Skip to main content

Alumni Spotlights

Aaron Hardy

Provo, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury


Adjunct Professor of Exercise Sciences, Aaron Hardy, currently teaches the course EXSC 455- Worksite Health Promotion, but he comments that 95% of worksite health is promotion. In 1996, Aaron graduated from BYU with a BS in Physical Education and minors in Zoology and Business. In 2000, he graduated with a MS in Health Promotion, also from BYU.

His very first post-graduate job was working as a wellness coordinator in Reno, NV, for Washoe County School District. For eight years he used technical skills to gather and store data from websites, “which was pretty exciting, considering technology was still new in 2000” he adds. The program he used was eventually recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General as Most Innovative Wellness Program. Aaron continued to lead the program on to several other prestigious awards.

Aaron began to speak at conferences about how the program worked, and how districts could find success and overcome challenges by implementing the same type of wellness program. Aaron suggested motives for behavioral change, financial sources, and specific logistics of programming. People begin asking him to launch the program for their company. Aaron began partnering with many other clients, including the largest aircraft company in Kansas, Cessna.

In 2008, Aaron started his own business, Integrated Health and Wellness. As he puts it, “My company gets busy adults to engage in mundane and boring health behaviors.” Aaron’s business is successful in enhancing wellness through behavioral change programs, by giving these types of health programs a better connotation. “The positive impact of group health behavior, creates a sense of community, and works well” says Aaron. His company’s efforts range from entire programs centered on how the power of music can reduce stress levels, to email reminders with recipes to try, to gift card incentives that motivate clients to create a sense of “wholeness” by creating good habits surrounding exercising, eating right, and sleeping.

Check out his website:

Ashley Burrow

Clovis, CA

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Ashley Burrow Family Photo.jpg

Ashley Burrow graduated from BYU in December 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training. Her favorite memories as an undergraduate student are her experiences working with the athletes as an athletic trainer. She remembers how the guys in the baseball dugout made her feel like one of their own, and the excitement of Timpview High School winning the football state championship.

Although Burrow enjoyed athletic training, her current career took a different direction. Burrow works as an Air Quality Specialist, employed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. She writes grants to receive federal and state money, which are distributed to residents, various organizations, situations, school districts, and agencies. Burrow credits her Athletic Training degree for her scientific background that qualified her for this position, as well as skills and creativity that allow her to think outside the box and create solutions for workforce problems.

Burrow’s Athletic Training experience demonstrated her personal interest in health, and her internship experience demonstrated that she was service-oriented and accustomed to caring about people. The job was supposed to have been temporary because she was planning to go to graduate school, but has become permanent, and very rewarding. She is able to contribute to better air quality, which allows people to breathe easier, and helps ease health problems.

Burrow now has a seven-year-old daughter and wants to be active in her life as much as possible, “When I had her, I decided that I would only work part-time. I love it. I get to feel accomplished with the things I do at work and not miss out on her life.” Attending BYU taught Burrow to go out and do, “Going away for college was the best decision of my life. I learned so much, and grew into the person I am today because of the experiences I had at BYU.”

Matthew Nelson

Bismarck, ND

by Rebecca Sainsbury


Matthew Nelson currently works as an Invasive Cardiologist. He cares for people with blocked arteries and heart problems often performing catheterization procedures and ultrasound to diagnose and help manage heart illness. Aside from cardiology, Dr. Nelson speaks with many groups about heart health and the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diet.

According to Dr. Nelson, many people are unaware that certain types of exercise can actually damage the heart. Fitness studies are beginning to show a greater likelihood of developing heart problems with age from scarred tissue and fibrosis due to certain types of exercise. Nelson says that for good for cardiovascular health, cardio exercise should normally be done four times per week, forty minutes at a time. In certain cases, exceeding this amount with a significantly greater intensity, can result in diminishing, and harmful, health returns for some people.

Dr. Nelson completed his undergraduate at BYU in Exercise Science in 1999 and his master’s degree in 2002. He remembers the most valuable part of the Exercise Science program was the opportunity he received to be part of BYU’s tremendous track record of getting people into medical school. His graduate program enabled him to work closely with professors who helped him weigh out what direction he wanted to go in the medical field. He has learned that not one thing, but many things over time, lead into one’s specialized field—cardiac physiology, for Dr. Nelson.

His great love for health and health maintenance has been passed on to his family, who loves to eat healthy and live a very active life.

Ann Earl

Mapleton, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury


Ann Earl graduated from BYU in 2005 with a BS in Exercise Science, and 2007 with an MS in Exercise Science, emphasis in Health Promotion. After becoming a mother a few years ago, she was surprised by the challenges of helping her children eat healthy.

“After much trial and error, I found that if I just taught my children what nutrients were in fruits and vegetables, and what those nutrients could do for their bodies, they were more excited about eating them. Unfortunately, I couldn't always remember what those nutrients were.”

Ann wanted a resource to use at mealtimes to better educate her children about fruits and vegetables. After no luck searching high and low for the unknown resource she was seeking, she set out to create a solution for the problem herself.

“I chose to create plates because it is something you already use daily as a parent, and because it's natural to talk about food (fruits and veggies especially) at mealtimes. The plates provide a built-in conversation piece for even the youngest eaters.”

Ann’s recent start-up business, Healthy Kiddos, has already made leeway helping kids to enjoy eating their fruits and vegetables. Customer reviews say that the plates function as a curiosity trigger, by motivating kids to find out how the foods they are eating will help their body. Healthy Kiddos successfully funded a kickstarter in January and presented to buyers at Walmart headquarters in June. Healthy Kiddos plates and flashcards are currently available online at Amazon, Walmart,, and hopefully a few local stores in the coming weeks.

