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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Finding Security and Passion in Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting A.S. Degree: Michael Hernandez-Guzman’s Journey

May 7, 2024

Michael Hernandez was seventeen years old, working at Taco Bell and planning to follow in his dad’s footsteps into construction. He never gave any thought to a career in the medical field. He had just enrolled in SJVC’s Construction Management program when the 2008 recession hit, and construction jobs were starting to disappear.

He made a pivot in a direction no one expected. He switched his program to Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting. “I just went for the security,” he remembers. “With construction industry slowing down, I had to find an alternative to continue helping my family. And there was always a need for medical people.”

As well as a need for well-trained and experienced Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting program instructors…where Michael found his place on SJVC’s faculty a decade later.


Why Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting?

Back then, I just wanted a vocation and was happy to continue my education in any field; but recruiters had come to my high school to talk about Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting career opportunities. It caught my interest. I was already enrolled in SJVC’s Construction Management program, so it was easy to make the switch to Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting.  And at the end of the program, I would earn my Associate’s degree.

I wanted the kind of job that would give me security in the long run. It was a trial thing for me, but I just hoped I liked it.


And did you like it?

I ended up loving it and finding something that inspired me to go even deeper into the field.

At the end of my externship, I was hired as a Medical Assistant. Two years later I was their Lead Medical Assistant. I eventually became the clinic’s office manager and administrator, and this continues to evolve.


Did you expand your education?

After SJVC, I went to community college for three years before transferring to a university where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics. I worked part-time throughout school. In 2017, I made a decision to go to medical school.  I see the power of education; you can change worlds with education. And the more I could learn, the more I can make positive changes.


What was your next move forward in your education and career?

When the pandemic hit, my father lost his job, ushing me to find an alternative position. After having 10 years of Medical Assisting experience, I looked online and stumbled onto instructor positions. I saw a position at SJVC, applied, interviewed, got the job. It was a way to earn more money and give back my knowledge and experience to the next generation of medical assistants. Pay it forward.


What excites you about teaching your Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting class?

It’s a different environment every day. Interacting with students is different from working with patients. Shifting my perspective was an interesting transition. But I’d taught interns at work, so it was very natural for me. I had to find a new way to deliver the material and readapt to the needs of my students. I was able to do that.

And to have a little mix of something else every day, gave me a different perspective.


Describe your teaching style.

Lectures are good, but hands-on experience carries a heavier weight. I’m more ‘Let me make this information available to you, then you give it a try. Make that calculation on your own and I can help you perfect it.’

I ask them questions to test their level of understanding before we move forward.


What do you most hope to give your students?

Those who had doubts about themselves are the ones I try to push forward; fan their flame for continued education. A lot of my students want to advance in the medical field to become healthcare providers, such as registered nurse, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or medical doctor. A new generation sees Medical Assisting as a way to get into the medical field.


What has been your greatest struggle as an instructor?

Readapting my teaching style to fit the need of a student that was struggling. I had to learn a new way to deliver material and readapt to the needs of those students. I feel I was able to do that with support provided by SJVC’s Allied Health team.


What is an example of what that shift in support might look like?

I developed an after-school lab for students who just needed more practice. I designed experiences to bolster their skills and confidence. They were very grateful for the added exposure.


Do you have a favorite moment as a Clinical Medical Assisting program instructor?

Every morning, I say to myself, ‘Let’s go teach! Let’s see what our challenges are today.’ The day-to-day is always different and I have to readapt to the needs of the students. Different student, different attitude, different custom. That’s my kind of environment. And you don’t always take the same approach or direction.


Favorite proverb, mantra, quote you like to pass along to your students who struggle?

When you first decide to go to school, you look at the entire picture and it’s very stressful. There’s something my mentor always told me when you’re feeling overwhelmed: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Now that I’m a little older, I understand that better. It’s scary when you look at the whole thing. But it’s just a step at a time.


What is your next ‘elephant’?

I start medical school in the summer. I’ve been accepted to multiple institutions – which is a good problem to have. But I still need to make a decision. My 10-year goal is to complete medical school and residency towards eventual private practice. I want to help my community and expand my practice to help underserved populations.

Ten years from now I’d also like to have my own mentorship for high school students and young adults who are considering anything in the medical field.

I’ve seen that the power of education can change worlds. I’ve seen that reflected on me. I’d like to lead someone else in that direction.

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