Doctor of Health Sciences graduate elevates her career in leadership and teaching
As Amy Kageals, D.H.Sc. ’20, M.S. ’00, CCC-SLP, earned her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Radford University, she already knew she would someday return to work on a doctorate.
“I have always loved academic research and teaching, and I wanted to have that as an option at the university level,” Kageals said.
Though it took a few years due to a busy schedule working at Carilion Clinic and a packed family life with her husband and two children, Kageals did return to work on her terminal degree in Radford University Carilion’s (RUC) Doctor of Health Sciences (D.H.Sc.) program.
“I had a great experience at Radford University while I was getting my master’s degree, and I wanted to find a program that would provide me with a similar experience for my doctorate,” Kageals said. “I needed to find a program that gave me the flexibility to work while I learned, as well as spend time with my family.”
With her nearly two-decade career at Carilion, Kageals decided to look at Jefferson College of Health Sciences (JCHS), a Carilion affiliate in Roanoke. As fate would have it, JCHS would merge with Radford University just a few years later to become RUC.
“The merger was unexpected but went very smoothly. I respect the relationship between Radford and Carilion and knew that the kind of education I could get at an institution composed of those two would be excellent,” Kageals said. “I thought I would be proud to have another Radford diploma up on my wall.”
While working on her degree, Kageals chose to focus her studies on healthcare administration, one of the three concentrations D.H.Sc. students can choose from, in addition to community and public health and education and academia.
“I feel like the concentration in administration and leadership and the focus on professional writing and analytical speaking truly helped me step up my game in my profession,” Kageals said. “In my role at work, being able to think about problems strategically and critically is absolutely essential for success.”
Kageals said she has always been a strong writer, but the program helped improve her skills and move her writing to the next level. She said she often writes business plans that have to be completed quickly, concisely and accurately.
“The program helped me analyze and synthesize information,” Kageals said. “I use these skills daily at work.”
That work has included a promotion since graduating with her D.H.Sc. degree in 2020. Kageals now serves as a senior director at Carilion Children’s, the region’s only hospital dedicated solely to caring for children. She oversees most of the ambulatory services at the facility.
“I’ve had a blessed career, and it’s been lovely,” Kageals said, adding that she started with Carilion as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and then transitioned to team lead of the pediatric therapy department, followed by becoming a practice manager, then a director of primary care clinics and then into her current role. “I’m honored to have been able to work with all of these people over the years and grow my career at the same time.”
While Kageals’ role has moved toward leadership, she says she does still get to practice her healthcare skills from time to time, seeing patients every other month at clinics.
“I’m a clinician at heart, and seeing patients reminds me of why we’re all here every day,” she said. “Healthcare leadership was not in my life plan, but that’s where my career track has taken me, and it’s been wonderful.”
Kageals’ career track has also taken her back to the classroom, but not as a student. For the last two years, she has been an adjunct faculty member for Radford University, in addition to some adjunct teaching duties she already had at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
“That came about completely because of my doctorate degree,” Kageals said. “I believe very much in paying it forward, and Radford has been very good to me. It’s nice to be a part of educating the next generation of healthcare professionals who will care for children for years to come.”
Kageals said that since graduating, she has had a few prospective D.H.Sc. students reach out to her to ask about the program.
“I tell them that it’s challenging, and that it takes a lot of learning how to triage your work, your personal life and your student life,” she said. “But I would do it again, because it’s something I’m very proud of. I tell them that it’s a program where you’re going to learn a lot, but the effort you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.”