Meet Kia Hreno ’19

Franklin College connections spark return to campus and path to success

At Franklin College, the Masters of Science in Athletic Training is a program built on faculty-student relationships and a commitment to our students’ success in the classroom and out in the field. Kia Hreno ’19 & ’23 returned to FC to pursue an interest of hers in athletic training and found her calling in sports medicine.

Hreno graduated from Franklin College in the spring of 2019 with a degree in psychology and acceptance to a Ph.D. program at the University of Cincinnati. After a semester, she returned to Indianapolis to pursue a career in health care. She was placed at The Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in their Emergency Room & Trauma Department in March 2020 through a program at the Indiana University School of Medicine. On her first day in the ER, the COVID-19 pandemic was introduced to the world and lockdowns were enforced.

After a little over a year working in the Eskenazi ER during the height of the pandemic, Hreno returned to Franklin College in August 2021, this time in the Masters of Science in Athletic Training Program. Hreno credits Professor of Athletic Training Kathy Remsburg and Vice President for Academic Affairs (and her former Psychology Professor) Dr. Kristin Flora for her return to FC.

“I still had a great relationship with Dr. Flora and Kathy (Remsburg) knew I was interested in AT during undergrad,” she said. “She took the time to reach out and asked if I was still interested in AT. Now here I am 2 years later.”

Hreno credits her love for sports and her time in the Emergency Room at Eskenazi for why she ultimately chose to pursue a career in Athletic Training.

“Because I was always involved in sports and I love sports medicine and athletic trainers are the first responders for sports medicine,” Hreno said.

While in her first-year, Hreno applied for an internship through the Professional Baseball and Football Athletic Trainers Societies, better known as PBATS and PFATS. The programs require applicants to choose preferred destinations if selected. Choosing the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) and Arizona Cardinals (NFL), Kia was selected as an Intern for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the summer of 2022.

The experience with the Diamondbacks confirmed she wanted to pursue professional sports. She later learned Associate Professor of Athletic Training Jeff Williams had a connection in the Diamondbacks organization.

“Jeff has connections all over professional baseball, which helped me figure out what professional setting I wanted to work in,” Hreno said. “Connect with and talk to everyone. You really just never know where it could lead.”

As if completion of a professional sports internship in year one was not enough, then came an award-winning research project in year two. Sway Medical, based out of Tulsa, Okla., created a mobile device for head injury assessment and with a passion for concussion research and care, Hreno reached out about the possibility of her studying some of their data gathered from the device, particularly individuals aged 18-24. Sway Medical ended up sending her 4,000 participants in that age range. After studying the participants balance scores, reaction scores and post-concussion symptoms, she was able to conclude the app is a reliable tool for healthcare professionals to use in the field and their practice.

At the 2023 Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association (GLATA) Conference, Hreno’s work with Sway Medical won highest scoring abstract in the Best Original Research Category and Best Original Research at the Conference and she was selected to present her research at the conference.

After a professional sports internship and award-winning research, she still credits her MSAT faculty and peers for helping her every step of the way.

“I think with MSAT having small groups, we get to form really strong relationships,” she said. “Our professors get to support us a lot more in our professional development and personal growth. Having the small cohorts allows us to be super close and I can’t imagine being in the athletic training profession without my MSAT professors and cohort.”

Hreno’s next step will be under the bright lights at Gainbridge Fieldhouse as an Athletic Trainer for Indianapolis’ WNBA team, the Indiana Fever. She will get to work with the best basketball players in the world. Aliyah Boston, the 2023 WNBA Draft first overall pick, All-American and National Champion and former Indiana University All-American, Grace Berger, are just two of the high-profile athletes she will be working with on a daily basis.

“Getting to be employed by a professional sports team is the most exciting thing,” Hreno said. “I cannot wait to work for the Fever. The head coach texted me the other day and it was just the coolest thing ever. I absolutely can’t wait to work in my hometown at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.”

Hreno had simple advice for current college students or recent graduates still looking for their purpose.

“Try something and what’s the worst that can happen?” Hreno said. “No matter what path you are on or chapter of your story, you should always lean towards the things that make you happy. Worst case scenario is you don’t like it and you are one step closer to where you are supposed to be.”