On July Fourth, We Honor Those CHS Graduates Who've Served America

CHS Develops Health Care Providers, as well as Military Personnel 

By Ryan Clark and Lindsey Fiori
CHS Contributors

Renee Abernathy loves being part of a team. 

A 2022 graduate of Human Health Sciences, she was on the pre-Physician Assistant track. But she was probably more well known for being one of the great UK softball players in recent memory. 

In 2021, Abernathy had her best season, starting 58 of 59 games and hitting .357 with 13 home runs. In the classroom, she actually decided to pivot from PA school and go to medical school, which she eventually did at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. And she went down an unlikely path to finance that decision. 

She ended up joining another team. She signed up for the Navy. 

"So I'm currently in the Navy, and the deal is, they pay for my medical school and I pay them back by serving," said the Springfield, Ill., native. "I'll do my residency on a Navy base and then serve a minimum of four years wherever they need me."

She'll be able to specialize in anything she wants, and she'll do it without having any student loans. 

"Coming out of medical school debt-free was very appealing to me, but also, I do have a lot of people in my family that serve in the military," she said. "We take a lot of pride in serving our country and helping others in any way we can. I just grew up this way."

Abernathy is following in the footsteps of a long line of students who have graduated from the College of Health Sciences and gone on to success in the Armed Forces. Now, on the Fourth of July, we like to honor some of those alumni for the sacrifices they have made.

All have the same sense of altruism and wanting to help people.

"I just kind of went into college with a really open mind, and I had done some volunteer work for one of the hospitals in Springfield," Abernathy said. "I like helping people, and I had small experiences like that sprinkled throughout my life. And I also had a family member pass away while I was at UK. That kind of really drove me to become a doctor."

The College of Health Sciences, she said, was the perfect place to let that desire grow. 

"They made us communicate; a lot of the classes in HHS were very much discussion-based. They made you think in a deeper aspect, ethics, stuff like that. I had to learn how to communicate with my classmates. And I also learned about the health care systems in the U.S. and throughout the world."

In the beginning of the summer, she finished her first year of medical school. After one more year, she'll have to pass some tests. Then there's nine months of clinical rotations and another year of externships. And after that, residency, which can be anywhere from three to eight years long.

She has nothing but good to say about her preparation for medical school — and the Navy.

"CHS goes deeper than just the sciences, they prepare you how to understand the world of health care," she said. "That is so unique. I go to school with a lot of different people from different schools, and no one else has had that experience. And I'm really grateful for that because I learned a lot in those classes and the teachers are amazing. They really care about you."

She misses it, but she said she's ready for the next challenge.

"HHS felt like a small family within UK's campus," she said. "We were kind of off by ourselves, and I really liked that. But now I'm going to travel and see the world."



Lt. Robert Mitchell Todd
Clinical Specialist Physical Therapist 
Current Active Duty 

Branch of Military: U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps 

Year of Graduation and Major: 2015 (Athletic Training) 

Where do you currently live? Scottsdale, Ariz. 

What was your greatest memory of the College of Health Sciences?  
"Working alongside so many great minds between both faculty and peers. Every day I left class with new knowledge that I could implement into my evaluations and interventions that same day, experiencing an immediate positive impact on the care of my athletes. "

How did the College of Health Sciences prepare you for a military career? 
"One of the greatest assets I have is my experience as an athletic trainer as it taught me how to expect the unexpected, develop multiple plans/approaches to situations in the event that something falls through, and make the most of both an abundance of resources, as well as very limited to no resources." 


Col. Christopher Clark Howell, MPAS, PA-C 

Currently serve in the KY ARNG 

Branch of Military: Army 

Year of Graduation and Major: 1998, BHS 

Where do you currently live? Lexington 

What was your greatest memory of the College of Health Sciences?
"The unique people that I met and relationships that were made." 

How did the College of Health Sciences prepare you for a military career?
"The rigors of PA school enhanced my ability to focus, and the person-to-person interaction improved my emotional intelligence."


Arthur J. Nitz, PT, PhD 

Current or Retired: Retired 

Branch of Military: Army 

Year of Graduation and Major: U.S. Army-Baylor University:  1976; UK – College of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology: 1984 

Where do you currently live?  Frankfort, Ky. 

What was your greatest memory of the College of Health Sciences?
"Providing an opportunity to teach, do research and work with graduate students." 


Other notable veterans who have graduated from the College include, but are not limited to:

Congratulations and thanks to all of our Veteran graduates!