Ellie Pryor has taken advantage of the “unbelievable opportunities” UGA offers, from lab research to club volleyball to volunteering for Special Olympics to study abroad. Her next stop is medical school and she hopes to be a role model to young girls pursuing careers in STEM.
Family ties to UGA:
While several older cousins graduated from UGA, I’m the first in my immediate family to be a Bulldog. My brother played baseball at Wake Forest, so fortunately, I side-stepped sibling rivalry by deciding on the SEC. After cheering on the Demon Deacons for many years, my family surprisingly and quickly became Bulldog fans as I matriculated, and we’ve all been bleeding red and black ever since!
B.S.Ed. Exercise and Sport Science
Minor in Biology
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
When I moved into Creswell Hall four years ago, I had no idea that I was about to embark on the craziest, most rewarding journey. I cannot thank UGA enough for providing me with an abundant amount of opportunities.
One of my favorite experiences in college was the three years I spent working under Kevin McCully in his Non-Invasive Muscle Physiology Lab. We study a vast array of topics, including the mitochondrial capacity and the endurance of muscles, with the end goal of improving muscular function and health in clinical populations. During my time there, I worked on three different projects and presented at five conferences, including the National American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Minneapolis to present my research. I would not have been able to travel if it wasn’t for funding from two CURO Assistantships, the Michael E. Penland Award and the Mary Ella Lunday Soule Undergraduate Scholarship. Last summer, I participated in the CURO Summer Fellowship, studying diurnal variation in the forearm muscles. Last fall, I completed my thesis on the feasibility to use electrical stimulation on the phenic nerve to determine the endurance of the diaphragm, with an end goal to help patients in respiratory distress. I am currently writing for publication, and am also a co-author for another paper under review. I never knew I would love a research lab so much, and I cannot thank the graduate and fellow undergrads enough for some of my favorite memories.
For the past four years, I have played on the UGA women’s club volleyball team, and served as the vice president and captain for the last two years. I’ve been on eight different teams and have traveled all around the Southeast and the nation, including four national tournaments every spring. This semester, my team was nationally ranked for the first time in club volleyball history, and traveled to Denver, Colorado, for the national tournament. Club sports are an amazing way to play the sport you love in a competitive setting while also having the freedom to get involved on other parts of campus.
An amazing organization I joined freshman year was Special Olympics at UGA, of which I am currently serving as president. Special Olympics is a nonprofit and volunteer organization that serves kids and young adults with physical and intellectual disabilities in the Athens-Clarke County area. I served as the special events chair my junior year, where I was able to plan my two favorite events: the prom and baseball game. At each event, UGA athletes pair up with Special Olympics athletes for an amazing night. While Special Olympics is a smaller nonprofit, I get to see every week the impact we make on the Athens community through the work we do and the money we raise – and I am endlessly thankful for the people and the athletes who have been a part of this organization.
The most impactful experiences I had in college that inspired me to apply to medical school was spending six weeks at Emory University in its transplant department. With this internship, I was exposed to a variety of practices, observed surgery and current research, attended weekly lab meetings, grand rounds, and clinical protocol meetings. I even traveled to Macon in the middle of the night to witness an organ procurement, which is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever witnessed.
I had the privilege to travel abroad twice while I was in college. The winter of my sophomore year, I traveled to Cusco, Peru, with MEDLIFE, a nonprofit organization that strives to bring free health care to impoverished communities that lack access to basic health services. As a volunteer, I observed local physicians who were challenged to deliver cost-free care to an impoverished population. I witnessed the effects poverty can have on health and experienced how a small effort from engaged students can make a meaningful impact on a community, even after coming together for one short week.
A favorite from UGA was the Discover Abroad Maymester in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji that I did after my sophomore year. Knowing I was experiencing a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I soaked up every minute of hiking through Mt. Cook National park, star gazing into the galaxies only seen from the Australian Outback, and swimming with sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef. I’ll never forget my stay with the wonderful and generous family in Soso Village in Fiji. I had the opportunity to study sustainability and ecotourism in some of the most beautiful ecosystems in the world, making lifelong friends along the way.
Lastly, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Blue Key National Honors Society, to serve as an Honors Teaching Assistant, work as a copy editor for Stethoscope Magazine, participate in the PAL Mentoring program, and be a member of the Phi Mu Sorority.
I am beyond thankful for my time at UGA and all of the wonderful people that have had such a positive impact on my life.
I chose to attend UGA because …
I always expected to attend college far from home, but little did I know that attending UGA would provide more incredible experiences than I could imagine. The Zell Miller Scholarship, the Charter Scholarship and the Honors Program provide unbelievable opportunities just an hour away from home, and I am forever grateful for this support.
My favorite things to do on campus are …
I am a huge sports fan, and attend any game that I can. I grew up doing gymnastics and playing volleyball, my brother played college baseball, and my dad played college football and basketball – so my love for sports runs deep. While you will undoubtedly find me in Sanford on Saturdays, I love to spend evenings in Stegeman and Foley.
