James Madison University

Alumni Highlight - Courtney Connors


Bachelor of Science, Kinesiology (Exercise Science), Class of 2013 JMU
Master of Science, Kinesiology (Clinical Exercise Physiology), Class of 2014 JMU

PHOTO: Courtney Connors

Undergraduate Internship in Health Promotion

I completed my undergraduate internship at The Morrison-Bruce Center in the Kinesiology department at JMU. This was a great experience because I was able to participate in the planning and development of various lifestyle and wellness programs for both children and adults. At The Morrison-Bruce Center, I was the head committee member for the Healthy Kids program. I was in charge of scheduling, planning, organizing, and implementing this program at JMU in order to emphasize the importance of physical activity and nutrition. This gave me a lot of experience in ensuring program efficiency and coordinating team members' efforts, which has really helped me with my wellness program development at UVA. I was also a member of the Alumnae Health & Fitness Program. I assisted in assessments of alumnae's physical fitness, cardiovascular health, and bone health, analyzed blood samples to obtain total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels, and designed nutrition and exercise programs to aid in their physical improvement. These hands-on experiences gave me a valuable practice and better prepared me for a career in cardiovascular healthcare. I was able to see many important cardiovascular tests first-hand and was also able to practice forming individualized nutrition and exercise plans for patients, which is something that I utilize in my job at UVA every day.

Graduate Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology & Employment

Once I graduated from my undergraduate program, I started graduate school at JMU and became a double duke. I finished my M.S. in Kinesiology/Clinical Exercise Physiology the following year and graduated in December of 2014. I accepted a job offer at The University of Virginia and moved to Charlottesville, VA to start my job in January 2015. I am currently a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in The Heart and Vascular Center's Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Wellness Department at UVA. Over the past year I've been working with cardiac rehab patients and planning and implementing individualized exercise programs for patients recovering from procedures such as CABGs, AVRs, MVRs, STEMIs, stents, and NSTEMIs during telemetry-monitored cardiac rehabilitation sessions. I instruct strength and conditioning rehabilitation exercises for patients, perform initial submaximal exercise evaluations, monitor ECG telemetry rhythms during sessions, and teach weekly patient education classes utilizing a wellness approach for patients. Since I started working at UVA, I also co-founded the Heart & Vascular Center's Lifestyle Wellness Program with a couple of my colleagues. This is a 6 month lifestyle modification program for patients who are at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. It's designed to reduce risk factors for heart attack and stroke, prevent or control diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, promote weight loss, establish sustainable exercise and sleep routines for patients, and reinforce the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease. I am also a co-founder of UVA's Post Myocardial Infarction Clinic. This clinic also focuses on lifestyle modification for patients who have recently experienced a myocardial infarction. Patients meet with a multi-disciplinary team consisting of cardiologists, exercise physiologists, registered dieticians, and pharmacists who help them establish an individuated post-MI care plan to aid in their recovery and work towards preventing any future cardiovascular events and reducing re-admission rates.

I love being part of a movement to promote healthy lifestyle modification for patients who are at risk for cardiovascular disease. This is something I am very passionate about because I think that if the education about healthy diet, exercise, and smoking cessation is available for patients who are at risk, this might help prevent future cardiac events. I work with such amazing patients who are so appreciative of all of the help they receive at UVA. It's a very rewarding experience to be able to see patients progress and overcome obstacles every day. UVA has such a great mission of exceptional patient care that I'm lucky to be a part of and I'm extremely excited about the future of preventative cardiovascular medicine.