Eric Stewart

Springfield, MO

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Eric Stewart MD-2.jpg
Photo by Mike Williams

Eric Stewart, MD, of Springfield, MO, works as a Physician of Interventional Pain Medicine at Mercy Health. He helps people with neck, back, and shoulder issues manage pain through interventional procedures, including steroid injections and spinal cord stimulators. In 2004, Stewart completed his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at BYU, where he learned many life skills that he applied to his interest in medicine. He advises, “Always think about the need to continually learn and grow…medicine is continually advancing, and we must stay up to date in order to treat patients the best we can. Develop the skills to manage your time and be efficient…finding balance with work and life is key. Take time to invest in your own health, and always strengthen your testimony and grow in the gospel as well.”

Dr. Stewart remembers that some of his undergraduate prerequisite classes did not resonate with him; despite this, he knew early on that he wanted to pursue the medical field. However, one of the classes that did capture his interest was Human Anatomy, for which he became a TA. Many students question whether it really matters if they create close relationships with their TAs and professors. Dr. Stewart says good relationships are very beneficial for someone going into medicine, “Medical schools look for good grades and research experience, which are valuable for building a resume. Find your interest and pursue it to show that you enjoy research.” When applying to medical school, Dr. Stewart’s TA experience allowed him to stand out from other applicants.

After graduation, Stewart spent one year working with an Ophthalmologist before attending medical school at the University of Colorado, Denver. He then completed his residency at Ohio State. Besides running his own medical practice as a physician in Missouri, he enjoys cycling, playing soccer, and continues to follow where the Exercise Sciences have taken the friends and roommates he met at BYU.

Russ Jensen

Boise, ID

by Rebecca Sainsbury


While growing up in Olympia, WA, Russ Jensen, a graduate of BYU Exercise Sciences, watched his father’s career as a physician, which sparked his interest in the medical field; however, he did not find the irregular visits from patients appealing. Jensen liked the idea of routine follow-ups, the continuity of seeing patients regularly, and building relationships with them—many of which have continued for years. This continuity was a major influence that led him to find his niche in dentistry. After completing his bachelor’s degree in 2006, Jensen attended the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Jensen now resides in Boise, ID, as a Tooth Mechanic (General Dentist) at Maple Grove Dentistry.

Jensen advises students to interview someone with a career in their academic interest, “Question them, ask them what a good day is like and what a bad day is like. Some of the career paths require additional education and make transitioning to a different field difficult. Make sure it's something you're passionate about, and something you look forward to doing in order to help people, and make a living.”

Jensen recently bought a dental practice, which has offered his team the challenge of marketing and further building the company from its previous owner. One unexpected road bump has been the business process involved in dentistry. Jensen says, “There’s not a lot of business training that goes into it, not even basic accounting. Know that a private practice involves a lot.” Although Jensen has managed to teach himself many business principles, he highly recommends that pre-dental students take a few business classes. Jensen further advises those pursuing dentistry to get involved now, with podcasts, online videos, and local dental clinics, which sometimes offer continuing education centers.

Dr. Jensen exemplifies BYU’s commission: Enter to learn and go forth to serve. Each day he strives to do something to make it the new ‘best’ day, by living up to his own mission statement, “Healthy mouths and healthy smiles.” He does his best to run a very time-oriented practice to efficiently help as many people as possible.

In addition to dentistry, Jensen enjoys weight training, biking, and running after his three kids.

B.J. Custer

Winchester, VA

by Rebecca Sainsbury

B.J. Custer fam.jpg

B.J. Custer PT, DPT, earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from BYU in 2007. He now has a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Shenandoah University. He is now the Director of Therapy Services at The Village at Orchard Ridge, a retirement community of about 600 residents. B.J.’s job keeps him on his toes, which he loves because he never gets bored. During PT school, B.J. says boredom was a fear among his colleagues, but due to his unique position as manager of Outpatient Therapy, Skilled Therapy, and Assisted Living/Memory Care at Orchard Ridge, the workday is never monotonous.

As any pre-physical therapy student understands, the amount of work required to get into a PT program is rigorous; however, the workload is even more rigorous to graduate from the program. He likes to say, “Big efforts yield big rewards.” The way B.J. sees it, he gets paid to do service and help people to heal and be happy--all of which are common spiritual experiences that make every day so rewarding. He is grateful for his opportunity to focus on the well-being of others while teaching them to do daily tasks like walking, and using their hands and bodies again.

Aside from the “big efforts,” there are also many small efforts associated with hard work: obtaining additional certifications, the daily study and review of textbook material, and keeping up on the latest research articles in Journal of Physical Therapy. For B.J., these miniscule habits are crucial for providing his patients with his best work, “Reading a research article can take five minutes, but it will affect hundreds of people within your practice throughout the year.”

B.J. recommends shadowing for anyone considering a career in physical therapy, “The more you surround yourself in a field, the clearer your vision will be of what is to come. Too many people jump into a field, only to find out after the money, sweat, and tears, that they hate their job. The love of your future profession will drive your academic career.”

At BYU, B.J. attained the ability to learn with the Spirit, a skill he continues to use in his daily work. He explains the challenge that members of the church have been given to help the needy and do various acts of service, “As a physical therapist, you do all of those things on daily basis. Christ spent many hours each day of his life healing the blind and lame unconditionally.” B.J. draws a parallel between the Savior’s unreserved service, and the opportunities to serve that he often receives throughout his workday. Regardless of how accidents happen, B.J. reaches out to his patients to help them cope and meet their physical recovery needs. He says that this helps him become more Christ-like in his own life, “When I have the spirit with me, patients can feel it...I can literally lead, guide, and walk beside them.”

