Zero to sixty in five seconds is fast. But what about zero to sixty majors in the span of just five years? The Sports Medicine and Exercise Science program started just over five short years ago, and it has quickly accelerated into becoming one of the college’s fastest growing majors.
This is largely due to its dedicated and somewhat non-traditional faculty (think Apollo Space Program). The students in this major are led by two uniquely capable individuals, Dr. Don Berryhill and Dr. Mark Belcher, affectionately known by their students as “Dr. B” and “Dr. M.”
Dr. Don Berryhill had already retired twice before accepting his position as Chair of the Belhaven Sports Medicine and Exercise Science program in 2003. His years in the fields of Sports Medicine and Exercise Science have offered a range of incredible experiences and rich opportunities for working with outstanding individuals in both fields. Aside from teaching on the faculty at two well-known medical schools, he has had the privilege of working as the Associate Director of Sports Medicine at the Olympic Training Center. He also played a unique role for NASA in the legendary Apollo Space Program. His internationally recognized work for NASA utilized both mathematics and physics to design fitness programs for zero gravity conditions, which had not been faced prior to the Apollo program. At Belhaven, Dr. Berryhill has enjoyed seeing the program grow from 4 students in the major in 2003 to 64 in the fall of 2008.
If Dr. Berryhill is the rock that the program was built upon, then Dr. Mark Belcher would have to be the dynamite that has expedited the building process. Dr. Belcher, a licensed Physical Therapist (PT), arrived in 2005 with a zeal for injury care and prevention that is contagious. His previous experience includes owning and operating his own PT clinic for 25 years, serving on the faculty for several Mississippi PT programs—and building a castle in Louisiana (ask him about it). Dr. Berryhill had this to say about Dr. Belcher’s influence on the program: “The addition of Dr. Belcher to our faculty has propelled the major to a new level of preparation, primarily in Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, and Biomechanics.” Dr. Belcher has added several key components to the program, one of which is the establishment of an Outpatient Teaching Clinic, where students can watch and learn from Dr. Belcher’s tremendous experience.
The program has come a long way from two stethoscopes, one scale, and one spirometer. Today, there are two labs filled with cutting-edge equipment that can measure cardiovascular health and provide injury care and prevention techniques. The Cardiopulmonary lab provides the capabilities for performing graded exercise testing, pulmonary efficiency testing, and metabolic testing. The Injury Care and Prevention and Kinesiology lab houses state of the art equipment for assessing biomechanical effectiveness and movement, as well as assessing and managing injuries.
The program’s future looks bright, and if the dynamic duo of “Dr. B” and “Dr. M” keep up their energetic pace and love for teaching, they will continue to attract the right students. As Dr. Belcher stated, “We are about making our students marketable. Our coursework is as tough as any college in the South, and our students graduate with four or five times the clinical hours that students from other universities are required to gain.”
In spite of the difficult coursework and intense clinical hours, students appreciate the strong foundation that is being laid for their future. Demetrius Simmons, a senior Sports Medicine major who plans to attend medical school, says that the Sports Medicine program was a key factor in his decision to transfer to Belhaven last year: “The rigorous program has really prepared me for what medical school entails, and Dr. Berryhill has taken the time to help me get ready for what’s ahead. The clinical hours have given me an opportunity to work in a variety of settings and to see the multiple sides of medicine, whether it’s orthopedic surgery, cardiology, or emergency medicine. This experience has been intense, but it has really tied things together for me.”
This program’s success has only just begun, and with the rising need for healthcare, the future opportunities for students like Demetrius Simmons should be abundant. The future is looking bright—and busy for these professors. With upwards of 130 inquiries from interested prospective students for next fall already, Dr. “B” and Dr. “M” are going to keep doing what they do best—spreading their passion for health, fitness, and well-being.
Belhaven College Sports Medicine FACTS
• Every student in the major has amassed over 200 clinical hours prior to graduation.
• Strong working relationships with the 4 major hospitals in the area, along with over 15 Physical Therapy centers, retirement homes, Occupational Therapy centers equals more opportunities.
• Outpatient teaching clinic gives students a rare opportunity to learn from a professor in real-life consultations.
• Alumni are enrolled in graduate schools across 4 states.
• Breakdown of Majors:
60% pursue Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy
30% pursue Medicine/Nursing/Exercise Physiology/Biomechanics
10% pursue Athletic Training/Strength and Conditioning/Personal Training
• Belhaven students, by invitation, participate in the only nationally funded “Gait Analysis” research project