17 July 2013

Former tennis pro Karen Stewart-Smith has aced her studies to be named valedictorian of her class at her mid-year graduation ceremony on Friday at The University of Queensland.

The mother of four, who has been a tennis coach for Dubai’s royal family, said she was honoured to be graduating at the top of the Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology course, crediting the success to her competitive sporting background.

“My passion for sport, health and wellbeing has been fostered from an early age by my uncles Roy Emerson and Mal Anderson, who were Australian tennis champions from the 1950s to the early 1970s,” Ms Stewart-Smith said.

This passion saw her graduate with a Bachelor of Human Movement Studies from UQ and attain formal qualifications as a professional tennis coach.

“The course has provided me with the specialist skills I need to prescribe exercise programs and interventions for patients with acute and chronic medical conditions, or to prevent injury,” she said.

Returning home to Australia after living in Dubai for 12 years, Ms Stewart-Smith decided to further her studies to complement her degree, while still actively pursuing a career within her sporting interests.

Ms Stewart-Smith said it was the practical and clinical aspects of the qualification that led her to pursue a Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology.

“As part of the program, I undertook more than 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in a range of settings such as the Ipswich Cardiac Rehabilitation centre, which completely changed my way of thinking after seeing the level of improvement these clients made through a highly supervised program,” she said.

“While it has been difficult to find a balance between full time work, study, children and maintaining a family home, the sacrifices I’ve made have been worth it.

“I have learnt so much within the last two years and, while the workload has been very demanding, the program has motivated me to increase my knowledge base and become as diverse a clinician as possible.

“The course is highly practical and the concepts you learn are applicable to everyday life.

“Quite simply, it has changed my life and way of thinking in a very positive manner, and graduating top of the class is a wonderful note on which to finish my degree.”

Ms Stewart-Smith plans to use her qualifications to work with a diverse range of people suffering various medical conditions and to become more involved as a clinical educator at UQ in a research capacity.

The University of Queensland’s mid-year Health Sciences graduation will be held at 6pm, Friday 19 July at the UQ Centre, St Lucia Campus.

Contact: Janelle Hocking, Marketing and Communications, UQ School of Human Movement Studies, +61 7 3365 6764 or j.hocking1@uq.edu.au.