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Student Profiles

Ashley GardnerMedical Assisting Program Provides the Skills for a Career That is in Demand
“Something in the health field” – that’s what Ashley Gardner knew she wanted to do. But what? As a student at the University of Alabama, she majored in health studies. Upon her graduation in the spring of 2008, she still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. Gardner returned to her native North Carolina and considered her options. Her sister had gone into nursing, and that was a possibility. Then she learned about the new Medical Assisting program at Durham Technical Community College. The program has recently been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Gardner attended an information session where she learned about medical assistants’ responsibilities. The program prepares students to become multi-skilled health care rofessionals, proficient in administrative, clinical, and laboratory rocedures.

Students learn to schedule appointments, code and process insurance accounts, and call in prescriptions. They learn medical transcription and computer operations. They assist with patient examinations, and they perform routine laboratory procedures and electrocardiography. Graduates of the Medical Assisting program are employed in physicians’ offices, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), health departments, and hospital clinics. Gardner decided to enroll in Durham Tech’s Medical Assisting program, hoping to obtain a clearer career path. During Fall Semester, the program’s emphasis is on classroom instruction. During Spring Semester,
the focus is on laboratory competencies as well as classroom instruction. During Summer Term, Gardner enjoyed the hands-on clinical experience of a physician’s office. “You’re doing everything from greeting patients to checking vital signs to helping a doctor with procedures,” she says. For five weeks, she worked at Family Medical Associates, a physicians’ practice affiliated with Duke Primary Care. Last July, Gardner received her Medical Assisting diploma, graduating from the new program’s second class. “Through the experience, I also learned I really like working with patients,” she explains. Gardner now has a full-time job with Family Medical Associates.

For more information visit the Medical Assisting program pages,  or contact Angela Breault at breaulta@durhamtech.edu or call 919-536-7233, ext. 8098.

David EadeClinical Trials Research Associate Program Prepares Students for Cutting-Edge Careers
When it comes to careers, the path is not always straight. Sometimes one path leads to another. Several years ago, as more men entered the field, David Eade decided on a career in nursing. He enrolled in a registered nursing program, where he initially enjoyed his courses and clinical work. But he eventually realized that he did not want to be a nurse. Eade was interested in science and in helping others, so he looked around for other careers. In 1998, he enrolled in Durham Tech’s Clinical Trials Research Associate program (CTRA). Thankfully, many of Eade’s courses transferred.

The CTRA program was developed at Durham Tech because the Triangle is home to many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and academic research centers. The program trains students to monitor and manage pharmaceutical trials. “In this field I’m still helping people, like in nursing,” he says. “But this is data intense. You’re reporting scientific findings. The pace is fast, but instructors are always there to help. It takes many years to learn on the job what I learned at Durham Tech in two years.”

Course work includes in-depth study of human subjects’ protection, drug development, regulations and guidelines, good clinical practices, protocol development, and clinical research processes. Through fieldwork with local pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations (CROs), and clinical research sites, students learn data management, clinical operations, and site management.

Eade performed his fieldwork internships with local CROs and clinical sites. While enrolled at the college, he worked at Quintiles. Upon finishing the CTRA program in 2001, Eade had a job waiting with a researched-based biopharmaceutical company. Today he works in the Durham office of Gilead Sciences Inc., where he is a senior clinical research associate in the clinical pharmacology department. Eade manages Phase 1 clinical trials, the first research studies of a drug tested in humans, and assists with development of protocols and clinical study reports. His expertise is in anti-viral drugs, such as those for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

Students completing the seven-semester CTRA evening program, which includes daytime fieldwork rotations, earn an Associate in Applied Science degree. Durham Tech also offers three certificate options for qualified students.

For more information, contact 919-536-7202 or visit the Clinical Trials Research Associate program pages.

Megan PollockOccupational Therapy Assistant Graduate Follows Early Career Advice
Megan Pollock is a highly respected occupational therapy assistant who specializes in eating disorders at UNC-Hospitals’ Psychiatry Department. Self-esteem and poor body image are problems for many of her patients, most of whom are female teenagers. It is Pollock’s job to facilitate activities that help the women feel better about themselves: she may take patients bowling or organize cooking groups for them. Pollock’s skills are also called on in the hospital’s cardiology and pulmonary unit. “I’m a people person,” she says. “I feel a sense of accomplishment in helping people.”

