St. Louis Community College Celebrates 13 New Medical Assistant Graduates

By on January 17, 2019
St. Luke's Medical Assistant Graduates

Misty Whipple always wanted to be a nurse, but the task became more and more daunting while working full time. After two years of completing prerequisites at another school, she expected at least two additional years of schooling in an LPN program. “It felt like it was dragging on forever,” she said.

Whipple knew she wanted to help people sooner, so when she stumbled upon the St. Louis Community College six-month accelerated medical assistant program, she knew it suited her. Through a partnership with St. Luke’s Medical Group, St. Louis Community College graduated 13 students in December and each received a full-time offer at St. Luke’s.

In addition to administrative tasks, medical assistants take vital signs, perform basic laboratory tests, draw blood and prepare patients for physicians. Each student, some with unconventional paths, persevered in order to complete both the classwork and internship at St. Luke’s. The graduates believe their hard work paid off.

The internship portion benefited Whipple on a professional level as well as a personal level. “It helped bring something out in me that I didn’t know was possible,” she said. “Even at my age you think you know yourself but you start a new class and experience with new people, and… It was great.”

By finally completing her certification, Whipple taught her 12- and 13-year-old sons that hard work pays off. Her sons helped around the house and washed dishes without being asked after seeing their mother studying for class and tests all the time. “My son came up to me the other day, put his arm around me and said, ‘I’m proud of you, Mom.’ It’s hard to not let that emotion show.”

Whipple isn’t the only one who depended on her family to help support her through the program. Her classmate Terris Talton could never find the time or the means to focus on a healthcare career until this year, when everything lined up. “I couldn’t have done this without my family,” she said. Talton had a strong support system helping her care for her 2-year-old daughter and making ends meet while she worked to complete the medical assistant training.

The program creates a close-knit environment for students with a small student-to-teacher ratio. Instructors check in on students regularly and enforce strict grade requirements but also ensure all students understand every step. “I admire and appreciate them,” instructor Dr. Marie Furtado said. “They work so hard. It’s not easy for them, and I’m glad we can help them.”

Many students were amazed at how much time they spent with patients. Amanda Stock considers herself a people person and enjoys caring for others, so the medical assistant program proved the perfect segue into a healthcare career.

In her speech at the graduation ceremony, Stock explained that she and her fellow students are the face of the healthcare system by creating the environment in which a person begins to heal. “When I first started it was difficult because I started out with no knowledge,” she said. “The instructors here are supportive and understanding, they care and will work with you to make sure that you understand it.”

Stock continued, “If your dreams span a bit further, this can be the first stepping stone.” Many of the students have flirted with the idea of pursuing nursing later in life or continuing in a physician practice as an office manager. Some of them, however, knew that might be the case all along.

Marcus Fitzgerald enrolled in an unorthodox manner (not unlike some of his classmates). He intended to register for the RN program at the College, but when that had already reached capacity, STLCC program coordinator Laurie Hawkins recommended the MA program. Fitzgerald signed up, assuming he would exclusively answer phones and work in administration, but was pleasantly surprised when he realized he was well on his way to the nursing career he had originally envisioned.

After starting his career in a marketing environment, Fitzgerald discovered his passion to care for others when he began supporting people with disabilities at a different organization. Fitzgerald continues to work in this role by helping with daily tasks, billing, nutrition and patient comfort. His internship at St. Luke’s then further confirmed his love for healthcare.

“I feel like I’m giving something back, I’m impacting people. It’s not just a job where you go and you do your thing,” he said about working at St. Luke’s. “This for me feels really good, knowing I’m leaving a legacy behind.”

Fitzgerald illustrated his gratefulness in his commencement speech. Feeling relief and a sense of accomplishment, he laughed as he quoted a classmate saying that with all the studying they did, they might as well try for medical school. “The knowledge is a great gift and to be as prepared as we are is a blessing,” he said.

In addition to the medical knowledge, he and fellow classmates point to the important teamwork and collaborative skills they developed. He called it a case study in determination, encouraging classmates to continually challenge themselves: “Let us all make a promise to ourselves to keep the exceptional at the surface.”

St. Luke’s Medical Group has made students’ positive and proactive development at its physician practices one of its priorities from the beginning. After the program, students work at St. Luke’s for one year in an apprenticeship. St. Luke’s Medical Group Operations Manager Lois Vogel says they train the students in St. Luke’s culture from the beginning. “We have our acronym FACES: friendly, available, caring, efficient, safe,” she said. “We want our students to feel that from the beginning.”

Fitzgerald believes St. Luke’s treats their patients and staff exceptionally well in addition to encouraging growth among the new medical assistants. “This is a place I want to be, I could see myself retiring from here,” he said.

Prospective students interested in the medical assistant program can find additional information at stlcc.edu/ma.

About Laura Davis

Laura Davis is a Marketing Communications Coordinator at St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solution Group, which delivers non-credit continuing education opportunities, corporate training and community services to the St. Louis region.

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