When I have free time, I like …
… to spend time with people I love. That could be with my volleyball team at practice, working out in Ramsey with some classmates, or hanging out with my five roommates in the living room watching some of our favorite shows, which include “Manifest,” “Family Feud” or the Harry Potter marathon that’s running. I also love to bake, and I make a mean carrot cake. I am already dreading leaving the best college town in the nation … and I am soaking up the local food every chance I get. My friends and I are trying to hit every restaurant in Athens before we graduate.
The craziest thing I’ve done is …
… Go bungee jumping! I am terrified of heights, but was convinced to go when 15 friends from my study abroad group decided to go. We bungeed off the very first bungee jump in the world in New Zealand. I was convinced by a little peer pressure and the fact that this site has a 100% safety record. I made sure to tell my parents after I jumped!
My favorite place to study is …
My freshman and sophomore year, you couldn’t find me anywhere else but the third floor of the Science Library. While I was studying for the MCAT my junior year, I hit up about every study spot on campus, and eventually decided that the Main Library is one of my favorite places to be. I also discovered that conference rooms in Ramsey are a great option if I don’t want to head over to main campus.
My favorite professor is …
Kevin McCully has by been the best mentor I could have asked for. After joining his research lab and taking his classes, he has endlessly pushed me as a student, as a researcher, and as a person pursuing a career in medicine. He constantly encourages me to question everything and to pursue my passions with energy and intensity. I have taken both his “Exercise Physiology” class and his “Practicum of Fitness and Conditioning with People with Disabilities,” where he emphasizes the importance of exercise for all populations. As a research mentor, he allows his undergraduates to develop and execute their own projects, which allows us to better understand our own methodology and reasoning when it comes to our own research. When we are not talking about research projects, we spend hours sitting in room 107D of Ramsey discussing a recent published article, random diseases, or just about life, where Dr. McCully provides amazing advice for our future careers. I am endlessly thankful for what he has taught me in and out of the classroom, and for the confidence he instills in me to pursue a career in medicine.
Karl Espelie has been an irreplaceable mentor when it comes to my life as a pre-med student. While I didn’t meet Dr. Espelie until my sophomore year (later than most), and although he constantly reminds me that an exercise and sport science major is not the smartest choice to prepare for the MCAT, every time we talk he gives me support and advice with classes, applications and my journey as a pre-med student. He is endlessly devoted to his students and helping them reach their goals, which is authentically admirable.
Jarrod Call is one of the smartest professors I have had in college, and pushes his students to explore aspects of exercise physiology that I would not have seen without his courses. I took both “Neuromuscular Physiology” and “Skeletal Muscle and Mitochondrial Physiology” from Dr. Call, and both courses were the most fascinating classes I’ve taken at UGA. He exposed me to the intersection of biochemistry, genetics and muscle physiology, which helped me realize where my passion for exercise science and medicine overlap.
Lastly, I took Janet Westpheling’s “Honors Genetics” breakout course. Not only was she a mentor to me as a strong, intelligent woman in the field of science, she taught me how to effectively read and understand complex scientific articles, an invaluable skill as I pursue a career in medicine.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
… Kerri Walsh Jennings. She is one of the most successful beach volleyball players in history and has been one of my role models for years. She won her first gold medal in 2004 and is planning to compete in the 2020 games, with having a few children in between. Professional female athletes have a unique drive to succeed, and I would love to be able to learn more about her story.
If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… increase the prevalence of physical activity! Our bodies are built to move, and when we stop, there can be lasting effects. Statistics show that 25% to 40% of people are inactive, which increases your risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes many more diseases, and all cause death. Every day I learn the importance of exercise on physical and psychological health and well-being. Increasing the number of people who are physically active would revolutionize the health care system, and that starts with a simple decision.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
One of my goals since I was a kid is to visit every Wonder of the World! While that is cliché, I know we must take advantage of seeing the world and exposing ourselves to different cultures as much as we can in one lifetime. I am lucky that I’ve been able to hit a few stops so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to pursue in college, but knew I was eager to learn about the human body, and have always been passionate about exercise and health. Before I arrived to Athens, I had the honor to participate in the Perry Initiative, a program designed to inspire young women to pursue careers in orthopaedic surgery and engineering. It quickly became clear that medicine is a perfect avenue for me to serve the community while doing what I love. As I pursue a medical degree, I hope to be a role model and advocate to young girls pursuing careers in STEM, knowing the Perry Initiative ignited my interests and passion.
After graduation, I plan to …
… attend the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta!
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
… sophomore year when we lit up Sanford during the fourth quarter against Auburn. That is the most electric feeling I’ve ever gotten in Sanford, and it was truly a special moment. We were tied 7-7 going into the fourth, and this was the fullest I’ve ever seen the stadium. We pulled out the win due to two field goals from Rodrigo Blankenship. But lighting up Sanford is just something so mesmerizing and special that it will always go down as one of my favorite traditions at UGA.