Macey Mills ’19

Macey Mills ’19 dreamed of attending Longwood even as a 6-year-old—because she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, Clara Kidd Mills ’62.

The younger Mills’ desire became a reality when she was accepted to Longwood in 2015, beginning a four-year journey that included being a member of the woman’s golf team and discovering that her interest in sports and exercise could be translated into a career. When she graduated in May 2019, her “nana” was there to see her walk across the stage, 57 years after her own graduation from Longwood.

Since graduating, the Chase City native has been working as an ACSM certified exercise physiologist in the cardiac rehab department at VCU Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill. She also recently earned a master’s in healthcare administration. We caught up with her to find out more about her job and life after Longwood.

I honestly feel like superwoman in my job because I feel that I have made an impact on my patients’ lives and they have made an impact on mine.

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Macey Mills ’19 in scrubs at work masked standing with a mascot

What is your current job, and did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

As an exercise physiologist, I have a good understanding of how the body responds to exercise, and I get to apply my knowledge to improving the quality of life for people. Honestly, when I graduated from high school and got to Longwood, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I didn’t know anything about exercise science or that the job of exercise physiologist existed. But I knew that I wanted to do something related to athletics, and exercise science fit my mindset. I am forever grateful for choosing kinesiology with a concentration in exercise science as my major. I also have a minor in psychology.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part is simply providing the care and treatment that each patient deserves. I honestly feel like superwoman in my job because I feel that I have made an impact on my patients’ lives and they have made an impact on mine. These patients have had heart attacks, surgeries, heart failure and other cardiac-related illnesses. I give them a sense of hope that they can exercise and strengthen their heart muscle without any fear. I feel that I’m helping them not only physically but also mentally. Some of my patients have gotten really emotional when they leave because the program helps them so much. And I get really attached to my patients. I’m with them for three months, and I really get to know their stories.

Longwood has one of the best exercise science programs in Virginia. The professors set high expectations but at the same time they are very caring and want to help us succeed.

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Macey Mills ’19 with her grandmother Clara Kidd Mills ’62
Macey Mills ’19 with her grandmother Clara Kidd Mills ’62

How has your job been affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic?

Obviously the pandemic has affected everyone in some way. Working in a hospital is even more mentally draining due to Covid-19. At the beginning, we pretty much had to discontinue services for a while to keep our patients safe. But I continued working when many businesses and schools had shut down. For about two months, I was relocated by the hospital to help with Covid-19 screening for our employees and patients. Around August, we slowly started opening up the cardiac rehab to patients who urgently needed treatment. As employees, we have to keep our masks on at all times, follow cleaning guidelines and maintain social distance with our patients. It is still a tough battle, but I feel hopeful finally having patients back and helping them in their cardiac recovery.

How did Longwood help prepare you for your current job and for life after college in general?

Longwood has one of the best exercise science programs in Virginia. The professors set high expectations but at the same time they are very caring and want to help us succeed. During the summer between my junior and senior years, I was required to do an internship at a facility. I did my internship at the hospital where I am currently working, which means I not only got really good hands-on training but I also got a foot in the door to getting a job in my field after graduation. Also, I recently received a master’s in healthcare administration and my Longwood professors helped me so much when I was applying to graduate schools.

Longwood will always have a special place in my heart. I made special memories and built so many friendships that I will cherish forever. I always wanted to play golf at the collegiate level, and being on the golf team gave me many wonderful opportunities to grow as a student and as a student-athlete. My experiences helped me gain leadership abilities and taught me how to communicate with people effectively—a life skill I use daily. I am grateful that a college like Longwood exists. I hope that I left a legacy there, just like my Nana did, for many more students to follow.

Remember that the support you have at Longwood will always be there for you — even as a future alum — and that the Longwood spirit will always be with you no matter where you go.

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What is one piece of advice that you would give to current Longwood seniors who are preparing to graduate and enter the working world? Also what advice do you have for freshmen interested in kinesiology/exercise science?

For seniors my advice is to never be afraid to try something new. Always keep your options open, believe in yourself and go with your gut. Try to maintain relationships with as many people as possible. Remember that the support you have at Longwood will always be there for you — even as a future alum — and that the Longwood spirit will always be with you no matter where you go.

I’d advise freshmen who are big sports fans or who like to exercise to definitely look at kinesiology as a major and career path. Your professors will support you through your decision-making process and help you all along your journey. Most importantly, enjoy college. These are some of the best years of your life!

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