M.Sc. candidate, Rehabilitation Science
Choosing the right school for you.
by Meredith Dault
November 14, 2011
Heather Ridgway knew she wanted to play varsity soccer. That’s why when it came to choosing a graduate program, she knew she had to find a program at a university with a strong soccer program. “One of the attractive points about Queen’s was the fact that they were national champions last year,” she recalls.
Ridgway, who grew up playing elite level soccer, had always planned on playing the game while an undergrad. She had been recruited out of high school to play with the University of Ottawa team, but sustained a serious knee injury that required surgery and rehabilitation. The result was that she was unable to play for the team and focused instead on her degree in Health Sciences.
After deciding to pursue her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Science at Queen’s, Ridgway knew she was finally ready to fulfill her goal of playing on a varsity team. “My knee was finally strong and healthy,” she says happily. She made contact with the team’s coach and was invited to the soccer training camp at the beginning of the 2011 academic year. “The coach, Dave McDowell, thought I was a good fit for the team. I was playing at the right calibre. It was a very good feeling,” she says.
Growing up playing soccer, Ridgway knew she was interested in working in the world of health in some form or another. “My interest in rehabilitation definitely stems from an interest in sports,” she explains, “not to mention that I have had my share of injuries.” Though she considered pursuing a career-oriented program like Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy, Ridgway says wanted to keep her options open and opted for a research-based program instead.
Once she had been accepted into the Rehabilitation Sciences program, Ridgway says she contacted a number of possible supervisors to find out more about their work, choosing a project that “involves a neurological disorder with some kind of physical dysfunction.” Supervised by Brenda Brouwer, Ridgway’s current work looks specifically at stair negotiation among stroke patients versus healthy older adults. “We’re looking at it in terms of biomechanics, strength demands and metabolic demands,” she explains. She says she likes that her data collection process involves interacting with people, rather than merely crunching numbers.
When it comes to juggling a busy academic schedule with a hectic training regiment, Ridgway says it just comes down to effective time management. “I am quite accustomed to having a busy schedule,” she laughs. “I was actually too bored in my undergrad,” she says of her soccer-free period. “This actually feels right.”
Ridgway says joining the soccer team gave her an instant social group, too. “I’ve made a large number of friends that I can really count on and rely on,” she says. “I hope to maintain these friendships.” She jokes that her practices give her a chance to combine her social time and her exercise time in the same block. “When I finish my school day, I get to go run around with a great group of girls,” she laughs. “It’s a great way to relax at the end of the day.”
Ridgway says she hasn’t ruled out the idea of pursuing a PhD after she completes her two-year program. “Completing my Master’s is an important goal for me,” she says. “I wanted to build more skills and wanted to have more credentials on my resume. I tend to become immersed in whatever project I’m doing.”
She says she is open to the idea of a career related to rehabilitation, where she can also work with people. “I think helping someone regain function and mobility or to help them achieve their goals is one of the most satisfying feelings,” she explains. What she knows for sure is that her future will involve soccer in some form or another. “Hopefully I’ll continue playing... and one day maybe coaching my kids’ teams!”