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UofGH Kinesiology alumnus presents research at Saltin International Graduate Course in Denmark

Joseph Cacoilo

University of Guelph-Humber Kinesiology alumnus Joseph Cacoilo recently attended the prestigious Saltin International Graduate Course in Exercise & Clinical Physiology in Denmark.

The advanced graduate course is attended exclusively by Master's of Science and PhD students, so Cacoilo – who is pursuing his Master of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto – was thrilled to not only attend straight out of an undergraduate program, but also be asked to present research he conducted as a student at the University of Guelph-Humber.

Titled “The Effect of Muscle Sympathetic Burst Area on Time-to-Peak Neurovascular Transduction,” Cacoilo’s poster presentation – completed after two summers spent as an undergraduate research assistant at UofGH instructor Dr. Philip Millar’s lab at the University of Guelph – was well-received by his peers in Denmark.

“It was an amazing experience to be able to speak about this science with leaders in the exercise physiology field, gaining valuable insight into their thoughts, feelings, and suggestions for the future direction of my research,” said Cacoilo, whose trip was completely funded by UofGH.

“The graduate course was even better than I imagined it would be.”

Exercise and blood pressure

The theme of this year’s four-day Saltin International Graduate Course was “Exercise as Medicine,” featuring topics including: molecular, physiological and animal models in exercise medicine; organ systems and exercise; translational and dissemination approaches; exercise and aging; training methods in clinical populations; and clinical interventions studies.

“Being able to hear the latest research from world leaders on a subject that is directly applicable to both my education and my future career ambitions was great,” Cacoilo said. “The other student researchers present at the course were also amazing. This course allows us to interact with other students from many different schools across Canada, as well as many research students from Denmark.

Joseph Cacoilo

“I was able to meet a lot of very nice and intelligent people and being able to bounce ideas of them was a very valuable aspect to the course.

Cacoilo’s work at Dr. Millar’s lab – which focused on studying muscular sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) and blood pressure – was one of the highlights of his time at UofGH. As a result of that research, Cacoilo was a published co-author in both The Journal of Physiology and The Journal of Applied Physiology.

“Dr. Millar is passionate about studying how exercise can impact MSNA and improve blood pressure in humans,” Cacoilo said. “I was fortunate enough to help out with a number of projects in the lab.”

Getting started in the field

Cacoilo also gained valuable real-world work experience by completing two field placements during his time at the University of Guelph-Humber.

His first was at a private rehabilitation clinic called Propel Physiotherapy. There, Cacoilo had the opportunity to shadow one of the clinic’s kinesiologists who helps patients with spinal-cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries make and carry out rehabilitation plans.

Cacoilo’s next placement was at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s Rumsey Centre. Working as a student researcher/cardiac rehabilitation assistant within the Cardiac Centre, which provides outpatient rehabilitation programs for people with cardiovascular diseases, Cacoilo helped clients through customized exercise programs. He also assisted a postdoctoral fellow on a number of cardiovascular research projects, ultimately publishing their work in The Journal of Clinical Medicine.

“This experience allowed me to blend my love of research with clinical practice,” he recalled.

Cacoilo originally came to the University of Guelph-Humber after earning a college diploma in Health, Wellness and Fitness and deciding that he wanted to push his studies further. In addition to his field placements and research work, Cacoilo was an active participant in campus life. He played on Humber College’s extramural ultimate frisbee and dodgeball teams and acted as the fourth-year representative for the Kinesiology Society.

Another highlight of the program was the human anatomy lab at the University of Guelph.

“This allowed me to get a hands-on experience, especially being able to complete dissections during a fourth-year human anatomy class. Being able to see and feel the intricacies of the human body up close truly resonated me,” he recalled.

“The University of Guelph-Humber was the perfect fit for me. The small class sizes allowed me to gain personal relationships with the professors and my classmates. My time attending UofGH were some of the most enjoyable years of my life.”

Further, he felt UofGH left him well-positioned to thrive in his Master of Science in Physical Therapy program.

“The University provided me with many of the foundational knowledge that I need to be successful in my graduate program, including human anatomy and physiology. Just as importantly, it taught me many of the skills that are necessary to succeed, including how to conduct myself in a professional manner, how to access credible resources for information, and how to work in groups effectively,” he said.

Upon graduation, Cacoilo plans to eventually pursue his PhD and hopes to one day find a work setting that balances his love of research with his passion for clinical physical therapy practice. Those goals were only reinforced by his experience at the Saltin International Graduate Course.

“I was able to take two things away from the course: first, applicable information that I can use when working in clinical situations during my time at the University of Toronto; secondly, I now have complete confidence that I would like to continue being involved in exercise physiology research throughout my career.”