B.J. lives with his family of four in Winchester, VA, and enjoys running marathons.

Brittany Brown

Woods Cross, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Brittany Brown.jpg

In 2010, Brittany Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness. The Utah Department of Health currently employs Brittany as Epidemiology and Evaluation Coordinator for the EPICC (Environment, Policy & Improved Clinical Care) Program. Her work in epidemiology includes coordinating physical activity and nutritional health programs. She also manages preventative health programs: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. She oversees data surveillance, collection, and evaluation efforts for grants related to all of these activities at both state and local levels. The position is rather broad considering her responsibility to ensure that efforts in these separate areas are effective. For example, some of her responsibilities have ranged from making sure public transportation, bike, walking, and school routes are safe for people to get to their destinations, and helping work sites establish wellness policies to increase physical activity for their employees. One challenge she did not anticipate, in working in the chronic disease field, has been the inability to see immediate results. Because her position deals with mainly long-term efforts, she takes short-term measurements along the way to see the impacts and progression of her work. Brittany loves what she does because she is able to help make Utah a healthier place to live.

As an undergraduate at BYU, Brittany enjoyed learning about nutrition and anything related to health and the body. Her plan was to attend Physical Therapy school; however, while working as an intern, she realized PT was much different from her expectations. Because she wanted a clear plan for graduate school, she continued working and participating in research programs until she decided to begin the BYU Masters of Public Health Program.

Brittany advises students today, “Never stop planning for your future. For so long I only planned up until college graduation and when I reached that, I felt a little lost. Find mentors and don't be afraid to network. You meet so many people every single day with incredible backgrounds and lessons they have learned.” This perspective has made Brittany aware of many opportunities available only to undergraduate students. Sometimes busy schedules make it easy to miss opportunities to explore and develop important skills. Brittany is adamant that a degree alone does not qualify you for the real world. Involvement in research, internship, and volunteer opportunities are key. “These will help you determine what you are interested in, what weaknesses you need to develop more, and prepare you to be a competitive candidate for jobs and graduate school.”

Shelby Williams

Park City, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Shelby Firouzi.png

Shelby Williams completed her BYU Exercise and Wellness degree in 2015. She currently works as a Corporate Wellness Health Coach at ARUP Laboratories while pursuing her Master's Degree in Exercise Science: Health Promotion, also from BYU.

Q. What advice do you have for today's BYU Exercise Science Students?

A. If you are interested in pursuing an Exercise Science-related career, be proactive about adding to your resume through work, internship, and certification experience, even beyond the required internship credit hours for Exercise and Wellness. If you don’t get the internship you want, gain additional experience elsewhere and try again—never give up! I've recently entered the workforce of corporate wellness and learned that earning certifications for personal training, group exercise instruction, strength and conditioning, etc. really boost your resume in the eyes of an employer. Sometimes it is hard to get formal "experience" when employers are asking for previous experience, but be proactive about creating your own informal experience by helping friends and family with health goals, or finding ways to teach an informal fitness class or provide personal training sessions. These things can help as you search for a job. Lastly, in whatever ways you can, stay up to date on current in-field research, which is constantly evolving in the field of exercise sciences. What we learn as undergraduates will probably differ in some way from the research published in the future. It is important to be current so the clients we work with can trust that we are providing them with reputable information.

Shelby Firouzi fam.png

Q. What is your current workout program?

A. I enjoy a variety of activities! I currently teach Zumba once per week and attend other group fitness classes when possible. I strength train 3 times per week and either run or hike 2-3 times per week. I enjoy completing half-marathon races periodically to give me a long-term running goal!

Q. What are some life lessons you learned while at BYU?

A. Perfection is not the goal we are seeking in this life—whether it be academic, family and personal relationships, or spiritual development. I’m a person who tends to hold the bar high for myself in terms of what being "good enough" means; but through my BYU experience, I realized little by little that trying to reach unattainable perfection is not a good measure of success. Improving ourselves in baby steps, one hour at a time, one day at a time, is a much more meaningful definition of success. This is not a lesson that I have finished learning, but I was able to learn more about while at BYU. I also learned that everyone is good enough right where they currently are. There may be things I personally want to improve in, but that doesn’t mean I need to change anything about myself in this moment to be good enough. Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough the lesson of simply enjoying being YOU and expressing personal gratitude for the life and experiences that are uniquely yours. I loved my experiences at BYU, and they continue to shape me into the person I will become. It’s such a blessing to attend school here!

Danielle Firth Whitehead

Phoenix, AZ

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Danielle F.jpg

In 2005, Danielle Firth Whitehead left BYU with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise and Wellness and a sparked interest in preventative medicine. BYU helped her to develop a service-based mentality that allowed her to think about the community as a whole. “I left BYU really wanting to reach out, and felt like I had the skills to help.” However, post-graduation can be an insecure time; Danielle commented, “I knew I wanted to save the world from diabetes, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like.” Since that time, life has provided her numerous ways to continue practicing what she learned in her program. As a mother, her three children have learned how to eat well, be active, and respect their bodies. Danielle was especially grateful for her knowledge in the exercise sciences when her father suffered a heart attack. After his surgery, she was able to support and encourage him through the rehabilitation process.

Her knowledge in health has led her to work as an occupational and physical technician—helping people to get stronger and control their injuries. She has experience with personal training and as a City Parks and Recreation Commissioner. She took part in building trails and designing a park that was disability accessible.

