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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Elizabeth Regan

December 1, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, 

It’s been two decades since Elizabeth Regan completed her undergraduate degree, and she’s finally in the perfect position to earn her Ph.D. in exercise science. The physical therapist is in the second year of her doctoral program and has some insight to share with her fellow clinicians.

“It is never too late to get your Ph.D.,” she says. “Life experience and clinical experience uniquely inform the research work you can do in rehabilitation sciences.”

For Regan, those life experiences include growing up in the Washington D.C. area and then earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and computer information systems from James Madison University. It also includes moving to Charlotte and working as a computer programmer and analyst for six years before returning to school to earn a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT) at Elon University.

Life experience and clinical experience uniquely inform the research work you can do in rehabilitation sciences.

-Elizabeth Regan, Ph.D. in exercise student

Finally on the right track, Regan then worked as a clinical physical therapist for several years followed by two years as a faculty member with a small physical therapy program at Wingate University. This last experience taught Regan just how much she enjoyed academic life and inspired her to learn more about research and becoming a better quality instructor by earning a Ph.D.

She chose Arnold School’s exercise science department, which offers the No. 1 ranked Ph.D. program of its kind, largely due to the opportunity to work with associate professor Stacy Fritz, who shares similar research interests and now serves as Regan’s advisor. She found another mentor in assistant professor Jill Stewart.

“The relationship you have with your mentors is the most important factor in your success,” Regan observes. “Dr. Fritz and Dr. Stewart, who are both DPT-Ph.D. trained, and have provided me with tremendous opportunities to learn about research and given me a significant amount of support in my plan of study.” 

It didn’t hurt that Regan was selected by UofSC as a Presidential Fellow. She was also accepted as a Fellow into the Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Program, a National Institutes of Health T32 pre-doctoral research training grant that provides interdisciplinary training for the next generation of behavioral scientists in UofSC epidemiology, exercise science, and psychology doctoral programs. 

The relationship you have with your mentors is the most important factor in your success.

-Elizabeth Regan, Ph.D. in exercise science student

Regan’s research interests focus on physical activity for stroke survivors and others with chronic mobility impairments. Her goal is to expand access to quality health care for this population through innovative programs, physical therapist involvement, and understanding the unique facilitators and challenges that impact their access.

Connecting disabled populations with physical activity and exercise aligns with Regan’s personal interests as well. From a young age, she enjoyed running and playing organized sports. As an adult who teaches yoga and Leap of Faith seminars and has two kids to keep up with, she recognizes the positive effects exercise has on own her health and quality of life.

After completing her program, Regan plans to pursue a faculty position at a physical therapy program where she can continue to conduct research and teach future physical therapists. For those considering a similar path, she has some additional words of wisdom: “It’s hard, sometimes uncomfortable and always worthwhile.”  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.