‘You Can Do Hard Things’

Baez Honored as Young Alumni Award Winner

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Shelby Baez knew she wanted a career in athletic training when she was in high school. But originally, she thought she was going to contribute to Good Morning America.

As a four-sport athlete growing up in Fayetteville, N.C., (that’s basketball, softball, volleyball and cross country, if you’re curious) she originally thought she may be a journalist, then go to law school and be a political correspondent for GMA.  

But as she watched what her high school’s athletic trainer did to help athletes, and — after working as a lifeguard — she thought maybe she could do something similar.

What she did not know is that by age 32, she’d have her doctorate from UK, she would be an assistant professor at an ACC school, and she would be honored as a College of Health Sciences Young Alumni Award winner.

Baez received her Master’s in Athletic Training in 2016 and her PhD in the Rehabilitation and Health Sciences PhD Program in 2019, and was awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) for her outstanding contributions to injury rehabilitation research. After her graduation in 2019, Baez was hired as an assistant professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University where she was also the director of MSU’s Behavioral Research and Athletic Injury Neuroscience (BRAIN) Lab.

She is now the Assistant Professor in Exercise and Sport Science at UNC-Chapel Hill — and her scholarly achievements are underscored by her impressive grant support, totaling over $1.43 million. She has a prolific publication record, with over 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts, nearly 70 abstracts at national scientific meetings, and more than 30 invited presentations.

And she says she owes it all to the people at UK who helped her along the way.

“Both of my CHS degrees are extremely meaningful to me,” she said. “I was able to learn how to become a great clinician because of the MSAT program and a great researcher because of the RHB program. I know that I would not be where I am at today if it were not for the faculty and staff in CHS taking the time to mentor me throughout both of those programs.”

And winning the Young Alumni Award meant a lot.

“I was shocked and extremely happy,” she said. “CHS means so much to me and it is extremely humbling to be recognized by a place that laid the foundation for the success of my career.”

Baez said she still remembers the day she defended her dissertation.

“I have a lot of great memories during my time at CHS, but I think my fondest memory is the day I defended my dissertation,” she said. “I had so much support from faculty, staff and students within CHS, and it was evident by seeing the supportive faces in the room as I took on the big challenge of the PhD program. The people are what make CHS great.”

One of those people who meant the world to Baez is Dr. Johanna Hoch, PhD, ATC.

“She’s my Ph.D. mentor, and she continues to be my source of support as I navigate next steps in my career,” she said. “She is compassionate, caring and always knows how to keep me grounded when I feel like I am starting to lose my way in the field. I would not be who I am today or where I am at today if it were not for her.”

And for all of those interested in going down the same path?

“Do it! I absolutely love my career, and I am so thankful that CHS opened the door for me to do what I do,” she said. “It may be intimidating at first, but CHS is filled with supportive folks that can help you to see that you can do hard things.”

The College of Health Sciences will be hosting an induction ceremony and awards reception on Monday, March 25.  
Click here to register for the event.