Currently, Danielle enjoys working with neuro-patients at Midwestern University while working towards her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. After her graduation in 2019, she aspires to work in a clinic with patients who struggle with spinal cord/brain injury, Parkinson's Disease, and MS.

Bethany Lewis

Lehi, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury


Bethany Lewis is first a mom, and second, a passionate Occupational Therapist at Cognitive FX in Provo, UT. She helps people with post-concussion syndrome recover their vision, cognitive memory, and process multisensory tasks. Occupational therapy proves extremely effective when combined with other forms of therapeutics that happen at Cognitive FX. Bethany has additional experience working in in geriatric occupational therapy nursing facilities, helping people do a variety of tasks, including increasing strength from hip replacement, deconditioning from dehydration, and simple activities necessary for efficient and independent daily living.

Bethany first encountered occupational therapy on her LDS mission from a member of the church who specialized with babies. At the time, Bethany was interested in the medical field, but unsure of what she wanted to pursue. After more research about OT at BYU, the one on one environment especially appealed to her. “It was the perfect blend of psychology, sociology, medicine, art, and teaching—and I loved it!”

In 2006, after receiving her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from BYU, Bethany attended graduate school at the University of Utah where she received her Master of Occupational Therapy degree. One difference she has noticed between training and the professional world is the disparity between ideal circumstances and reality. Occupational therapy includes various settings, capabilities, and payment systems, which are not always so ideal. However, by keeping the ideal in mind, therapists aim for the best and improve reality.


Interdisciplinary interaction offered by the OT field has been a joy for Bethany. Her coworkers, physical and speech therapists, are all people who love to serve others. The effect service has had on her is one aspect of the work that has surprised her most; she did not expect to have so much love for her patients. “I didn’t realize how much I would learn from my patients, I get to see people overcome some very difficult challenges, and it is pretty amazing.”

Overall, working in occupational therapy has been a huge blessing for Bethany’s family, and herself, as a stay at home mom. Despite moving several times, Bethany has always been able to find jobs that fit with her needs, whether it be working part-time or just a few hours per week. Scheduling has been extremely flexible, as she has ultimately been able to set her own hours. Bethany enjoys keeping her OT skills up and pursuing her occupational passion.

Joshua Edlinger

San Ramon, CA

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Joshua P. Edlinger, DPM.JPG

After serving a mission in Germany, Joshua Edlinger returned to BYU to play on the men’s volleyball team. He learned skills like critical thinking, prioritizing, and organizing his study time, which later helped him adequately prepare for board exams that led him to achieve his goal of acceptance into medical school. Josh graduated as an undergraduate in Exercise Sciences in 2008, and now works in the Diablo Service area as an attending Foot and Ankle Surgeon at Kaiser Permanente .

A regular in-clinic workday entails visits with eighteen to twenty-two patients with foot and ankle issues. Josh typically treats people with sports medicine related injuries, trauma, and some wound care. An on-call week however, allows him availability in the afternoons to work in the operating room, sometimes with emergencies that call for immediate surgeries and amputations.

Josh chose to become a podiatrist because it would allow him to perform surgery without the large time requirement to be on call. He spent four years working on his doctorate in podiatric school, followed by a three-year surgical residency at Kaiser in the San Francisco Bay Area. He adds that a shorter residency is also a benefit of podiatry.

The medical knowledge that Josh has accumulated has given him the opportunity to treat many of his friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. He is grateful for his experience in BYU Exercise Sciences and his fulfilling career as a foot and ankle surgeon.

Kate Hampton

Phoenix, AZ

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Kate Hampton.jpg

Kate Hampton, BYU Exercise and Wellness Alumni 2005, works as the Senior Market Solutions Manager for Silver Sneakers—a company based out of Phoenix, AZ that sells and manages fitness benefits provided by insurance agencies to senior citizens. Kate’s position oversees the company’s fitness programming strategy, which allows her to serve millions of people sixty-five and older daily. The programs offer benefits that let seniors access free physical fitness programs nationwide. In addition, Kate supervises group exercise classes in order to help instructors further develop their coaching skills.

Kate’s original plan was to be a physical therapist; however, when she spent time volunteering in preparation for graduate school, she observed that the rehabilitation process could have been much easier for the clients if they would have been more aware of injury prevention prior to the injury. Kate grew to believe that exercise should be preventative, while also cultivating a passionate desire to get that knowledge to people before it was too late.

Kate’s advice to current BYU students is to take full advantage of the opportunity to be amongst some of the most knowledgeable people in the exercise science industry. She emphasizes the importance of creating relationships with fellow students, as well as mentorships with professors. “Have an open mind about career paths...opportunities will come up that you never expected, as long as you are prepared and open to them.”

Working for Silver Sneakers has enabled Kate to have a “rewarding and humbling” experience leading a team of people, who are experts in their field, to accomplish their goals.

Natalie Sargent

Salt Lake City, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Natalie Sargent professional.JPG

Natalie Sargent graduated from BYU in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT, where she works at ARUP Laboratories as a Chronic Disease Management Wellness Coach. She helps employees work through things related to behavioral change and general psychology; for example, managing emotional eating techniques, lowering blood sugar, and losing weight. “I didn’t know until senior year I wanted to do this, I always had a different plan.” Originally, she wanted to work in preventative health and go into physical therapy; however, when she learned that health is a relative term that depends on the individual, she discovered her true passion, the wellness side of the health industry. She says that regardless of the circumstances, people can be healthy in their own unique way.

