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Arnold School of Public Health


I Am Public Health: Elena Keretses

August 1, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

The University of South Carolina’s athletic training program joined the Arnold School’s Department of Exercise Science just last month, but the program was already well established prior to its transition. For Master of Science student Elena Keretses, it nailed the three criteria she was looking for in a graduate program: clinical experience, academics, and research. Now in her second year, Keretses is currently focused on another type of trio—a syndrome that plagues females athletes, the Female Athlete Triad.

Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Keretses first became interested in the athletic training profession due to its unique role in healthcare. “As an athletic trainer, we have the ability to work with preventive care, deal with injury and illness as they occur, and also assist with the rehabilitation and return to activity process with our patients,” she says. “I was so intrigued by the diversity of the profession, and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

As an athletic trainer, we have the ability to work with preventive care, deal with injury and illness as they occur, and also assist with the rehabilitation and return to activity process with our patients.

-Elena Keretses, M.S. Student in Athletic Training

Keretses took advantage of that diversity during her undergraduate program at Western Carolina University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training, gaining experience in an array of hands-on experiences. Her clinical rotations included high schools, a nearby college, an orthopedic clinic, and surgical settings. Keretses was even involved in undergraduate research related to identifying concussions using special tests.

At Carolina, she dug into the field’s clinical opportunities even further—though this time she ramped up her research experience as well. Through the athletic training program’s many partnerships, Keretses has served as a graduate assistant athletic training for USC Campus Recreation, and she volunteered as an athletic trainer for the Columbia City Ballet.

This fall, she will serve as the first graduate assistant for the Carolina Marching Band and the USC Dance Company. To complement these clinical experiences, she has chosen to focus her graduate research on the Female Athlete Triad (i.e., a syndrome of three interrelated conditions: energy deficiency, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis) and identifying characteristics of this condition in ballet dancers.

(Dr. Toress-McGahee) has made a huge impact on my career as a young professional...I am completing my master’s research with her, and it has been a pleasure to work with an expert in the field.

-Elena Keretses, M.S. Student in Athletic Training

“The purpose of my research is to determine the prevalence of this condition in collegiate ballet dancers,” Keretses says. “This research is very important for public health because it is identifying the prevalence of the Female Athlete Triad with hopes that clinicians will recognize these characteristics in patients and then be able to make proper referral and treatment decisions.”

The Junior Faculty Advisor (Mid Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association Student Senate) has presented on a range of topics at professional conferences, including a presentation at the National Athletic Training Convention on the prevalence of low self-esteem and eating disorders in female track and field athletes. She’s also the recipient of several national and private scholarships (e.g., National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation Scholarship, Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association A.C. “Whitey” Gwynne Master’s Scholarship). After her May 2017 graduation, Keretses plans to utilize what she’s learned through her program to treat and provide medical care to performers as an athletic trainer in a performing arts setting.

I am very excited about our transition to the exercise science department in the Arnold School of Public Health...I think it is very important for the athletic training program to make this move now as our profession is evolving."

-Elena Keretses, M.S. Student in Athletic Training

Mentors at both her undergraduate and graduate programs have influenced Keretses’ path. Jay Scifers and Jill Manners, two of her undergraduate professors, first introduced her into the profession and helped mold her into the athletic trainer she is today. “Their influence and service in the athletic training profession lead me to wanting to serve and be involved in our professional organizations,” Keretses says.

Associate Professor and Graduate Athletic Training Program Director Toni Torres-McGehee has stood out for Keretses during her graduate program. “She has made a huge impact on my career as a young professional,” Keretses says. “I am completing my master’s research with her, and it has been a pleasure to work with an expert in the field.” 

Although accreditation changes prompted athletic training’s transition to the Arnold School, Keretses see the move as a big step forward. “I am very excited about our transition to the exercise science department in the Arnold School of Public Health,” she says. “I am most looking forward to our program being in a department that includes more similar areas of study to ours. I think it is very important for the athletic training program to make this move now as our profession is evolving. USC is taking a step in the right direction and having foresight into what the needs of the program are now and what will be essential for the program in the future.”