BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University senior Cole Garrison, an exercise science major and student-athlete from Clay, Alabama, is headed to the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine — the next milestone on his journey to become a surgeon.
Garrison, an offensive lineman on the Mountaineers football team, is nationally recognized for his scholastic achievements, known for his community service and, this summer, he scored in the top 13% on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Garrison credits much of his academic success to the faculty, resources and research opportunities available to exercise science majors, a discipline he discovered during his recruiting visit to App State.
“Exercise science appealed to me very strongly because I felt that it would focus my studies on learning about the human body and how it works,” Garrison said. He added that the curriculum correlates with what he will need to know in medical school and as a physician.
“App State has invested heavily in the exercise science program by hiring excellent professors, building state-of-the-art facilities and providing access to resources that allow students to excel,” he added.
Referencing the Gross Anatomy/Cadaver Lab found in App State’s Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, Garrison said, “Being able to learn anatomy through hands-on cadaver dissection is not an opportunity available to undergraduate students at all universities. I was also introduced to basic surgical techniques that I hope to use in my future career as a surgeon.”
Garrison is also participating in undergraduate research, collaborating with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and a private software development company to test the clinical efficacy of a new mobile application. The app is intended to assist patients with their post-operative recovery process and to improve communication between the patient and their provider.
Dr. Jennifer Howard, an assistant professor in App State’s Department of Health and Exercise Science who is involved with the study, said though Garrison does not need the class credit, he took on the project because he is “genuinely interested in the research question … and he hopes to be engaged in research during his medical studies and future career.”
She added, “His experience as a student-athlete has given him an excellent perspective to look at our research procedures from the patient’s perspective and consider what’s reasonable and beneficial to the patient and what’s not. This empathy will aid him greatly as a future physician, as will the discipline and focus it has required to take on this project while competing as a Division I athlete.”
Leadership on the field and in the community
Garrison has made a name for himself as a student-athlete as well. He was honored as a first-team member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District football team in 2019. This fall, he was named a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the best football scholar-athlete in the nation for their combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.
On the field, he has played in more than 40 career games and contributed to App State winning four straight Sun Belt Conference championships and four straight postseason bowl games.
“It’s hard to overstate just how much of an impact athletics have had on my Appalachian Experience,” Garrison said. “Football requires a huge commitment of both time and energy. Combining that with a heavy pre-med class load has helped me to learn how to manage my time and discover what things are most important to me so that I can prioritize them.”
Garrison has also contributed to the local community, mentoring children through Western Youth Network and volunteering with Operation Christmas Child, Watauga County Habitat for Humanity and Boone’s F.A.R.M Cafe.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About the Department of Health and Exercise Science
The Department of Health and Exercise Science in Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences delivers student-centered education that is accentuated by quality teaching, scholarly activity and service. The department includes two undergraduate academic disciplines: exercise science and public health. The department also offers two master’s degrees: athletic training, which leads to professional licensure, and exercise science, which prepares students for advanced study in a variety of related fields as well as research. Learn more at https://hes.appstate.edu.
About the Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian's Beaver College of Health Sciences opened in 2010 as the result of a strategic university commitment to significantly enhance the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities in North Carolina and beyond. In 2015, the college was named for an Appalachian alumnus and pioneer in the health care industry — Donald C. Beaver ’62 ’64 of Conover. The college offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health and Exercise Science; Nursing; Nutrition and Health Care Management; Recreation Management and Physical Education; and Social Work. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.