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Arnold School of Public Health


May graduate leverages Ph.D. in Exercise Science to educate future athletic trainers

May 22, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Amy Fraley Hand attended her first USC football game when she was just two months old. Her father went to South Carolina for both his bachelor’s and law degrees, and she always knew she’d become a Gamecock herself.

The Spartanburg, South Carolina native had her first encounter with an athletic trainer in high school when she tore her ACL while playing softball. Then she took some sports medicine classes that were taught by an athletic trainer, and she knew she had found her calling.

“I wanted to be able to help future injured patients return to what they love to do just like my athletic trainer helped me,” Hand says.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in athletic training (part of the Arnold School since 2016) from UofSC in 2009, she completed a master’s degree in the field at the University of North Carolina. Following her 2011 graduation, she returned to Columbia to work as an athletic trainer at Dutch Fork High School.

I wanted to be able to help future injured patients return to what they love to do just like my athletic trainer helped me.

-Amy Hand, May graduate, Ph.D. in EXSC

While serving as a preceptor in her alma mater program’s extensive clinical athletic training network, Hand began to realize how much she loved teaching college students. She signed on as an adjunct instructor and then enrolled in the Arnold School’s Ph.D. in Exercise Science program (ranked No. 1 in the nation) in the fall of 2013 so she could pursue her goal of becoming an athletic training educator.

Just two years later, Hand accepted a faculty position as the clinical education coordinator of the professional athletic training program. During her doctoral program, she developed research interests in identifying risk factors for injury and injury prevention in physically active populations.  

She also found mentors in exercise science/physical therapy clinical professor Paul Beattie and epidemiology and biostatistics clinical assistant professor Andrew Ortaglia. “Dr. Beattie has been a great advisor and mentor throughout this entire process. I have grown as a researcher, educator and clinician, and I know that is completely due to his guidance and support,” Hand says. “Dr. Ortaglia’s teaching style and mentorship finally made statistics click for me. His knowledge and support have been invaluable.”

USC and the Department of Exercise Science have so many resources and opportunities available for students to succeed, including the knowledge and expertise of the faculty.

-Amy Hand, May graduate, Ph.D. in EXSC

Hand continued to receive support from the athletic training faculty as well—noting that they have been present in her education from her bachelor’s degree to her dissertation. She credits them with helping her learn how to teach athletic training students, manage difficult situations and help students succeed.

Hand was recognized at the 2019 Hooding Ceremony with her department's outstanding doctoral student award. The May graduate will remain at the Arnold School in her current role, using her degree to grow within her roles as both educator and researcher. She also has advice for current and future students who are interested in careers in athletic training and/or exercise science.

“USC and the Department of Exercise Science have so many resources and opportunities available for students to succeed, including the knowledge and expertise of the faculty,” Hand says. “Utilize these resources and faculty and do not let opportunities pass you by.”