to looking forward to next year’s race and more stories of success and newfound confidence and validation.