So, you think you want to explore a career in a health profession, but you don’t know where to start or even what’s available?

The health professions field offers many different occupational opportunities to students. Depending on your interests, a health professions degree can allow you to pursue a career where you can work with patients in a hands-on setting, assist medical professionals, or work in a laboratory environment.

Students in health professions programs take a variety of classes that focus on their area of study. Almost any major in these fields can expect to take classes in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, psychology, medical terminology, health care systems, public health and medical law and ethics.

You might be interested in working toward a more advanced degree such medicine, pharmacy or dentistry. Many health professions programs offer exceptional preparatory courses and are an excellent pathway to these advanced degrees.

We’re celebrating National Health Professions this week at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, and we’ll be sharing some of our students’ experiences and advice.

Several students from some of our health professions programs offer a glimpse into their experiences by sharing what they like most about the program and what they hope to accomplish through their chosen profession.

Why did you choose this program? Is there an experience you’ve had that made you realize you want to choose this profession?

Lucas Viglianco, Physical Therapy
St. Albans, West Virginia

“I fell in love with physical therapy after my older sister, who was on the rowing team at WVU, injured her back during my junior year of college. I was studying exercise physiology at the time, but was still unsure of what I wanted to do with my degree. Because of her injury, my sister had to perform physical therapy, and she had such an outstanding experience with her therapist that she recommended I go there to observe to see if physical therapy would be a career I would be interested in pursuing. I took her advice and met Dr. Justin Deskovich, a former graduate of WVU’s program, who became my professional mentor and ignited a passion in me for learning about human movement. Ultimately, I found physical therapy to be the perfect blend of all the things I enjoyed most—analytical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal interaction, learning about human movement, and promoting health and wellness.”

Andria Ormsby, Occupational Therapy
Clarkston, Michigan

“I've always loved working with people with disabilities, and I wanted to transfer this into a career. Occupational therapy gave me the chance to do this in ways that I didn't know even existed.”

Emily Mulholland, Immunology and Medical Microbiology
Hedgesville, West Virginia

“I chose this program because the unseen world of microorganisms has such a huge impact on every aspect of life and the continuing evolution of the world. The Immunology and Medical Microbiology program is an extremely unique program that intertwines the understanding of microbes and their effect on bodily function with how the immune system responds when presented with an outside invader, and I find that fascinating. What made me realize I wanted to do this major stemmed from my general desire to contribute to the constant fight against disease and finding new and innovative ways to combat illness in the world.”

Haley Craig, Exercise Physiology
Shady Spring, West Virginia

“Exercise physiology is a less traditional route to medical school with classes far more diverse than other programs’ because they are applicable to everyday life. Having classes like anatomy, kinesiology and multiple physiology courses will help build a strong educational foundation for medical school. Having the perspective of preventative medicine through healthy living and appropriate exercise can provide insight that will be beneficial for my future patient care that other providers may lack in their practice. In addition, the Exercise Physiology program internships available during senior year give us the opportunity to work alongside a physician or researcher to get hands-on patient experience prior to entering medical school.”

Nicholas McCardle, Health Informatics and Information Management
Pine Grove, West Virginia

“I have always had an interest in the health sciences as well as business and law. Because of this, I found myself changing majors and switching around quite often. When I heard about this program, it was described as the perfect combination of all of my interests. I’m so glad that WVU is now offering such a degree, because I know that there are plenty of other students like me that have struggled to find the right major.”

Why did you choose WVU?

Lucas Viglianco, Physical Therapy

I chose WVU because I am a native of West Virginia, and I have a strong sense of loyalty to this state. I grew up in a family full of Mountaineer fans, so we made frequent trips to Morgantown to attend WVU sporting events all throughout my childhood. As a result, Morgantown has always felt like a second home to me. When it came time to choose a university to go to, I had no question where I wanted to go. During my undergraduate studies at WVU, I had such a great experience that I knew I wanted to remain in Morgantown to pursue my doctoral degree. In addition, I knew that WVU had a very highly regarded Physical Therapy program, so it was a perfect fit.”

Andria Ormsby, Occupational Therapy

“I chose WVU because of the Occupational Therapy program as well as the fact that I am a member of the WVU marching band.”

Emily Mulholland, Immunology and Medical Microbiology

“I chose WVU for countless reasons, but the one that really sold me is the aspect of having a WVU family and the opportunities you have by attending WVU. Here at such a massive university, it is easy to think that you will feel lost, when in reality, you’re constantly surrounded by peers, faculty and mentors who are on your team and are always there to make sure that you have access to everything you need to be truly successful.”

