If there is one word to describe Chris Wolfinger ’15 it would be determined. Wolfinger’s focus on his career in physical therapy and athletic training helped him discover Pacific’s student development leave; an opportunity that allowed him to spend a week with the San Jose Sharks at their prospect camp last summer. However, the opportunity came at an inopportune time – that summer was his toughest semester in the program.
“I searched the Student Handbook to see what would happen if I missed class. I came across a clause on student development leave and I started asking questions,” Wolfinger said.
Wolfinger knew the camp was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. In his letter of support to the Department of Physical Therapy’s ad hoc committee, he argued the impact it would have on his education and career.
Since high school, Wolfinger diligently built and fostered a relationship with the Shark’s head athletic trainer. “Every year I would check in with him to see if there were any opportunities for me to get involved,” he said. “One year, I got to shadow him for a day.” At the prospect camp, Wolfinger witnessed first-hand preseason physicals, mixed athletic training services and early screenings. He also met with team physicians to provide movement analysis and participate in injury prevention. “They were great about asking me to show them what I was learning or asking for my opinion about injuries,” Wolfinger said.
Wolfinger played Division II ice hockey at San Diego State University and was president of the team for two years. During his senior year, he landed an internship with the San Diego Chargers. “I started with pushing nutrition and hydration, but later assisted with treatment and acute on the field care during practices and three home games,” he said. Wolfinger earned a bachelor of science in kinesiology with an emphasis in athletic training at San Diego State University.
In August 2013, Wolfinger earned his Athletic Training Certification and started the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Pacific. He chose Pacific because of the University’s strong tie to the Stockton Thunder. Wolfinger used that to his advantage and spent last season (eight months) and this season (four months) with the Thunder providing acute care management and assisting players with injuries.
Wolfinger also named Dr. Todd Davenport, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, as a reason for choosing Pacific. “While I was considering physical therapy doctoral programs, Dr. Davenport was the only person who encouraged me to use my experience in athletic training to enhance my physical therapy education. He was a big supporter of my development leave and continues to encourage me to pursue my career.”
“Wolfinger has a deep passion for making sure ice hockey athletes have the best possible health care and performance” Dr. Davenport said. “His commitment is infectious.”
Wolfinger approached Dr. Davenport about writing a research paper about ice hockey and its common injuries. “It’s exciting that he can contribute to his new profession in this manner, even as a student physical therapist, and it speaks to his character that he wants to bring a whole profession along with him as he works to achieve his own career goals,” he said.
Wolfinger has a bright future ahead. He will rotate through three clinical externships this spring including a sports medicine externship with EXOS™ (formerly Athletes Performance) and the San Francisco Giants.
He has been playing ice hockey since he was five. His favorite food is his mom’s homemade chicken parmesan. Wolfinger is engaged to his high school sweetheart and is set to marry her in October.