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Arnold School of Public Health


Exercise Science grad receives Outstanding Senior Award, preps for career in medicine

May 10, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Michael Byrnes hails from a long line of Gamecocks. He was intrigued by the Arnold School’s exercise science program and the overall fun atmosphere that UofSC offered. To top it off, he received a great scholarship offer—cementing his decision to attend Carolina.

“My heart was here from the beginning of the application process, and it has remained here to this day,” Byrnes says.

The Flinn Scholar has always envisioned a career in medicine—describing it as a calling he has felt since he was a child. Byrnes is interested in exploring different fields of clinical and surgical medicine. He’d also like to be involved in health science research—like he’s done as an undergrad.

“Through my time here at UofSC and within the Arnold School of Public Health, this calling was given the tools to become a burning desire,” he says. “With the help of challenging classes, thorough advisement, and excellent opportunities like my practicum at the Prisma Health Orthopedics, my journey will come to a remarkable end defined by an assured sense of self.” 

One of these activities involved gaining researcher experience under exercise science assistant professor Ashley Smuder. In the department’s Integrative Muscle Biology Labs, the Magellan Scholar studied cancer chemotherapy comorbidities and potential treatments—research he presented at Discover USC. Working with the former chair of the department (James Carson) opened Byrnes’ eyes to the credentials of professional leadership roles in the field of science, and he was invited to join the search committee for a new department chair.

He also found a mentor in undergraduate services director Barbara Cuevas. “Barbara Cuevas has led me to opportunities of leadership, research and scholarship that are beyond what I could have imagined when I began school here,” Byrnes says. “She has shown me undivided attention and unyielding belief in my abilities as a leader. I would not be the same without her involvement during my time here at UofSC, so I thank her and the Arnold School of Public Health for providing her advisement to us students.”

Outside the Arnold School, Byrnes’ favorite service activity has been his role as vice president of finance for Han’ Go International, a student-founded and led non-profit organization that provides medical resources to underserved populations. “It has been an excellent opportunity to demonstrate leadership, to spread public health awareness, and to give back to communities in need effectively,” he says. 

As a result of his efforts inside and outside the classroom, the May graduate’s name has been included on the President’s and Dean’s list multiple times. He also recently received one of UofSC’s prestigious Outstanding Senior Awards. Now he’s shifting his focus to medical school applications.

“If you are considering any line of work related to human health and care, there is no greater choice than one of those offered in the Arnold School of Public Health,” Byrnes advises current and prospective students. “Expect to be challenged, but you will be given all the tools of success you need. Using them and actively learning to improve will help you become not just better students, but also better people.”