If there’s one thing Dawn Patterson never expected to happen during a global pandemic, it was being inducted into the Corporation des thérapeutes du sport du Québec (CTSQ) Hall of Fame.
“Well I wasn’t doing my job to ever win an award,” said Patterson. “I just do it because I love it.”
With 32 years of experience, the longtime Lennoxville-based athletic therapist was supposed to be welcomed into the hall at the CTSQ’s annual banquet at the end of April. However, Quebec’s ongoing battle against COVID-19 forced the event’s cancellation.
While the CTSQ plans to host the banquet in 2021, where they will make Patterson’s induction official, they decided to honour her by dubbing the first week of May “Dawn Patterson Week.”
The organization’s Facebook page flooded with glowing testimonials from athletes, past and present, colleagues and friends. During a phone call with The Record, Patterson reflected on what led her down such a memorable career path.
Her interest in athletic therapy started when she was 15 years old, growing up in Barnston, Coaticook. A dedicated athlete at Alexander Galt Regional High School, Patterson eventually landed in the hospital with a torn meniscus in her knee.
“I saw a couple doctors who weren’t very nice and then I saw an athletic therapist at the Sherbrooke Hospital who helped me so much and I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
Patterson became enamored with the profession. Studying at Champlain College in 1984, she enrolled in an introduction to athletic therapy class. That semester she also applied for a volunteer position to help out at various school sports events.
She went on to complete her athletic therapy degree several years later at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. It was a tough decision to uproot her life, explained Patterson, but Sheridan was considered one of the best in sports medicine at the time.
Patterson broke into the field at 23 years old as an assistant athletic therapist at Bishop’s University. She spent the first 12 years of her career at the university. But there were bumps along the way. As a woman, she faced many challenges, especially early on.
“I’ve had a few situations that almost broke me,” Patterson said. “I wanted to quit a few times, but I’d come home and think about it and I just love the athletes and helping them so much, I just couldn’t quit.”
She received a lot of pushback from football and hockey coaches. They often held an old school mentality to keep players in the game, Patterson explained, but she fought to have her voice heard in the locker room.
“Over the years I think I’ve built up a pretty good reputation and so the coaches trust me and there’s quite a bit less confrontation as there used to be in the first five to 10 years of my career,” she said.
Patterson returned to Champlain in 2001, accepting a vacant sports therapist position. In 2012, the school named an award after her: the Dawn Patterson “Above and Beyond” Award.
While Patterson, the first recipient of the award, which is given to a person who goes above and beyond for the Champlain sports community, continues to patrol the sidelines, she credits her husband, Norman Wellman, for supporting her along all these years.
“I am lucky that I have a husband who was willing to take on the extra workload of parenting, knowing how much I love my job,” Patterson wrote in an email. “It made the guilt I put on myself easier.”