When she was a student at Riverside High School, Pollock occasionally interacted with some special education students in the library. A teacher was impressed with her and suggested she consider occupational therapy. But as a high school student, Pollock didn’t think anything of it. Later, Pollock entered East Carolina University but left after a year.“At 19, it’s hard to figure out what you want to do,” she explains. She worked at a bank for a while. Then her mother suggested that she check into Durham Tech’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program. Her former teacher’s words came back to her.

This associate degree program prepares graduates to work under the supervision of a registered occupational therapist in all aspects of the profession, including screening, assessment, and treatment. Occupational therapy professionals help patients improve their ability to work and enjoy hobbies and other activities. Some patients are recovering from injuries or have long-term illnesses or disabilities, and occupational therapy professionals assist them in making changes in their homes so they can live more independently. Graduates of the program work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other settings.

In a short time, Pollock has become an expert in a career she loves. In fact, she returns to Durham Tech each year to give a lecture about eating disorders. Her career advice to students is to figure out exactly what motivates them. “Don't just rush into something. Take a break from school like I did if you need to,” she says.

For more information, contact Carol Marcus at marcusc@durhamtech.edu or 919-536-7233, ext. 8120, or visit the Occupational Therapy Assistant program pages.

Tamika PooleStudent Finds the Medical Career Path That Suits Her Talents
The Medical Office Administration program trains students for careers in the changing world of medicine. Students in the program develop skills in keyboarding, word processing, and communication. They take courses in medical legal issues, medical terminology, billing and coding, and medical transcription. Upon completing the program, they find jobs in the offices of allied health facilities and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). They are hired by insurance claims processors, laboratories, and manufacturers and suppliers of medical and hospital equipment.

Tamika Poole was an accounting student at a four-year university several years ago. But accounting was not for her, and she did not complete the program. While deciding on her next step, Poole worked at a call center. A co-worker there told her about Durham Tech’s Medical Office Administration program.

Poole attended an information session and liked what she heard. As a single mother, the idea of taking some courses online was appealing. Poole enrolled in the program in January 2008. The Gamma Beta Phi honor society member says she had previously thought about a career in the medical field, perhaps nursing, but knew she would never be able to draw blood!

Poole loved the individual attention she received at Durham Tech. “The instructors are always willing to answer any questions,” she says. “They also encouraged you to speak your mind during class.” Poole particularly enjoyed working on computers, but she also liked learning medical terminology and codes, the billing and insurance processes, and medical transcription. Probably her favorite part of the program has been the cooperative experience at Duke Medical Center’s Harps Mill Internal Medicine Clinic.

“I am always busy– never sitting around. I really enjoy going to work,” Poole says. She feels that her Durham Tech studies prepared her for the 320-hour cooperative education experience.“I didn’t know much about a co-op experience before, but I have learned so much from this,” she says. After her co-op, Poole feels confident about landing a good job in this high-demand field.

Courses in Medical Office Administration are offered during the day and in the evening. Online and hybrid courses are also available. Students may complete the Associate in Applied Science degree in five semesters taking classes during the day or in seven semesters taking evening classes. For more information, contact Joan Brown at brownj@durhamtech.edu or 919-536-7235, ext. 8150, or visit Medical Office Administration program pages.

Mike RogersIndustrial Systems Graduate Returns to Earlier Career Interest and a Dream Job
Mike Rogers had been looking for any job in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for nearly seven months. “Within two weeks of completing the Industrial Systems Technology program at Durham Tech, I had three job offers,” he recalls.

Not everyone who attends Durham Tech has those exact results, but many do. Today Rogers works as an HVAC service technician for Warren-Hay Contractors, a large mechanical contracting company based in Hillsborough. The company repairs, retrofits, and installs residential, light, and large-scale commercial HVAC equipment. Rogers’ skills are in high demand at the company.

A native of western North Carolina, Rogers enrolled in N.C. State University’s Mechanical Engineering program after high school. Due to a family financial situation, however, he had to withdraw. He worked in the restaurant business for almost 13 years but sometimes thought of his engineering studies at N.C. State. Rogers knew Durham Tech had a strong technical program, so he decided to enroll in the Industrial Systems Technology program.

The curriculum prepares students to safely service, maintain, repair, and install equipment. Instruction includes theory and skills training needed for inspecting, testing, troubleshooting, and diagnosing industrial systems. Rogers acquired the technical skills for blueprint reading, mechanical systems maintenance, and electricity. He studied hydraulics and pneumatics, welding, machining, and fabrication.

“The courses covered a broad spectrum of information,” Rogers says. From the basic refrigeration cycle to troubleshooting electrical and mechanical components of these systems, his instructors covered it all. Rogers learned information from the lectures and then applied the principles by working with equipment in the lab.

