Byron "LaGary" Carter, DA, NP-C
Interim Dean and Professor, College of Nursing and Health Sciences | Valdosta State University
Physical activity plays an important role in Dr. LaGary Carter’s life. For Dr. Carter, regular physical activity is the catalyst to reach one’s full potential — mind, body and soul. He emphasizes “exercise is medicine” in both his roles as a clinician and as a faculty member.
Dr. Carter’s passions for patient care and physical activity to treat and prevent medical conditions prompted him to get involved with ACSM’s Exercise is Medicine® initiative (EIM) several years ago. It also helped him facilitate a partnership between ACSM, EIM and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) to advance the integration of physical activity assessment, counseling and referral into routine clinical practice.
Dr. Carter earned his Bachelor of Science degree in wellness and fitness from David Lipscomb University, his Master of Science degree in exercise physiology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his Doctor of Arts degree in physical education with a concentration in exercise science from Middle Tennessee State University. He subsequently earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing degrees at VSU. He is credentialed as an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist® and an AANP Certified Adult & Geriatric Nurse Practitioner. He also is credentialed as an Exercise is Medicine Level III professional.
ACSM staff asked Dr. Carter a series of questions to learn more about his career path, advice for students and how ACSM membership has helped him.
- Why did you choose to study exercise science?
Upon graduating from high school, I planned to join the military and eventually become a U.S. Deputy Marshall. I was fortunate to receive a partial academic and athletic (baseball) scholarship to attend David Lipscomb University. During that time, my interest in physical fitness as a potential career began to evolve. I worked as a personal trainer at a local YMCA during my last two years of college. My professor—Kent Johnson, Ph.D., FACSM—completed his doctorate at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). He was instrumental in my ability to attend USM and obtain a master’s degree in exercise science under the mentorship of ACSM Past President Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM.
I went on to work as a clinical exercise physiologist in various settings. Those experiences led to earning a doctorate from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and being hired as the coordinator of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Archbold Hospital in Thomasville, Georgia. That role allowed me to serve as a preceptor for student interns from nearby Valdosta State University. Four years later I entered academia as an assistant professor of exercise science at VSU.
I had desired to become a registered nurse for quite some time. It became clear that nursing would be the ideal path to complement my clinical background as an exercise physiologist. I enrolled in the inaugural accelerated second-degree BSN program at VSU while also coordinating the undergraduate exercise physiology program. For 10 years, I worked part-time as a registered nurse and clinical exercise physiologist within the Dasher Heart Center at South Georgia Medical Center. I wanted the ability to prescribe exercise in combination with traditional medication and diagnostic interventions; so, I returned to VSU to earn a master’s degree in nursing and become credentialed as an Adult & Geriatric Nurse Practitioner. My career path can be summarized by the last three lines of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”:
Two Roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your work?
Working with colleagues who are passionate about student success, teamwork and professional growth. We are fortunate to have state-of-the-art facilities such as the nursing health assessment and simulation centers, human performance laboratories and the Center for Exercise Medicine and Rehabilitation within the Health Science and Business Administration building. Valdosta State University places a premium on teaching efficacy. It is incredibly satisfying when former students share their personal success stories and express appreciation for the education and mentorship they received during their tenure in the exercise physiology or nursing program. Ironically, a couple of my former exercise physiology students once served as my clinical preceptor during my training as a nursing student. How cool is that?
- What advice do you have for students or professionals entering the field?
The secret is out: Exercise is indeed medicine. The Exercise is Medicine® global initiative has created a renewed sense of credibility for exercise physiologists within the scientific and medical community. As academicians and practitioners, we significantly contribute to the primary, secondary and tertiary aspects of health care. It is important to establish collaborative partnerships with physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and other pertinent professionals to further our profession on an international scale. There really isn’t a ceiling for a career in health care, academia or the private sector if you are willing to work hard.
I encourage students to solicit advice and guidance from professors, choose a quality internship as a capstone educational experience and request their respective institution seek or maintain program accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Upon graduation, obtain an ACSM certification pertinent to your occupational aspiration. Don’t live your life with the regret of wondering “what if……?”
- How has ACSM membership helped your career?
I initially became acquainted with ACSM as an undergraduate student. My familiarity with ACSM deepened as I prepared for the “exercise specialist” certification early in my career. I became a professional member of ACSM in the early 1990s. ACSM’s scientific publications, “guidelines” textbooks, certifications, committee service, along with regional and national conferences, have provided numerous resources and networking opportunities for professional growth throughout my career.
- What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve while pursuing my doctorate at MTSU. I received official notification that my dissertation had been approved and accepted by the graduate school while I was in boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. Semper Fi! No regrets.