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Dana Risher’s Path from Paramedic to Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Dana Risher has become comfortable caring for the human body after serving as a paramedic for 20 years. However, working 24-hour shifts has made it increasingly difficult for her to continue providing care for her family in their home state of California, so she decided to take the next step in her career.

Dana earned her bachelor’s degree in kinesiological sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the late 90s, and then obtained her certification in sports massage therapy and therapeutic massage. Although she enjoyed her volunteer work providing therapy to Olympic-level cyclers and swimmers, she wanted to take her talents elsewhere. Dana decided to follow her family’s history in emergency medical services and become a paramedic. Now, she has her sights set on becoming a clinical exercise physiologist.

After her graduation from Logan’s Master of Science in Sports Science & Rehabilitation (MS-SSR) program this April, Dana will pursue her clinical exercise physiologist certification with the goal of working in cardiac rehabilitation. This certification requires her to serve as an exercise physiologist for one year. She’ll then be able to work in a clinical setting such as a hospital or medical facility, helping rehabilitate patients who have been through heart surgery, a heart attack or other cardiac episode. She said this role combines her kinesiology and paramedic backgrounds as well as the content she’s learning in the MS-SSR program.

“Moving from emergency care to the clinical aspect of exercise prescription will be a challenge—one that I’m excited to take on,” Dana said. “In emergency care, I’m stabilizing patients, dealing with immediate injuries and prescribing medications. With rehab, I want to be on the opposite side helping patients recover and follow through on their care plans after an injury or illness.”

Dana is currently completing her internship at Total Motion Sports Therapy in Fountain Valley, California. She’s learning therapies, conducting muscle testing to determine patient injuries, prescribing home exercises and showing patients how to conduct them, watching patients progress, and more.

“The owner of Total Motion, Jake Gilbert, graduated from Logan’s sports science and rehab program,” Dana said. “I found the clinic at random when searching online, and it’s been a great learning experience because he understands exactly what I’m going through.”

Before enrolling in the fully online MS-SSR program, she assumed she would have to figure everything out on her own. But this has not been the case at Logan. She said her instructors and academic success coach have been helpful and responsive, providing feedback that’s allowed her to better understand and enjoy the coursework.

When she is not working toward her degree, Dana teaches anatomy and physiology to EMT students in California and the American Heart Association certification to nurses and doctors.