Duncan McInnes/Pipe Dream Staff Photographer

When Karen Castoro gets ready every morning, she’s preparing for two jobs: nurse practitioner and aerobics instructor.

Castoro decided on her first career choice as a nurse practitioner at a young age. Despite not having any family members in the medical field, she always said she wanted to be a nurse.

“In first grade, we had a little drawing we were supposed to do [called] ‘When I grow up I want to be’ and I wrote ‘a nurse,’ and I drew a picture of a nurse,” Castoro said. “My mom actually framed it and I’ve got it in my office.”

Originally from Carmel, New York, her family moved to Endicott when her father got a job at IBM. From then on, Castoro attended high school there and was part of the cheerleading, swimming and track teams. Although she actively participated in sports, Castoro noticed she gained some weight her junior year.

“With all of the sports, I never really challenged my body,” she said. “I wasn’t really that into exercise as much as I was into team sports and being with my friends.”

All of that changed when she took a fitness class taught by a Binghamton University student. By the end of the class, the student was graduating and offered Castoro the teaching position. Without hesitation, she got her aerobics certification and took over the class shortly after graduating high school.

And she’s been doing it since. Castoro ended up enrolling as a student at BU for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing. Throughout her time as a student, she continued teaching and taking fitness classes, eventually turning it into another career.

By the time she completed both degrees, she was pregnant with her first child and was working in pediatrics. Then she was offered a position in gynecology at OB-GYN Associates in Johnson City and Endicott.

Today, Castoro works all over Binghamton with flexible hours to accommodate her four children, who range from 3 to 15 years old. Aside from OB-GYN Associates, she teaches fitness classes at Court Jester Athletic Club in Johnson City. During the school year, Castoro teaches Wellness thru Aerobics and Contemporary Health Issues at Binghamton University, where she’s gained something of a following among students. In those two classes, she helps students evaluate how to stay healthy and fit in this day and age.

Castoro sees a connection between medicine and holistic wellness.

“I think that both of my careers are intertwined,” she said. “I think that I’m doing a lot of teaching with my patients and I teach them a lot about nutrition and fitness, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with my college students.”

Her biggest tip for students, and sometimes for patients, is that they try different methods of exercise, “Whether it’s an intramural sport, running around campus [or] trying out a spinning class,” Castoro said, “because you need to have that exercise in your life, that fitness in your life and you’re not going to do it if you don’t like it. So by trying different things, you’ll be able to find something that you really enjoy doing.”

“She has motivated me to see the positive outlook on life and to better myself in all aspects of wellness, from physical wellness, to mental wellness, spiritual wellness and so on,” said Nicole Lebowitz, a senior majoring in psychology who took Castoro’s class last semester. “The lessons I learned in Karen’s class will stick with me after I graduate, and her enthusiastic attitude about life and wellness motivates me to find the same balance and well-being in my life.”

Looking ahead to her future, Castoro hopes to get her doctorate as a nurse practitioner with a focus on doing research in exercise, fitness and nutrition. But for now, she’ll stick with what she has.

“Right now, I love both of my careers,” she said. “But my children are really my top priority and they’re keeping me extremely busy.”