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Arnold School of Public Health

  • Nancy Uriegas

I Am Public Health: Nancy Uriegas

May 1, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Nancy Uriegas spent her childhood bouncing back and forth between the small border town of Brownsville, Texas where she was born and its Mexican counterpart, Matamoros, Tamaulipas. She became a certified athletic trainer after graduating with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in Austin in 2015 and gained clinical experience at the high school she graduated from.

I truly embedded myself in the university and what it had to offer. I was fully engaged in all activities, actively looked for learning opportunities, and sought out the wisdom and advice from the Arnold School’s faculty and staff.

-Nancy Uriegas, Ph.D. in  Exercise Science student

When Uriegas decided to pursue a Master of Science in Advanced Athletic Training, she chose the Arnold School’s Department of Exercise Science due to the program’s reputation both nationally and among friends who were alumni. Uriegas continued to amass experience during her program, serving as a graduate assistant athletic trainer at a small, rural high school in St. Matthew, South Carolina and then for the Carolina Band and UofSC Dance Company – overseeing the health of nearly 400 artists. She was recognized for her success with the Arnold School of Public Health Excellence in Athletic Training Award, the Department of Exercise Science Outstanding Student Award, and the A.C. “Whitey” Gwynne Scholarship from the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association.

“I truly embedded myself in the university and what it had to offer. I was fully engaged in all activities, actively looked for learning opportunities, and sought out the wisdom and advice from the Arnold School’s faculty and staff,” says Uriegas, who developed a bigger interest in research as a result of her experience conducting a study with the Carolina Band. “Additionally, the athletic training program and the Arnold School became a family to me, and there was no better place for me to continue doing research than here. The athletic training program is housed in the Department of Exercise Science, and I couldn’t think of a better fit.”

Following her 2019 master’s graduation, Uriegas enrolled in the department’s Ph.D. in Exercise Science program (ranked No. 1 in the United States). In addition to taking courses, teaching and conducting research with exercise science faculty members in the areas of exercise physiology and rehabilitation sciences, Uriegas continues to build her clinical experience by serving as the inaugural lead athletic trainer of a team of five for the UofSC ROTC Programs, including its three branches.

The athletic training program and the Arnold School became a family to me, and there was no better place for me to continue doing research than here.

-Nancy Uriegas, Ph.D. in Exercise Science student

Her research focuses on eating disorders and energy availability in performing arts and military medicine. Uriegas is particularly interested in demonstrating the need for athletic trainers in these settings and establishing recommendations to minimize risks and maximize safety for these populations.

“We know there is a relationship between eating disorders and energy availability and increased injuries and illnesses, but the research is currently done in high-level athletes and not much focus is given to the emerging setting, like the performing arts and the military,” Uriegas says. “These two populations face some of the same physically demanding challenges as athletes and unfortunately do not receive the same medical oversight.”

As a Ph.D. student, Uriegas has continued to immerse herself in her department, School and university. The Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow and Grace Jordan McFadden Professors Program Scholar represents her department on the Arnold School of Public Health Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) where she currently serves as graduate vice-president and service committee chair. Uriegas is a member of the Arnold School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Executive Committee, acting as a liaison among the executive committee, student committee, and DSAC, and she is working with other graduate students to establish a new student organization, the Ibero-American Graduate Student Association, for Hispanic and Latinx graduate students at UofSC.

She’s discovered mentors across the athletic training and exercise science programs, finding a primary advisor in post professional athletic training director and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion Toni Torres-McGehee. “Dr. Torres-McGehee has by far been one of the best mentors I have ever had, and I appreciate how she has made me feel like more than just a student, but part of this great Gamecock Family,” Uriegas says. “Her dedication to students and her passion for the profession and for diversity, equity and inclusion is inspiring. She is an outstanding leader and helps her students grow throughout their time here at UofSC.”

Through her various service and leadership roles, Uriegas has also found a mentor in Christy Smith, director of graduate student services. “She has guided me through my time with DSAC and has made me more dedicated and inspired me give back to the Arnold School,” Uriegas says. “Her dedication to the Arnold School and its students doesn’t go unnoticed, and she always carries herself in the most professional manner.”


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