It was during the third year of my Ph.D. work at Boston University when I received a call from my undergraduate mentor at the University of Puerto Rico, and now colleague and friend, Julio Morales, Ph.D. Dr. Morales had a suggestion, he said “you should apply for the ACSM’s leadership program for minorities.” He explained what he knew about the program and guided me to where I could find more information about it. He was referring to the ACSM’s Leadership and Diversity Training Program (LDTP). The LDTP is a program aimed to support, mentor, retain and guide members from racial/ethnic minority groups throughout the ACSM Fellowship path.
In 2010 during the ACSM Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, I was part of the cohort selected as mentees for the 2010-2011 LDTP. I remember entering a private room at a restaurant near the Oriole’s baseball field, the iconic Camden Yards, and meeting a group of young individuals and their mentors that today I call brothers and sisters. Later that evening it was time for me to meet my LDTP mentor, one of the most incredibly humble human beings that I’ve ever met in my life, ACSM past president Larry Armstrong, PhD., FACSM. Since that moment Dr. Armstrong truly put me “under his wing” and there’s no major event, personal or professional, that I don’t receive a call or an email from him. As a mentor, Dr. Armstrong offered meaningful support and guidance when I asked, checked on my personal and professional successes and setbacks always with clear boundaries but genuine comfort and true professional congeniality.
In 2011, as a mentor, Dr. Armstrong asked me to develop a symposium with him for the New England ACSM chapter annual meeting, and it was an amazing experience. In 2016, I consulted him when I was offered a postdoctoral position. In 2017, Dr. Armstrong called when hurricane María devastated my beautiful Puerto Rico. And in 2019 he sent one of the most encouraging replies I’ve ever received in my life, when I asked him via email for a recommendation letter toward my fellowship application.
As you can tell by now, the role of mentors has been a very special one in my professional development. So let me introduce you another mentor and friend that ACSM and the LDTP gave me the opportunity to have in my life: ACSM past president, NiCole Keith, PhD., FACSM. I met Dr. Keith as the organizer of the LDTP in 2010 during that evening in Baltimore. Right away I realized how much she cared, not only for the program, but for all of us mentees, individually and as a collective. It was clear by her passionate speech that her goal was not only for ACSM to become a more diverse organization within its membership, but within its leadership as well.
It was Dr. Keith during the 2019 conference in Orlando who stopped me while I was walking toward the convention center and asked me “when are you applying for fellowship?” I gathered my thoughts, and with a nervous voice I replied with another question, “Can I get a recommendation letter from you?” Later that year I submitted my application for fellowship with recommendations from past president, Dr. Armstrong, and (at the time) president-elect, Dr. Keith.
Today, I’m an assistant professor, an ACSM Fellow and mentor in the LDTP. I have been a candidate for the Health Equity, Inclusion and Diversity trustee position on ACSM’s Board of Trustees, co-chair of the ACSM Minority Health and Research Special Interest Group and member of the ACSM Membership Committee. Currently I am co-chair of the Diversity Network communication sub-committee and was recently appointed as a member of the ACSM Communication and Public Information Committee. All these great opportunities were possible thanks to my participation on the LDTP.
The LDTP is not only a program where participants engage in meetings and experiences with current ACSM leaders. It’s also a program that promotes collegial and fraternal relationships among its participants and solidify the path toward a diverse and inclusive leadership of our beloved ACSM. I encourage my fellow members, colleagues and those in position of guidance and mentorship, to get involved and promote this great opportunity for your underrepresented students and mentees.
Apply for the LDTP**
Apply to be a LDTP Mentor
*“Camínalo” means “walk it” in Spanish.
**Must be logged in with ACSM ID to access application.
Mario A. Muñoz, Ph.D., FACSM, is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, where he coordinates the Human Performance and Wellness Management Program. He is an ACSM Leadership & Diversity Training Program alumnus and has been an ACSM Fellow since 2019. Dr. Muñoz served as co-chair of the ACSM Minority Health and Research Special Interest Group. Currently, Dr. Muñoz serves on the ACSM Diversity Action Committee and ACSM Communication and Public Information Committee.