Although Natalie says that anyone can learn a lot about health via personal research online, as well as through specific certifications, but a degree in Exercise and Wellness remains necessary. Students learn to teach people how to apply principles of health to themselves, which ties into her favorite thing about being a wellness coach—witnessing individual progression. Although visible results are rewarding for both Natalie and her clients, she enjoys watching them realize they are not only helping themselves, but also their families hop on board the path to healthy living. Natalie enjoys watching clients learn, apply, and share their newfound habits.

Natalie Sargent hiking.JPG

Natalie finds fulfillment in practicing what she teaches others, “Being consistent and trying new things with my workout routine really makes me better at my job because I can suggest different activities to different people.” Last summer she trained for an ocean swim by spending a few days a week swimming, and alternating between trail running, hiking, and weightlifting the other days.

Natalie’s career advice for BYU students today is to create your own opportunities. “I have found there is no harm in talking to everyone and asking questions because you never know where that connection will lead…a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet. When I really try to apply this motto and make my own opportunities, doors that I never thought I would reach open up to me.”

Terrance Motley

Louisville, Colorado

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Terrance Motley.jpeg

Terrance Motley graduated from BYU with his Bachelor’s in Exercise and Wellness in 2015. He remembers well his undergraduate years at BYU as a student athlete. After playing one year of collegiate football, he played two years of rugby, where he became close with Justin McClure, BYU Associate Director of Football Strength & Conditioning. He was offered an internship working with the football team, and spent much of his time learning field setup and breakdown, as well as how to coach and run through groups with the athletes.

During this time, Terrance was part of BYU’s Exercise Science program with thoughts of becoming a team doctor or physical therapist; however, while working with Coach McClure and experiencing various assistantships around the country, Terrance came to admire the aspect of exercise and training. He was inspired to be a coach and changed his major to Exercise and Wellness. After graduation, he was accepted at the University of Louisiana where he earned his Masters of Kinesiology.

Terrance has held his current position, Assistant Football Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Colorado, since January 2017. He considers coaching the Buffaloes his greatest accomplishment thus far. “When you see athletes grow and develop, you really get invested in them as people. Not how much they squat or bench. Some guys go on to the next level, and some go on to other things, but real success is knowing that I can impact someone’s life.”

Terrance lives in Colorado with his family and enjoys Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting.

Nate Trayner

McKinney, TX

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Nate Trayner fam update.png

Nate Trayner graduated from BYU in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. Nate attended medical school at the University of Michigan, and then completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at Parkland Hospital through the University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas. Nate now lives in McKinney, TX working as an Emergency Medicine Physician. In order to determine whether a patient’s condition is life threatening, Nate’s position requires a wide skill set. Emergency Medicine offers Nate plenty of excitement and anticipation, “You never know what the shift is going to be like when you go to work!” Nevertheless, it can be hard dealing with death. After shifts, he decompresses by spending enough time with family, fulfilling church callings, and golfing with friends.

Nate says that although his job matches his personality, it is necessary to look at the larger picture outside of the ER, "Sometimes just taking care of patients clinically can get mundane, but special interest keeps me interested in larger forces [that affect health] at play, which need to be addressed.” Besides his schooling, Nate has experience working in global health through Doctors without Borders (DWB) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). His involvement has taken him as far as New Zealand, Geneva, Switzerland, Ethiopia, and Cameroon. As part of DWB, he gained access to the developing world and medication in Geneva, which allowed him the opportunity to work on a Tuberculosis project. This project invested in impoverished people by innovating new ways for private sectors to test for tuberculosis. Nate contributed to a Hepatitis C project as well by looking for ways to make medicines more affordable. Vaccines have increased in price over the last twenty years, so Nate investigated the price that certain countries pay for their vaccines, in hopes of implementing ways to make vaccinations more affordable to families in poverty.

Nate encourages anyone interested in pursuing medicine to be passionate about it. “Doctors suffer from burn out; you need to have an inner drive that keeps your fire burning in medicine. Helping the least fortunate on earth find medical care has been the fire in my engine all along. Have your purpose, explore, develop, and become a leader.”

Aaron Robinson

Lincoln, Nebraska

by Rebecca Sainsbury


Aaron Robinson earned his undergraduate degree from BYU in 2005 in Exercise Science. He attended medical school at St. Louis University, after which he completed his four-year residency at the University of California Davis in Sacramento. Currently, Aaron Robinson lives in Lincoln, Nebraska and works a Physician of Otolaryngology. His work encompasses nose, throat, head, and neck surgery (all body parts above collarbone) and he commonly performs surgeries concerning cancers, thyroids, ear tubes, and tonsil removals. Aaron loves working with his patients of all ages, ranging from zero to one-hundred.
Originally, Aaron had a difficult time with the hard sciences; however, he loved applying biomechanics to real things. For this reason, Aaron’s degree in Exercise Science functioned as the ideal applied science major. Exercise Science proved highly interesting and pushed him towards medicine. It was not until Aaron was nearly halfway through medical school that finally decided to specialize in pediatrics and the ear, nose, and throat area. The attempt to decide on a specialty was a rather difficult journey, but now, Aaron says, “To be a pediatrician, is to have the best of both worlds, working in a field I love, and working with kids.”

aarob cleff.png

Because you cannot really know what you are getting into without experiencing it, Aaron encourages anyone interested in medicine to talk to people in specific professions before you make decisions to pursue a certain paths. He suggests, “Ask them if they would do it all over again, pick the doctor’s brain!” His advice for today's Exercise Science students is, “Don't limit your potential; find your passion and spend every day working towards that goal.”

