Tolliver wearing the University of Pittsburgh Department of Orthopaedic Surgery's white coat at her clinical internship
I found out about the Sports Medicine program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) through personal research. I am originally from Maryland and wanted to go to a graduate school that wasn’t too far from home. Having my background in exercise science, I was interested in continuing my education further into similar realms of this field. I looked at many of the schools neighboring Maryland with programs ranging from Kinesiology, Clinical Exercise Science, Sports Science and even Health Education.
During this research, I stumbled across the Sports Medicine and Sports Science programs at SHRS. I wasn’t familiar with the school or even the study of sports medicine. So, I dug a bit deeper and soon found out how prestigious the University of Pittsburgh is for medicine, specifically through its close affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Due to leaders such as the late Dr. Freddie Fu, Pittsburgh is also the pioneer for much of the research that we see today for sports injuries, especially in the knee. I felt that Pittsburgh would open those doors to opportunities and networks that I could learn from.
What also sets the Sports Medicine program apart from all others? Its rapport with global experts in the field and access to state-of-the-art human performance technology as found at the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory (NMRL). Each faculty member, such as Dr. Mary Murray and Dr. Katelyn Allison, shows genuine care for their students and makes themselves available for further conversations and questions. I especially enjoy the hands-on aspects of our curriculum as it allows us to practice lecture materials and get an even better understanding.
Other schools just couldn’t offer me this kind of opportunity or the ability to work side-by-side with these kinds of experts, clinicians and technology. I ended up choosing Sports Medicine over Sports Science as I hoped to engage in this clinically-based work.
Sasha Tolliver (front row, second from left) with her Sports Medicine class outside the classroom.
Internships and Experiential Opportunities
I am currently completing a clinical internship with Dr. Volker Musahl who is the clinical director of Sports Medicine at the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Complex and a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon. With this internship, I have the opportunity to shadow Dr. Musahl and his colleagues. Through my time there I have had exposure to many opportunities including: experiencing a day in the life of a sports medicine physician; interacting with medical school students, residents and fellows; getting the opportunity to be present in both the operating room and in the clinic; and completing outside research on things that may be unfamiliar to me!
I was also awarded one of the Sports Medicine program Experiential Opportunities tuition scholarships. In this role, I am the Community Engagement Fellow at the SHRS Wellness Pavilion in the underserved community of Homewood just outside of downtown Pittsburgh. This position is the first of its kind, coming into existence from my initial collaboration with the Sports Medicine program leadership during my application interview process. I have a passion for community betterment along with the desire to collaborate among experts and the community, so the position was instated by the program.
I am in charge of developing the roles of future Community Engagement Fellows, keeping in mind the experiences that I hoped to gain while also considering those who may take on the position after me. Just as I do now, future Community Engagement Fellows will have the responsibility of listening to the community’s needs and bridging the gap between the SHRS leadership and community members. This position is offered each year and future students can apply for this experiential position in their upcoming application!
Ford (center) and Tolliver (front, right) with Dance and Be Fit Program participants at the Wellness Pavilion in Homewood.
One of those programs that I help facilitate is Dance and Be Fit. This is a community organization led by Roland Ford, a passionate and committed champion of health and wellness. Dance and Be Fit provides instructor-led dance sessions free of charge to community members of all ages. It has partnered with nearly 100 different community organizations in the Pittsburgh area and beyond.
At the Wellness Pavilion, we began our partnership with Dance and Be Fit by hosting special events and providing holiday-themed dance sessions to community members. The response was incredible, resulting in us bringing Ford in on a weekly basis. We found that community members truly enjoyed Ford's engagement, method of teaching and the fun of it all!
Based on feedback from Ford, we began to incorporate other SHRS programs for student-led activities. We partner with Pitt Nutrition for healthy post-activity snack demonstrations and with Sports Medicine to show proper stretching techniques post-activity.
Dance and Be Fit Program participants at the Wellness Pavilion in Homewood
The Program is What You Make It
In the Pitt Sports Medicine program, I have had the ability to create lasting networks with faculty members and university experts who understand my passions. They have assisted me in finding real-world experiences that bolster my credentials to be successful in my future goals.
Being engaged in class, volunteering outside of the classroom, seeking out internships and allowing yourself to be in new and potentially uncomfortable spaces--these are the ways that you truly learn and get the most out of your education. Everything starts in the classroom, but it really takes effort on the student’s part to fully absorb the knowledge and benefit from the opportunities available to us to make our short time in Pittsburgh truly worth it.
Applications for the 2023-2024 Wellness Pavilion Community Engagement Fellow and Hillman Cancer Center Exercise Specialist experiential positions have been extended! Please contact Mary Murray for details on the positions and applying to the program before the March 15 deadline.
Be sure to read part one of our Sports Medicine series and stay tuned for part three that will include a blog on student Jamie Flynn and how the program and Experiential Opportunities is her reach her goals.
Sasha Tolliver (MS ‘23)
Current Student in the Sports Medicine program
Published February 24, 2023