“You cannot help but be optimistic about our world when you are working with college students.”

Kim Hannigan-Downs

Kim Hannigan-Downs

Oregon State Nutrition and Exercise Sciences Ph.D. alumna and current Clinical Assistant Professor and Athletic Training Education Program Director Kim Hannigan-Downs has shared her knowledge through teaching Oregon State students for more than 10 years. While at OSU, she has taken on additional responsibilities such as faculty advisor for masters’ students in the former Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences and advisor for the Athletic Training Club.

Before coming to OSU, Kim worked as a Physical Health Education Department instructor at California State University, Chico. Prior to that, Kim served as the assistant athletic trainer for the Oregon State men’s and women’s crew teams. She also worked as a graduate teaching assistant for Athletic Training courses at both Oregon State and Middle Tennessee State University and served as an instructor at DePauw University in Indiana. Kim has received several awards for her work in athletic training, including the Outstanding Educator Award two years in a row from the Oregon Athletic Trainer’s Society and the Northwest Athletic Trainer’s Association.


What made you decide to get into this field?

“The typical line about wanting to ‘help people’ sounds cheesy, but is generally true about most individuals in healthcare fields. I was also attracted to the challenge of solving the problem. Athletic trainers are educated to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries and conditions in the athletic population. The injuries we see are often complex with multiple tissues involved. Learning the process of differential diagnosis always felt like solving a mystery to me. I like mysteries!”

Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path? 

“No, not one inspired moment. I came to the field through a series of choices. I can remember really enjoying science for the first time in 6th grade when we first dissected worms. I had never given much thought as to what was under the skin, so it was like learning about an entirely new world. I was a Biology major in college, but had no idea as to what area of Biology I would choose to pursue. I worked for the Forest Service during summers of college doing habitat typing and stream surveying. We would backpack into wilderness areas to type the creeks in the region and then dive a certain percentage of the habitats to complete visual fish counts of the juvenile species. One morning we woke up early, but were in a canyon area so the sun had not reached the floor yet. I had to start the day with fish counts, so I went to pull on my wetsuit and it was frosty! I think this was the moment I moved away from fisheries!”

Why did you choose to work at Oregon State?

“I completed my PhD at Oregon State, so I knew the town and campus. I was raising two young boys and thought Corvallis would be a good community for kiddos. The Athletic Training program was strong, well-developed and I knew I would work well with the program director, Mark Hoffman.”

What is your favorite part about working in the Athletic Training program?

“This is an easy question to answer. My favorite part of working in the AT Education Program is the students. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of delivering content in a way the students can practice dissecting and synthesizing the material to supplement their core knowledge. College students bring a tremendous amount of energy (on most days) to the classroom. They are enthusiastic, curious and compassionate about learning, and excited about the future. You cannot help but be optimistic about our world when you are working with college students.”

What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment in the field of Athletic Training?

“I think my greatest accomplishments are measured in the individual students in the AT program. When they are able to achieve entrance into graduate school, pass the national certification exam, and attain a job they desire, it feels like success.”

How are you going to change people’s lives with your work?

“I hope my time with students affects their lives in small ways on a daily basis. I am certain I do not always have the right words, but I believe the AT students know that we, as a faculty group, have their best interest at heart.”

What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?

“My mom and dad are extraordinary people. I am sure most people will say that of their parents, but mine truly are. They have spent their lives living true to themselves and those around them. They worked hard to attain occupations they enjoyed, developed rich, meaningful, long-lasting friendships, and raised their children to be well-adjusted (mostly) adults. They continue to learn more about all sorts of topics by extensive reading. They have embraced the journey rather than lamenting any one part of it.

I cannot give you one specific single line of good advice, but I am certain the most important lessons I have learned have come from them. I try to emulate their lessons in as many ways possible.”

What advice would you like to give to students and young alumns?

“Be careful whose advice you listen to! I would advise students to be determined in occupational exploration. What you think may be your perfect job may morph as you get older. Secondly, make sure you participate in activities that give you balance. You will need healthy outlets from work.”

What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?

“I am not very surprising!”

What are your favorite activities to do outside of work?

“Spending time with my children, Logan and Seth, hiking, backpacking, reading anything but textbooks and journal articles, skiing, walking our dog and gardening.”

~ courtesy Heather Turner and Synergies

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