Haley Craig, Exercise Physiology

“Aside from choosing WVU for the Exercise Physiology program, WVU was the best in-state institution to prepare me for medical school, having countless opportunities for research, study abroad trips, scholarships, student organizations and other extracurricular activities. These features contribute to making my time at WVU so unique and unforgettable. Even with over 30,000 students, WVU has a small-town feeling because the community and school spirit are unlike any other!”

Nicholas McCardle, Health Informatics and Information Management

“It feels like home. I grew up a little over an hour away from Morgantown. My parents took me to several Mountaineer basketball games (and a few football games as well) when I was younger. I first toured campus when I attended the Health Sciences Seminar in junior high, and from that moment on I knew that this was where I belonged.”

What is your favorite thing about your program that you can share with prospective students?

Lucas Viglianco, Physical Therapy

“To me, physical therapy is the best profession in the world. I love getting the opportunity to spend my day helping others improve their quality of life through improving their movement. It is extremely rewarding to serve as a guide to people along their journey to reclaim the ability to do whatever it is that they are currently limited in doing because of pain or injury. Specifically, my favorite part of WVU’s physical therapy program is how interactive the learning is. Physical therapy is a very active, hands-on profession, and as such, the educational experience at WVU reflects this.”

Andria Ormsby, Occupational Therapy

“I love how close all of us are with each other and our professors. The hands-on learning and labs are also an awesome bonus that I feel really prepares us for our clinical rotations.”

Emily Mulholland, Immunology and Medical Microbiology

“My favorite thing about the IMMB program is most definitely how hands-on the learning is. As a kinesthetic learner, I gain the most understanding of a subject when I am actually performing the task. The IMMB program revolves around fascinating work in the lab and being able to learn through doing experiments. Being able to grow microorganisms on plates in microbiology and creating cell assays, and watching the cells work in real time under microscopes in immunology really brings what you learn in lecture to life and creates true conceptual understanding of a subject.”

Haley Craig, Exercise Physiology

“Exercise Physiology is a diverse program that prepares students for a wide array of professional health careers and programs. The curriculum concentrates on the human body and prepares students to work in the medical field in ways that other programs may not. The academic content applies to your life now, making learning more interesting, application more effective, while deeply engraining the principles into daily life and health. The faculty of the Exercise Physiology program are passionate about our program and genuinely want their students to be successful in their learning and in their future endeavors. I have received tremendous amounts of support and encouragement from my advisor and professors. They have encouraged me to meet and exceed the expectations I have set for myself when I entered the program.”

Nicholas McCardle, Health Informatics and Information Management

“My favorite part about our program is all of the personal and hands-on experiences that we get. Right now, we are working with V Lab, which is a software that simulates multiple applications used in the workplace by HIIM professionals. We also have Professional Practice Experience Courses, which allow us to go to various healthcare settings to work and gain experience as well. WVU Medicine’s HIM Department just asked us this past week to volunteer on an upcoming medical records warehouse project in Wheeling, W.Va. Our students also attend the WVHIMA Retreats and Annual Conventions. These events are filled with guest speakers on various topics, and they are great opportunities for networking since professionals from all around the state (and even the country) are there. I also love that HIIM is an area of study with infinite possibility. There are multiple areas and careers to specialize in such as coding, release of information, compliance, privacy, data integrity, IT and informatics, just to name a few. You are certainly not confined to working in a HIM department either, because the opportunities you have are endless!”

What are you hoping to do after you graduate?

Lucas Viglianco, Physical Therapy

“Following graduation, my goal is to complete an orthopedic residency and then work toward becoming a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. Eventually, I want to open my own outpatient practice that offers services not only for those seeking rehabilitation from injury, but also for those who want to improve any aspects of their fitness, sports performance, or overall health and wellness.”

Andria Ormsby, Occupational Therapy

“I would love to do some traveling occupational therapy for a little while after graduation so I can see more of the world and really find my niche in occupational therapy. Right now, I have so many interests that picking just one right after graduation would be a real challenge.”

Emily Mulholland, Immunology and Medical Microbiology

“After I graduate I am hoping to attend WVU’s Dental Program and become a dentist in the United States Air Force.”

Haley Craig, Exercise Physiology

“I plan to attend medical school, hoping to specialize in surgery. I have not decided where I want to attend medical school, but I still have a semester left to make that decision. Of course, I do plan to apply to WVU’s MD Program!”

Nicholas McCardle, Health Informatics and Information Management

“Upon graduation, I plan to sit for the exams for my Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) and Coding Certifications. As far as continuing my education goes, I am considering pursuing a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration or possibly getting my BSN and MSN. Whatever I decide, I will be using it to build on my HIIM degree.”