Alumni Spotlight: Seven Hours in the Operating Room Inspires Samantha Giangrasso to Pursue Medicine

Samatha Giangrasso is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Science in Clinical Physiology program. In the Q&A, she shares a life-changing experience through an internship placement at UPMC. Her quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

What was your background before coming to Pitt?

Giangrasso: I obtained my undergraduate degree in exercise science with a concentration in therapeutic sciences at East Stroudsburg University, where I was also a two-season athlete all four years. Prior to coming to Pitt, I worked as a physical therapy aide for about four years.

What made you want to pursue a Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology?

Giangrasso: Being an athlete my whole life and having a background in exercise science, I wanted to learn more about how exercise can impact daily life while also diving deeper into other clinical health conditions. I also had an interest in cardiac rehabilitation and physical therapy, and understanding how exercise impacts the lungs and heart performance.

What did you learn through your internship with UPMC Cardiac Rehab at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital?

Giangrasso: My internship at UPMC Presbyterian hospital was one of my greatest experiences. I began my internship believing that I wanted to work in cardiopulmonary rehab and then attend physical therapy school. Instead, I was inspired to attend medical school. The experiences from this internship included cardiac rehab, pulmonary rehab, observing the heart catheterization lab, invasive cardiopulmonary exercise tests, exercise stress tests, and even observing a seven-hour valve replacement open-heart surgery.

How did observing open-heart surgery change your career goals?

Giangrasso: The heart surgery was the coolest seven hours of my life! From the first incision to the last stitch, I didn’t want to leave! It was a double-valve replacement where mechanical valves were replaced after the infected valves were taken out. The thought of open-heart surgery always sounded amazing, but after actually seeing one, the excitement I had felt about practicing medicine was something stronger than just an “in the moment feeling.” I never would have realized this without being in Pitt’s School of Education.

Why did you apply to Pitt’s program?

Giangrasso: I liked that the program offers an internship experience during the summer semester. This program also offers a GSA/TA position to help financially and also is a one-year accelerated program.

Do you have a fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know?

Giangrasso: I can speak Italian!

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The Masters of Science in Clinical Physiology program is now accepting applications. Apply now!