Frank May portrait

Health Sciences alumnus finds his purpose at Mizzou

Frank May III came to Mizzou so he could stay close to family in St. Louis. He left with a purpose: To help improve the health and well-being of as many people as possible.

At Clayton High School, May ran track, wrestled and played football, but he was injured his senior year. After surgery, his experience with physical therapy left an impression. He thought that would be a great career. But when he got to Mizzou, he realized physical therapy wasn’t exactly right for him.

A public health class opened May’s eyes to the possibility of a career with a broad impact. “I realized I can help communities and bigger populations, and have an impact on individuals and groups across the nation,” May said.

In refining his career goals, May considered past experiences he enjoyed, including summer jobs as a camp counselor and his own experience as a student-athlete.

“I always had a passion for working with kids, so I already knew that’s a very impressionable age where you can make a huge impact,” May said. “When you combine education with sports, then you’re teaching health and wellness to kids. If you get them to enjoy that type of lifestyle young enough, then they become healthier adults and have less conditions to worry about in the future.”

Now, May’s goal is to become a high school athletic director, and he’s building his resume toward that objective. His job as an assistant trainer with the MU Human Performance Institute gives him hands-on experience developing comprehensive fitness programs for individuals and groups. In the evenings, he studies for his master of education degree with an emphasis in athletic administration from William Woods.

Exercise as medicine

In summer 2018, May interned with the MU Human Performance Institute (HPI). That fall, they offered him a job as an assistant trainer.

HPI is a medical fitness center that serves as a third tier of treatment for Missouri Orthopedic Institute patients. Surgeons repair the body, physical therapists help patients get moving again, and then trainers like May help patients sustain their health.

“The Human Performance Institute gave me a platform to grow and develop my skills,” May said.

As an assistant trainer, May is in charge of developing, implementing, and evaluating exercise programs for a wide range of clientele. The youngest person he has worked with was 7 years old; the oldest was in his 90s.

“We meet you where you are, and we take you where you want to go,” May said.

In addition to working with individuals, May gets to work with groups including athletic teams from local high schools and middle schools. His work with local athletes directly supports his long-term career goal to become a high school athletic director.

“I get a real-life view of what it’s like to work with the teams,” May said. “I get to collaborate with head coaches and see how they lead.”

A black man in graduation cap and gown leaps from one large column to the other.
Frank May III graduated from Mizzou with a bachelor’s degree in health science in 2018.

Professors make a difference

May, who graduated in 2018, says his favorite memory of Mizzou is realizing his purpose through coursework. He recalls three faculty who were important to his development, each in their own way.

Robin Bowman provided reassurance and support. “She showed she generally cared about our success and knew we were able to make a difference in the world, and she let us know that every day,” said May.

His capstone instructor, Ginny Chadwick, put him to work. “I went from ‘I’m over it,’ to ‘I see why you’re doing this, thank you,’ ” May says. “She gave us a dose of reality, and I appreciated that.”

His Freshman Interest Group co-facilitator and biology professor, Joel Maruniak, flunked him. “It wasn’t that the material was too hard to understand,” May said. “It was that I was new to college and didn’t have study skills and habits to be successful.”

May chose to retake the course with Maruniak as a personal challenge and was determined to pass. He took advantage of office hours to talk with the professor. Those conversations transformed May’s perspective. Maruniak helped May realize that, in any situation, there are unseen factors at play that must be considered in decision-making. “He unlocked that critical thinking door, which opened up a lot of other doors.”

A man sits in a dramatically lit room lifting a large dumbell
Follow @coach_may_x3 on Instagram to see Frank May III in action.

Paying it forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected health professionals across the nation, including May.

“At HPI, we started shooting workout videos via Zoom, Facebook Live and Instagram Live,” May said. “We’re really trying to adapt to the changing times and help more people.”

When Health Professions Diversity Initiative Coordinator Tommy Thomas III asked May if he would consider developing some videos especially for Health Professions students, May was happy to help.

He produced a series of strength training videos designed for people of all abilities. Each video is about 45-50 minutes long. In each video, May demonstrates variations of movement for people at all levels of fitness.

“I want people to know that it doesn’t matter where you’re starting, you can always progress,” May said. He encourages a slow-cooking crockpot mentality instead of the quick-fix microwave approach.

“When it comes to reaching your goals and changing your lifestyle, you need a crockpot,” he explained. The best things take longer to complete, but they’re worth it, May said.

“It’s not going to be an overnight fix, but if you stick with it, and you stay consistent, you’re going to get to where you want to go.”