The path to one’s passion can be long and circuitous, but to arrive at what makes you happy is exhilarating. Priya Mehrish can tell you this is so.
Mehrish grew up in Bombay, India. She earned a BA and MBA in finance at the University of Mumbai and then began a career in private investment banking. In 2002, when her husband, Shubham, accepted a job in Boston, the couple moved to the United States. Mehrish, however, did not have a work permit and was forced to stay at home. “It was a blessing in disguise,” says Mehrish. “I always worked; I had never stayed home before. I took care of the household, I learned how to cook, and I loved every second of it.”
Following Shubham’s job, the couple moved to San Francisco, where they had their first child, and after three years, they came back across the country to New Jersey, where the family currently resides. After their second son was born, Mehrish started to think about what she might do outside the home. “I loved my life,” she says, “I didn’t think anything was missing, but I began to wonder what might add to my life’s experience. I didn’t want to return to finance, and thinking back to it, I realized I never really liked it. And I wanted something that would allow time with my family.”
She considered teaching but had no enthusiasm for it, so she searched within herself for some spark. “My father was a professional soccer player, and I was always active,” Mehrish says. “I ran track in school, and I earned a black belt in karate. Being active is what makes me happy.” Still, how would that translate into a career? To find out, Mehrish started taking courses at a local community college.
At about that time, a good friend survived a near-fatal car accident and underwent multiple spine surgeries as a result. “I spent lots of time with her in rehab,” says Mehrish. “She would say to me, ‘If I cannot dance again, I don’t want to live.’ Every day I watched physical therapists and occupational therapists bring my friend back to life. These are the unsung heroes of healthcare.”
Sometimes we experience a moment that brings great clarity to an issue with which we grapple. It might be a simple and otherwise inconsequential event. Mehrish experienced one such moment in her course “Prevention and Care of Sports Injuries,” when she watched her first ankle taping. “It was like the sky opened up,” she says. “This is what I was meant to do!” Her love of sports, the hours she spent with her friend in rehab, her observations of physical therapists and occupational therapists in action, everything converged at that point. She saw that she could combine her love of sports with a desire to help people do what they want to do, and she set out toward that goal.
All of her credits from India transferred, making her eligible to apply for a master’s program, and an athletic trainer at her local community college knew Jay Scifers, director and chair of the department of rehabilitation sciences for Moravian College, and recommended the program. Mehrish talked with Scifers, completed the necessary prerequisites, and enrolled in the master’s of athletic training program.
For the mother of two, this was difficult. Mehrish drove an hour to Moravian for classes, and she had to make time for studying amid her responsibilities to her family. Her husband, who at the time was traveling back and forth to Amsterdam for work, left that position for one closer to home so that he could help with the boys. “I said to myself, if this does not give me joy, I will stop for the sake of my family.
“But there was not a single second at Moravian that I did not enjoy,” says Mehrish, “though I cried a couple of times on my drive because of the stress of managing family responsibilities and a heavy workload in my courses. The faculty at Moravian really push you; they want you to be the best. They are amazing educators, passionate educators. I am familiar with other athletic training programs, and none comes close to Moravian’s.”
Mehrish graduated in 2019 with a master’s in athletic training and a goal to work in a collegiate setting. She started at Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health. And then one day, she received a call from Rider University where she had done two clinical rotations, including one in wrestling (“I knew if I could work wrestling, I would be able to do any sport in the world,” says Mehrish). They asked if she would fill in for an athletic trainer who was out on disability, and she agreed. The athletic trainer did not return, and Rider asked Mehrish to take over the position full time. Today, she is the assistant athletic trainer assigned to women’s volleyball and men’s basketball.
“I could not ask for a better job, supervisor, coworkers, or student-athletes,” says Mehrish. “My sons are both athletes. My younger son plays basketball, and I can take him with me to games, or my husband will bring the boys, and we’ll have some family time on the basketball court. Rider's in-season schedules can get intense with game days on weekends, but our family has learned to work around that and makes the most of it.
“All the times when the kids were crying, complaining that they missed me, and I felt guilty…the doubts, the hard work, all of it fell into place,” says Mehrish. “My whole dream came true.”