Sometimes you don’t get what you want. Sometimes you find something better.
Athletics is a passion for Brian Saso, a former baseball player and multi-sport athlete in high school and college. He decided after earning his undergraduate degree to learn all he could about exercise physiology, which he expected would lead him to a career in sports and sports performance.
Today, the Benedictine University graduate with a Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology degree is managing the cardiopulmonary unit at a leading suburban hospital and sharing his knowledge and experience with graduate students only a few years younger than he.
He is also looking forward to furthering his education and eventually working as a CEO of a large health care provider.
“I never had any aspirations of going into diagnostics or of working in a hospital,” Saso said. “I had my heart set on working in sports performance. I had gone as far as choosing my internships to revolve around that career track.
“But after graduation, a classmate of mine informed me about an opportunity she was leaving at the University of Chicago Medical Center. I decided to inquire about the job for one reason – experience in the field.
“I felt if I gained clinical experience in the hospital setting working with patients with various pathologies and illnesses that the transition back into sport science would be simple,” Saso said. “I accepted the job with that goal in mind.”
Ten years later, Saso is a leader in clinical diagnostics, loving every day he goes to work and sharing what he has learned with others.
“I have gone from goals of wanting to work with athletes to becoming a CEO in a health care organization,” he said. “I have gone from wanting to teach at the high school level to having an opportunity to teach at the graduate level at my university and share the experiences I have had to those with aspirations of growing in this field.”
However, Saso first had to endure what he admits was a rigorous course of study under Benedictine M.S. in Clinical Exercise Physiology program founder Peter Healey, Ph.D., and a demanding but collaborative faculty.
“The physiology courses were by far the most intense and difficult courses provided in the program,” he said. “At the time, it was so overwhelming and difficult for me. But after years of clinical experience, I can relate to concepts we touched on in class and use them to be successful in my health care roles.”
Saso said that the knowledge he gained in the program puts him at ease when talking “shop” with fellow medical professionals.
“Although much of the in-depth physiology we learned has been lost in my clinical experience simply because we, as exercise physiologists, do not apply the cellular function mechanisms to our day-to-day patient care routine, having that knowledge helps me better understand physicians at a level that I am unsure others are able to comprehend,” he said.
Saso said that much of that knowledge came from a faculty that cares about students and a program that establishes within students a concern for others who may follow in their path.
“The willingness of the faculty to help guide students through their academic endeavors is critical in providing them with the tools and foundations to be successful in their professional aspirations,” Saso said.
“I personally take to heart striving to adequately provide the knowledge the students will need to successfully begin their professional journey in health care. My colleagues share this same passion, which says a lot about the program and the quality of students who come out of it. “
Saso credits his degree from Benedictine University not only for paving the way for his success in the health care field, but also for some of the blessings he has received outside the professional realm.
“From all of my clinical experiences and opportunities to my current leadership role and teaching at the graduate level, all of these excellent experiences would never have been obtainable had I not earned my graduate degree,” he said.
“In my everyday life, this degree provided me an opportunity where I met my wife and became blessed with two children,” Saso added. “And for my future, I hope it will lead me to a Ph.D. program and further into leadership roles in healthcare.
“Like I do today, I hope to proudly hang my Benedictine diploma in my office one day as CEO of a health care organization.”