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Arnold School of Public Health


Arnold School practicum student uses her exercise science training to provide cardiac rehabilitation

May 11, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

When the Arnold School’s Director of Development Louisa Campbell had open heart surgery last fall, she had no idea that she would be surrounded by three Arnold School family members during her recovery. Alumni Kim Binnicker and Julie Rieger graduated from the Arnold School’s exercise science program and work as full-time exercise specialists at Providence Hospital’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program. Molly Sullivan, a senior exercise science major, joined them in January to complete 400 hours of practical experience to fulfill her program’s practicum requirement. “I knew I wanted to intern at a cardiac rehabilitation center,” she says. “My department had connections with several facilities, and I applied for a position with Providence through the MySPH* website.”

Sullivan initially became interested in cardiac rehabilitation through her exercise science curriculum. “My coursework tied into the physiological workings of the heart and how it responds to exercise,” Sullivan says. “Cardiac rehabilitation shares the same foundations so I was able to apply what I have learned at the Arnold School to my practicum at Providence.” All three of the Arnold School affiliates credit Distinguished Professor of Exercise Science Larry Durstine for helping them develop their passion and proficiency for careers in cardiology.

As a practicum student, Sullivan guided patients through their first day of cardiac rehabilitation by assisting them with warm-up exercises and setting up their exercise machines. She also took blood pressure and blood sugar readings. Over time, her role expanded to include developing exercise prescriptions for patients with heart diseases that can be ameliorated with exercise. “I was able to put my knowledge to use by helping prescribe specific exercise plans to patients that have been through serious heart events and surgeries in an effort to make their quality of life better,” she says.

By working with patients like Campbell, Sullivan gained confidence in her abilities and also made it through a challenging time in her life. “My grandpa had triple bypass surgery several years ago and unfortunately passed away—from causes unrelated to heart disease—during my time at Providence,” she says. “But knowing that I was helping people who have gone through similar events helped me cope with my difficult loss.”

Now Sullivan is certain that the cardiac field holds her future. “After shadowing a cardiac sonographer, I became fascinated with the process of examining the human heart with the use of ultrasound technology in order to possibly diagnose a medical condition.” She applied and was accepted to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program. One of the area’s most highly regarded accredited cardiac sonography programs with only 12 cardiac specialty students accepted each year, she is thrilled to join the program in July after her May graduation. With training and practical experience to empower her, Sullivan is on her way to making lifelong contributions to the field of cardiology from diagnosis to treatment.

Meanwhile, Campbell is on the road to recovery. “I am so grateful to my cardiologist and cardiac surgeons who saved my life, but it was the group at Providence Cardiac Rehabilitation that helped me regain my physical strength and confidence, that in essence helped me regain my quality of life,” she says. “How lucky was I to land in the capable hands of Arnold School students and graduates; thanks to their compassion, congeniality and professionalism, I feel great, and that means everything to me.”

*MySPH (My Source for Public Health) is a web portal affiliated with the Arnold School that pairs job seekers with practitioners and positions through a matching tool (Opportunity Manager), provides resources for creating and managing practicum experiences, offers public health training and workforce development through a virtual campus, and information about local and regional public health news, events and activities.