Aaron’s greatest success has been a combination of completing medical school, having a happy family, and still having a strong marriage. He says that for many people, it is easy to neglect the most important things in life, because they think that medical school is more important. However, Aaron’s family has kept him grounded, has helped him keep his priorities straight, and allowed him to find happiness in his career. “A doctor is what I do, not who I am; I am a husband and father and those things are way more important to me.”

Jeremiah West


by Rebecca Sainsbury

Jeremiah West.jpg

Jeremiah West graduated in April 2008 with a BS in Exercise Science and with University Honors. He completed his medical degree (MD) at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX and his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, TX.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is a specialty that is focused on how to help individuals return to the highest level of function possible after a traumatic or life altering event. Some of these life altering events include stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, congenital deformities, amputations, burns, sports injuries, and disability due to chronic pain. This specialty works with multidisciplinary teams that include physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, pharmacists , nurses, and social workers. The physician helps lead the team to ensure that the patient receives the best possible care and obtains the best possible outcome. Within this work it is critical to assimilate large amounts of complex data to help guide patient care.

West currently works for Intermountain Healthcare in Layton, Utah as the Medical Director for the Chronic Pain Clinic. He is lucky to work with a multidisciplinary team that focuses on functional restoration of people in chronic pain using wellness strategies that include exercise, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral, and other similar techniques. His clinic helps patients become less reliant on medications such as opioids in managing their chronic pain. In his current job he uses knowledge of human behavior, human anatomy & physiology, and exercise programs to help guide patient care. The foundation for this knowledge came from his studies at BYU.

West chose Exercise Science as an undergraduate degree as it fit best with his personal interests and helped him have a good foundation for his medical studies. Reflecting back on his undergraduate time at BYU, he says, “I loved the opportunity to learn and grow in many different ways. I gained confidence in my ability to adapt and perform well in difficult circumstances. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out what kept me interested and motivated. I still use the principles and knowledge that I learned from my Exercise Science degree in my current job as a physician and in my personal life.”

He enjoys being a physician as it allows him to interface with both science and people on a daily basis.

The best advice he can give someone who is currently working on a degree in Exercise Science is to discover what they are passionate about and then find a way to follow their dream.

Alexis Scoville


by Rebecca Sainsbury

Alexis S (3).jpg

Recent BYU Exercise and Wellness graduate, Alexis Scoville, received her bachelor’s degree in December 2016. Since graduation, she has been working as an EXOS Health Fitness Specialist in a local wellness center.

Besides managing a large fitness site, Alexis prescribes exercise, personally trains, and establishes one on one relationships with her clients. It is her responsibility to ensure that everyone enjoys the on-site fitness experience.

Alexis Scoville.jpg

Alexis appreciates the experience she gained through the Exercise and Wellness program at BYU, her intern experience with Y B Fit, and her favorite classes with Dr. George and Dr. Davidson. Learning how to do fitness assessments and health coaching helped her become accustomed to applying the principles she learned in class to actual clients.

The Y B Fit internship was one of the main reasons Alexis got the job working for EXOS—that has enabled her to apply the things she learned during her internship. During the interview process, the manager said that because they knew she had participated in Y B Fit, they knew she would be a good fit for the job. Alexis advocates taking advantage of internship opportunities, “You should actively find ways to apply what you learn in class. That is how you remember everything.... My internship was the best thing I did for my career.”

Elise Brown

Des Plaines, Illinois

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Elise Brown Fam.jpg
A photo of Elise and her family in Jerusalem, where they lived on assignment, March-April 2017.

BYU swim team alumni, Elise Brown, graduated from BYU in 2009, with a BS in Exercise Science. Looking back on her undergraduate years, she reflects on how the functional anatomy and biomechanical classes provided her with a great depth of knowledge—a foundation that, she says, gave her more experience than many of her classes in graduate school. At BYU, she learned many possible orthopedic conditions, and she learned how to fix those conditions in the University of Utah’s Physical Therapy program.

While pregnant with her first son, Elise completed her graduate degree at the University of Utah, after which she worked as a Pediatric Physical Therapist. Although Elise is now a stay at home mom, her clients at the time, were children with developmental delays, ages 0-3. Her roles involved training parents how to help their children improve mobility, address musculoskeletal issues with preemie babies, and find solutions for babies who were not crawling or walking on time. Many of her clients were the same age as her son. Elise says, “I was able to help him reach all his milestones, and knew exactly what the moms [of her clients] were going through with sleeping and feeding issues. That allowed me to relate to the parents.”

Elise Brown, son PT-esque pose.jpg
Elise and her son.

Post-BYU, Elise almost forwent applying to the University of Utah’s physical therapy program. She thought she lacked internship, volunteer, and hours shadowing, but she applied anyway and was accepted! Elise advises anyone interested in PT school to apply, “Even if you don’t get in, you get a good feel for the process, and practice with interviews, which is very valuable itself.” For future PT students, she advises them to customize their majors by taking classes beneficial for PT school, rather than classes designed to prepare students to take the MCAT. She says that therapeutic modalities and athletic training courses allowed her to enjoy her undergraduate years significantly more. “If you work and study hard for your BYU classes, grad school will be much easier. Don't forget to have some fun as well!”

BYU Exercise Sciences has helped Elise to feel confident in caring for her family’s health while traveling all over the world. Due to her husband’s job, her family has lived abroad and moved around frequently. Thanks to her medical background and advanced first aid/CPR class, she has acquired extended skills that allow her to care for her family under circumstances with limited access to healthcare in developing countries.

