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School of Music | Music with an Outside Field | Physical Therapy
College athletes aren’t strangers to physical therapy. Injuries need to be prevented or treated when they occur. But Ellie Phillips-Burdge wasn’t an athlete when she developed an overuse injury and sought out PT; she was a dedicated piano student at Ithaca College.
The treatment she received sparked her interest in physical therapy, and Ellie took on exercise science as part of her bachelor of music with an outside field program. At the time, the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance had just begun offering a class and summer workshop that focused on preventing injuries in musicians.
“I was able to recognize a lot of parallels between elite athletes and professional musicians,” Ellie says.
She quickly went about combining her two passions. During her senior year, Ellie presented an independent study on the effects movement, stretch, and relaxation techniques have on musical performers.
“It was a great opportunity for me to showcase the direction I was going in to combine these different worlds,” Ellie says.
A decade after graduating with her degree in music, Ellie came back to Ithaca to get a master’s degree in physical therapy to better blend the disciplines. Now she’s growing her own business, providing physical therapy for performing artists, musical education for disabled individuals, and traditional, stand-alone services in both music education and physical therapy.
Ellie admits music and PT is an uncommon combo, but says musicians and the general public alike are becoming familiar with the emerging field of performing arts medicine. This is certainly the case at Ithaca College, which now has dedicated lab space and a nearly 20-year history of working with performance artists to treat and prevent injuries.
“I think it is something unique the college offers compared to other institutions,” she says.
>> More on this story: School of Health Sciences and Human Performance
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance | Exercise Science
“My job is pretty cool, especially on those days when I get to fly in an F-18.” For Pat Dougherty, those flights are the culmination of years of study that started at Ithaca College.
The exercise science graduate had always played sports, but his professors turned him on to running studies, which he immediately found himself drawn to. “I was curious about how the body worked and exercise physiology is a lot about running at its core. If I was going to study it, I might as well do a lot of it. So that’s when I started running marathons and since then I’ve switched to triathlons.”
Pat’s passion for exercise science led him to pursue his master’s degree and later his doctorate, but that’s where things took a turn. “I realized an academic career wasn’t for me. I wanted something a little more exciting, so I applied and was eventually commissioned as a lieutenant in the Naval aerospace physiology program in 2009.”
Now Pat spends his days providing training for anyone in the service who might be involved in flying. The physiological threats a member of a flight crew can be exposed to include hypoxia, which is a special disorientation that occurs when there isn’t enough blood flow to the brain. This happens sometimes in flights that reach multiple g-forces, and it can have catastrophic results. One of the tools Pat has at his disposal is the only “high-G” human centrifuge in the U.S. Navy, which spins its subjects under multiple g-forces to mimic the sensations hypoxia may bring.
“It’s like a wicked carnival ride. There’s a big motor in the center, and we spin them around in this room, which exposes them to increased accelerations like they would feel in the air. I’ve gone through it a few times, so I can safely say that it’s pretty intense.”
Come February, Pat will move to Corpus Christi, where he will become an air medical safety officer. It’s another challenge he feels completely ready for. “I haven’t taken the most linear path since I left Ithaca, but everything I learned on South Hill has helped push me to the next level of my career.”
>> More on this story: Watch a video of pilot training in the human centrifuge
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