Erin Smith, M.S. in High Altitude Exercise Physiology (HAEP) '17, came to Western after 12 years at a lucrative position with Trek Bikes. Now, she works as a researcher and lecturer in Western’s Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) department and leads the Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) Wellness, Elevated program.
“It was risky … but I wanted to teach,” Smith said about going back to school. “Enrolling in the HAEP program was what I had to do to get there.”
As a graduate student, Smith dove deep into the many research and teaching opportunities presented in the HAEP program, including lecturing in undergraduate classes and around the community.
“Erin exemplified the ideal student in her drive and sense of adventure,” said Christina Buchanan, Ph.D., Smith’s former professor and current colleague. “Not only did she work incredibly hard as a student but she was also very curious and willing to take on new challenges.”
Smith has researched, published and presented on a host of topics in the field of exercise, including a pilot study on a procedure known as ischemic preconditioning, which can reduce symptoms of altitude sickness if performed before ascending to high elevations.
Beyond any single topic, Smith finds tremendous fulfillment working in a field that is related to so many deaths and illnesses.
“The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, and the most impactful way to combat heart disease is exercise,” Smith said. “Having an education in exercise physiology allows me to make the biggest difference in people’s health and lives.”