After beginning her career in the medical field with the goal of positive impact on her community, Jamie To started to see a recurring pattern among the vast majority of her cases: injuries, health problems and physical maladies that could’ve been prevented if the patient was more active. So, To decided on a career change.

“This observation led me to seek out a field where I would be able to coach people in proper body mechanics, strengthen their functional abilities and help them have a healthier and happier way of life,” says To. Based on this single observation and her goal to continue to help people, To became a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness Mission Hills Super-Sport Gym in Mission Hills, California, pouring her medical knowledge and already-active lifestyle into her new clients and career.

Even before becoming a trainer, preventing injury and promoting proper movement and body function was always a passion of To’s as she had experienced her fair share of injury on her own road to fitness. As a lover of outdoor sports and activities, including kayaking, backpacking, and rock climbing, To understood the importance of maintaining her physical health.

“Injury has been a big factor in my own fitness journey, and sharing my knowledge base to help members avoid injury is what I strive to do,” To says. So when member Diana Sarkissian walked through the gym doors with a less-than-stellar prognosis for double hip-replacement surgeries unless she lost weight, To was ready to help.

Upset by the medical professional’s forecast of her chances at a normal life in her current state, Sarkissian was determined to prove her doctor wrong and come out of her surgery stronger than before. She enlisted To’s help kicking off her first-time fitness journey.

To recalls her very first session with Sarkissian: “It took Diana 30 minutes to reach the inside of our club lobby from her car in a disabled parking spot, and almost another 30 minutes to reach the pool from the lobby.”

Though it began slowly, Sarkissian’s road to wellness started to take off thanks to her tenacity and sheer willpower. After just two months of working with her personal trainer, Sarkissian was walking faster, some of her pain began to subside, and she lost 18 pounds—thus making her eligible for her surgery with an optimistic recovery period.

Incredibly, Sarkissian emerged from her surgery victorious. Now, almost an entire year post-op, Sarkissian is moving faster, stronger and better than ever. And best of all, she is pain-free.

“Diana has impressed me with her understanding of fitness and with her tenacity to push herself day by day,” To says, recalling that when they first met, Sarkissian weighed more than 200 pounds, was extremely inactive, relied heavily on her walker, and was wrought with pain. “Today, she is 60 pounds lighter than when we first started and is walking around without any assistive walking devices,” the personal trainer says proudly.

Photo credit: Jamie To