Exercise science student aspires to help veterans through physical therapy

KathleenMae Rogers shares her enthusiasm about pursuing a career in physical therapy and how her time in the Marine Corps led her to KUEC’s exercise science program.

Image of KathleenMae Rodgers and her dog, with the text KathleenMae Rogers, Exercise Science honors student, pursuing a career in physical therapy

Exercise science is a rapidly growing field that combines elements of biological, physical, and health sciences to study human movement. The exercise science program at KU Edwards Campus prepares students to pursue careers in physical therapy, nursing, occupational therapy, chiropractic, health care, or medicine. KathleenMae Rogers, an honors student in the exercise science program at KUEC, hopes to use her degree to travel the world and help people through physical therapy.

Rogers previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years as an artillery maintenance technician. She worked extensively with physical therapists after her time in the armed forces, which inspired her interest in exercise science. She hopes to use her degree to help others in the same way.

“As I’ve been in school, I’ve been able to explore so many different ideas,” Rogers said. “I want to travel the world and help people through physical therapy. There’s so much more I can learn to better people’s lives in the long run.”

Her interest in research led her to assist with VO2 max tests and ultrasound imaging acquisition and analysis in the sports medicine program at the KU Health System. In addition to participating in ongoing research projects, Rogers conducts her own research. Her research focuses on blood flow restriction during resistance exercise to evaluate the effect on muscle swelling and fluid shifts in females. Though Rogers admits that the research has been challenging and takes a lot of work, she feels passionate about it. She credits Ashley Herda, assistant professor in the KUEC exercise science program, for helping her get her foot in the door.

“I really like the instructors and the fact that we have a lab to do research in,” Rogers said. “Dr. Herda has really helped me experience what research is like.”

Rogers has no desire to stop learning anytime soon. She recently completed the emergency medical responder course at Johnson County Community College and plans to enroll in an emergency medical technician course after she graduates.

After completing her bachelor’s, Rogers’ goal is to pursue a dual physical therapy and doctorate program so she can explore the relationship between PTSD and exercise. Her interest in the mental aspect of PTSD led her to pursue a minor in psychology. Since she and many of her fellow veterans suffer from PTSD, Rogers knows firsthand how challenging it can be to overcome. 

“A lot of veterans feel the same things, but no one wants to talk about it,” Rogers said. “I’m interested in researching how PTSD affects the body and how to get past the fear aspect of it with exercise.”

Rogers’ service animal, Chibs, offers additional support for her PTSD. Named after the “Sons of Anarchy” character, Chibs is a certified therapy dog that accompanies Rogers to all of her KUEC classes. At an event during finals week last semester, Chibs acted as the KUEC campus therapy dog for any students who wanted to pet her. Rogers hopes to participate in a similar event this semester. 

“Now that we’re moving past the pandemic, I’m seeing more people attending classes in person,” Rogers says. “A lot of nontraditional students do classes online, but it’s great to be on campus and get the chance to talk with the professors.”

Learn more about our undergraduate exercise science programs.  

Learn more about the Exercise Science and Strength and Conditioning program

Download the program guide

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