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Forward motion toward a healthier future

Forward motion toward a healthier future

Before my career in academics, I was a professional cyclist. My desire to go faster spurred an interest in biomechanics. As I transitioned from the sport of cycling to my role as a biomechanist, I slowed down and dove deeper into how movement influences our health.

Missy Thompson headshot.

While my research focuses on understanding movement, my main goal is to help people move and keep moving so they can continue to do the things they love. This line of research is clearly meaningful, and I am grateful to share this knowledge with my students. I started at Fort Lewis College nine years ago in what was then called the Exercise Science Department. While the Exercise Science Department name implied a focus on sport and exercise, my esteemed department colleagues (many of whom have since retired) were acutely aware of the importance and broader impacts of exercise in terms of health. Not only did my colleagues encourage my push toward a health science-focused curriculum, they strongly professed the link between exercise and health. They laid the groundwork for constructing a health sciences center to support our growing health science-related majors.

Missy Thompson points to a computer screen showing a heat map of pressure points on a foot scan.

Fast forward a decade, and we (now the Health & Human Performance Department) are moving into Schlessman Family Hall, the new health sciences center, with our Public Health Department colleagues. This state-of-the-art facility will be recognized as a place of discovery, research, and entrepreneurship in the health sciences, enabling us to foster multidisciplinary approaches to learning about health. In this new space, students will explore health from the microscopic to the population level and examine the connections between mental health, physical activity, and disease. This integrated approach will provide students with perspectives and skills from various academic disciplines, preparing them for careers that address complex healthcare needs.

A student stands on one foot on a mat in an exercise science lab, while Missy Thompson looks on near a computer.

Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031, resulting in approximately two million new jobs. There is a particularly high demand for healthcare in rural areas, like the Four Corners region, which frequently faces significant healthcare quality and accessibility challenges. Since access to healthcare services is a key component to quality outcomes, rural providers play a significant role in delivering timely, effective, safe care.

Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031, resulting in approximately two million new jobs.

Schlessman Family Hall is a game-changer for the Four Corners region. While job growth is certainly an appealing factor for those pursuing health science careers, I am optimistic that our students will share my passion for the rewards of making a real difference in people’s lives by inspiring health and well-being. I look forward to seeing how they will continue to push our research further and faster, in the next chapter of health sciences at Fort Lewis College.


The design below celebrates and incorporates Internal Energy, a permanent art installation at Schlessman Family Hall produced by Michele Gutlove. Dive deeper at

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