“The instructors are among the best assets of the college,” Rogers explains. “My instructor was a field-tested veteran who could teach you the real-life applications of HVAC and help you understand a systematic approach to problem solving.” Rogers found the college a supportive place to learn. “You are surrounded by people who, just like you, are trying to better themselves.”

For more information, email armstrongj@durhamtech.edu or call 536-7234, ext. 8138, or visit the Industrial Systems Technologies pages.

Jessica PhelpsSchool-Age Education Program Draws Students
Some people know what they were meant to do. When it comes to choosing a career, they feel a strong internal tug, and they go with it. For Jessica Phelps, it is all about working with young children. After graduating from Northern High School in Durham, she worked for a number of years at a day care center. There she learned that she had a “way” with children. She was always patient and genuinely enjoyed her work.

Since she lives close to Durham Technical Community College’s Northern Durham Campus, Phelps decided to enroll in some college courses while she was working. Some students come to the college to change careers, but Phelps wanted to advance her current career. So she enrolled in the School-Age Education program, which prepares students to be professional teacher assistants, working with children from infancy through middle
childhood in a variety of learning environments. Graduates of the program are employed at preschools, public and private schools, recreational centers, and day care programs.

The course work covers childhood growth and development, physical and nutritional needs, and care and guidance. Students learn methods of teaching children fundamental skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. They also learn how to encourage cognitive, language, physical, motor, and social development. The School-Age Education program also provides a cooperative classroom experience.

Some of the program’s courses include Creative Activities; Principles and Practice of the Instructional Assistant;
Classroom Management and Instruction; Health, Safety, and Nutrition; and Music and Movement.

These days Phelps combines college with substitute work at a child care center, as well some part-time babysitting. She feels she has what it takes to work in a classroom of lively young children. Through her Durham Tech courses, Phelps has come to understand better what makes them tick. “I love learning about children and can't wait to make a career out of something I love,” Phelps says. Once on the job, she will do everything from planning classroom programs to communicating with parents.

For more information about the School-Age Education program, contact Micara Lewis at lewism@durhamtech.edu or 919-536-7230, ext. 4406, or visit the Early Childhood Education pages.

Chi DonaldsonStudent’s Experience at Durham Tech Motivates Her to Give Back to Others
For college students, campus life is a blur of classes, studying, trips to the library, tests, and more studying. Then one day, it’s over. Students graduate and move on to their professions, or they transfer to a four-year college or university. So what makes a recent graduate contribute regularly to the
Durham Tech Foundation to help others?

Chi Donaldson already had a bachelor’s degree when she arrived at Durham Tech. But when she enrolled in the Clinical Trials Research Associate program, she discovered her vocation and her avocation. “DTCC teachers brought real experience to the classroom,” she recalls. “The instructors
were almost always available when I needed some extra guidance.” Today Donaldson works with Family Health International as a Research Assistant II.

“I started thinking about the contributions that Durham Tech gave to me,” she explains. “It’s an organization that is doing the community a service. I promised myself that when I got a job, I would do my best to give back to those who had helped me.” Donaldson chose to contribute regularly to the Durham Tech Foundation to support student scholarships.

Donaldson’s advice to prospective students is to take advantage of the many opportunities available outside the classroom, including internships. “Your approach should be to learn as much as possible, work very diligently, and show all the initiative that you can,” she says. For those who have the time, she recommends that students volunteer for college-sponsored activities, join academic groups, and participate in professional organizations.

Iris Chicas-ChavarriaCommunity Spanish Facilitator, Medical Spanish Facilitator Certificates Open Career Doors
Several years ago, while she was taking English as a Second Language courses, Iris Chicas- Chavarria picked up a flyer for Durham Tech’s Community Spanish Facilitator certificate. She decided to enroll in the certificate program to expand her skills.

“The classes were very exciting because of the teacher and the topics,” she says. “My favorite parts were the debates that took place in each class. Also, the diversity of my classmates allowed me to learn about their cultures.”

Before coming to Durham Tech, Chicas-Chavarria had already earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of El Salvador. At Durham Tech, she completed both the Community Spanish Facilitator and the Medical Facilitator certificates. Today she works as a Spanish interpreter for an area hospital.

“I apply everything I learned from my two certificates at Durham Tech,” she says.

For more information about the Community Spanish Facilitator and Medical Spanish Facilitator programs, contact contact Marianela Mañana at mananam@durhamtech.edu visit the Spanish Certificate pages.

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