John Erickson

Jacksonville, FL

by Rebecca Sainsbury

John Erickson.jpg

John Erickson is a Pediatric Optometrist at Nemours Children's Specialty Care. He sees roughly thirty patients daily, whose needs vary from a simple pair of glasses to the complexities of cataracts, corneal abrasions, and genetic disorders. The most rewarding thing for John is when he is able to help a child with vision impairment see perfectly by the end of a visit.

At BYU, while taking an introduction to health professions class, John shadowed a local optician. He was promptly hired on to help fit people with glasses. After receiving his BS in Exercise Science in 2008, he attended the Southern College of Optometry of Memphis Tennessee.

Grades are paramount for acceptance into optometry school. Just twenty applicants from John’s class were accepted into his graduate program based on their OAT score (relates to the MCAT). For anyone interested in pursuing optometry, John says internships and field exposure are key. For undergraduate students considering optometry, he recommends getting an in-field, low level job to determine if optometry is the right career path for them.

To increase his chances of acceptance and receiving a scholarship, John wishes that he would have planned to apply and take his graduate school entrance exams earlier. He recommends having a post-graduation plan prepared in case you are not immediately accepted. “If you plan on going to graduate school for a healthcare profession, schools like to see a unique undergraduate degree—like Exercise Sciences.” With a laugh, he added, “ separates you from all of the biology majors.”

Sheldon Knight

Falls Church, VA

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Sheldon Knight Fam.png

Working as a Navy Physician at the Pentagon, was never part of Sheldon Knight’s original plan. Immediately after his graduation in Exercise Sciences at Brigham Young University, Sheldon began medical school. From there, his career has led him to become involved with the medical care of soldiers in the United States Armed Forces and to his involvement in aerospace medicine--including the study of physiological effects on astronauts. Aerospace medicine is a field that NASA heavily depends on for future expeditions to Mars! Still unsure of his own interests in aerospace medicine, Sheldon remarks that medical needs in this field will soar in the near future.

Sheldon’s undergraduate honors thesis at BYU was a project evaluating the use of diathermy (ultrasound/heat technology) on muscles. Sheldon remarks that his undergraduate classes had the largest influence on where he decided to take his postgraduate studies. Studying Exercise Sciences was extremely beneficial, because it allowed him to have a macro understanding of the entire body--something the narrowed specifics of a degree in the hard sciences did not offer for him.

Sheldon advises students in the Exercise Sciences program to take every opportunity to truly understand and learn the class material. He says, “Pay close attention, there are still things today in my occupation that I wish I would have taken time to study more closely. These things will come up in your career, and you will have to know how they apply.”

The most rewarding experience at BYU, for Sheldon, was working with the professors and learning from their different perspectives. He says it was difficult to connect as closely with his instructors in medical school. To this day, he continues to keep in touch with his most influential BYU professors, Dr. Feland and Lockhart.

Sheldon currently resides in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and nine children.

Cami Barney

Tulsa, Oklahoma

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Cami Barney Fam.JPG

Cami Barney graduated from BYU in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness. Career exploration played a large role in her time as an undergraduate. Initially, Cami wanted to do physical therapy; however, after a wellness program internship, her interests shifted to Exercise and Wellness. After graduating, she and her husband moved to Las Vegas, where he began medical school at Toro University, and she began her second bachelor’s degree at the accelerated nursing school.

Cami says her Exercise and Wellness BS from BYU was a great platform that prepared her well for furthing her education in nursing. In order to be successful in finding a passion, Cami advises students to job shadow positions that spark their interest . While at BYU, she was able to find a student job that allowed her to explore her interest in the wellness field. She also found inspiration from classes and professors she enjoyed, like stress and obesity management, and corporate wellness. Cami appreciates the solidified experience BYU's Exercise and Wellness program gave her in various fields.

Cami and hub.jpg

The Barney family currently resides in Tulsa, OK, where her husband is finishing up his residency at Oklahoma State University Medical, and Cami works as a Registered Nurse. Cami has interests in the ER, PACU, dermatology center, and now in post-surgery recovery. She enjoys the flexibility of her job, “I’ve always worked around my son and husband’s schedule, I can work as much or as little as I want, depending on my situation.” Cami works one twelve-hour shift per week in the post-surgery recovery room, where her husband brings her his patients for post-anesthesia recovery. After her shift, she returns home and continues mom duties, making dinner, and spending time with her three-year-old son.

Keilah Martinez

Provo, UT

by Rebecca Sainsbury

Keilah Martinez.PNG

Keilah Martinez graduated from BYU in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Health and Wellness, and in 2016 with her Master’s in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Health Promotion. Keilah currently works as Program Manager for EXOS at a local call center. Managing a fitness center involves teaching group exercise classes, personal training, and helping people workout. Aside from these responsibilities, Keilah also organizes health and wellness promotion, the design of future fitness programs, and covers EXOS billing and financial accountabilities..

One of Keilah’s favorite BYU memories is teaching university volleyball classes as a Master’s student. Her advice for those looking for jobs in corporate wellness is to get hands on experience. Experience teaching fitness classes is almost always required on job applications in the wellness field, so she recommends creating your own experience opportunities. “Getting experience” could be as simple as casually teaching a free fitness class in the community, or to a group of friends. These types of experiences will help you get your foot in professional doors.

Keilah Martinez.jpg

Getting a full-time job can be a huge stress post-graduation; however, Keilah felt that her Y B Fit internship prepared her well for future employment. There, she spent over two and a half years, learning many notable skills that have followed her into her current position; specifically, the ability to pay attention to financial detail, and working with individuals. Her ability to notice detail taught her to be aware of a company’s monthly finances, while organizing and working with spreadsheets. The individual aspect of corporate wellness is Keilah’s favorite part of her career. She has always enjoyed working one on one with people, and has learned to ask questions about health in a way that lets her clients open up emotionally, which allows her to better serve them physically. Y B Fit provided her with experience that prepared a marketable resume for a full-time job.

