Junior balances two sports, two majors and condition that set career goals

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February 20, 2012

Exercise Science and Chemistry student Kaitlin Mahoney has many reasons for her fascination with nutrition and the medical field, but one hits closer to home than the rest. She has hypoglycemia, a condition resulting from low blood sugar that is essentially the opposite of diabetes, she says.

“Hormones are so complex, and a lot of it is based on what you eat,” said the junior athlete from Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., who must pay strict attention to her diet.

Mahoney just finished a January Term internship at the University of Maryland, making the rounds between Shock Trauma and the Infusion Center, where they administer chemotherapy and other treatments. Although she enjoyed learning about oncology, her passion lies with endocrinology, the study of hormones.

Her interest was fueled last summer when she was a counselor at a camp specifically for kids with type 1 diabetes, where she says she “learned a lot about how kids deal with this condition, how it becomes normal for them.”

In the spring, she also is a regular helper with the “Tournament of Champions,” which pairs McDaniel College athletes with nearly 100 students with disabilities for a day of sporting activities.

Exercise Science may not be the typical major for medical school hopefuls, yet Mahoney felt that it would help her apply all of the medical knowledge she was learning in the Chemistry department to real-world situations.

Kaitlyn Mahoney, right, with her younger sisters Karli and Shannon and brother Ryan, a freshman at McDaniel.

“It’s a different way of learning that information,” she says.

For example, through the Exercise Science department’s human performance lab, Mahoney has done hours of tests on athletes’ fitness levels and will continue to do so this summer, with the help of professors Stephen McCole and Jennifer McKenzie.

They will run “max power” tests on athletes after they work out, to assess their lactic acid levels and blood samples, including Mahoney’s particular forte, blood sugar levels.

On top of all this, Mahoney spends six days a week in the fall and spring on her sports, lacrosse and field hockey. Routinely, she wakes up at dawn for morning practice and then goes to conditioning in the afternoon.

“The only month I really have off is November,” she says, laughing.

Her family is close-knit, she says. Her brother Ryan is a first-year student on the football team. “He was looking at a bunch of other places, but whenever he visited me he said he could see himself here,” she said.

Mahoney chose McDaniel for its small classes and community feel and loves the opportunities available here – such as lab studies that involve actual athletes. “At other big schools, I would never be able to do this, they would just hire someone else.”

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