Keilah's job at EXOS is a perfect fit for her love of personal interaction with clients, and also enables her to enjoy an active lifestyle throughout the work day.

Exercising Compassion Through Science

Provo, UT

by Jun Son

jun 1.png

Brigham Young University, PhD student, S. Jun Son, picked up his first badminton racket at just eleven years old in Mungyeong City, South Korea. His badminton career continued through high school, but the birdie wasn’t the only thing capturing Jun’s attention. He was always conscious of injuries that hindered his team’s success, as well as the lack of care that was available to high school student athletes. The compassion Jun felt for his team was the beginning of a character full of lifelong service, and helping others to completely recover from and prevent sports-related injury.

After discharge from the Republic of Korean Army in 2006, Jun served as a physical education teacher from 2006-2008 at a private sports institute and public elementary school (after-school programs) prior to coming to the United States in 2008 where Jun earned a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from University of Texas at Austin. He gained various clinical experiences serving as a student athletic trainer for UT Athletic teams including football, volleyball, soccer, softball and track & field, shadowing sports medicine doctors at the university hospital, St. David’s medical center and Texas Sports & Family Medicine, and interning as a student athletic trainer in the high school.

In 2012, Jun began the master’s program in Athletic Training at Brigham Young University, where he has found great success at research. Upon arrival, not only did he serve as an athletic trainer for the BYU track & field team and Spirit Squad, but also immediately began research on experimental knee pain and chronic ankle instability studies under the direction of Dr. Ty Hopkins—BYU professor and renowned expert in joint injury and rehabilitation. The results of his Master’s thesis have been published in Sport Sciences or Rehabilitation Journals including Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (10.1111/sms.12539) and Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (10.1016/j.apmr.2016.05.022). “Jun is a problem solver, time efficient, confident, creative, has ingenuity, and no one works harder—he’s more like faculty than a student,” his advisor, Dr. Ty Hopkins remarks.

Jun continues to work on his PhD degree under the direction of Dr. Ty Hopkins. His recent study entails finding an answer as to why repeated ankle sprain is so common. In the ankle sprain coper landing study, Jun used ankle sprain copers, who have a history of ankle sprains but do not show chronic residual symptoms, as a new comparison group since most chronic ankle instability research has used uninjured healthy controls as a comparison group to chronic ankle instability patients. The results were recently published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (10.1249/MSS.0000000000001255).

Jun is currently working on his dissertation research project entitled “Clinical Predictors of Movement Patterns in Patients with Chronic Ankle Instability”. This study leverages Dr. Hopkins’ previous study in movement strategies during landing. “Interventions have been designed based on the existing literature on risk factors of chronic ankle instability, which appeared to be effective in some patients, but not all. Contradictory outcomes in current chronic ankle instability research reminded me to think a different way that a chronic ankle instability population or this injured group that at first seems homogenous, there are probably subgroups of patients who different from each other depending on each patient’s injury-associated deficits and injury status; however, researchers consider this injured population as a homogenous group, so that the studies are not individualized and not deficit-oriented when screen patients with chronic ankle instability. Therefore, these patients are treated by clinicians the same, which is not targeted for each patient’s deficits.” says Jun.

Jun, his advisor, Dr. Ty Hopkins, and other collaborators (Dr. Matt Seeley, Dr. Hyunsoo Kim, Dr. Shane Reese - Statistician, and Dr. Garritt Page - Statistician) have recently created six subgroups of chronic ankle instability based on each patient’s movement patterns during landing and walking. Jun’s dissertation work continues to examine whether defined six movement pattern subgroups of this injured population can be predicted by clinical tests (ie, dorsiflexion angle, static/dynamic balance, muscular strength, figure 8 hop test, and arch height) that are commonly used by clinicians in clinical settings. The results from this particular ankle study are expected to be implemented into the clinical setting within the next three years to help clinicians analyze landing patterns without biomechanical tools (ie, force plate, high-speed video cameras, etc.) in a clinical setting whether a particular patient may have risk of ankle sprain injury during landing. Final results will be released this summer, shortly before Jun graduates with his PhD in August.

Meanwhile, two chronic ankle instability studies (ie, 6-week neuromuscular training and functional walking patterns) and two knee pain studies (ie, bilateral joint loading with unilateral knee pain and landing energetics associated with trunk motion) are to be presented early this summer at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis (OARSI), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), and International Ankle Symposium (IAS) annual meeting. Importantly, 11 BYU undergraduate students who were assisting with these research projects will present the results as a lead-author at the ACSM annual meeting in Denver. More importantly, Jordan Read who is majoring in Athletic Training and an undergraduate research assistant over 3 years, has been selected as an Undergraduate Poster Award Finalist at the NATA annual meeting in Houston from the Patellofemoral Pain study ( and

Clearly, the well-being of others is priority for Jun, which is why he hasn’t forgotten the struggles of his high school badminton team. His compassion for teams and individuals with limitations has kept him concerned, especially for the special needs of high school student athletes in South Korea, and further, all people who suffer repeated ankle sprains. His goal is to return and help those who want to improve treatment outcomes in chronic ankle instability patients in South Korea. “When I help other people in community outdoor events through volunteer activity, I am really thankful that I can have an opportunity to serve myself for helping and caring others” he says. Until his return to South Korea, Jun plans to continue learning more through his research in the United States, and volunteering in his community at outdoor events including Utah Special Olympics, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, etc.