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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

From student to instructor: faculty member can relate to student’s experiences

December 16, 2020
header Diagnostic Medical Sonography students get the best one program faculty member has to offer

Every moment Tiffani Newsom spends with her Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) students is an opportunity to groom them for their highest level of professional success. “I want them to leave the classroom being confident in their abilities to scan and know what they’re doing,” she says.

The accelerated Associate Degree program which can be completed in as few as 17 months can overwhelm those who might not expect the rigors of learning to operate specialized equipment to generate images used for assessing and diagnosing various medical conditions. Ultrasound technicians use an ultrasound transducer (wand-like instrument) to scan veins and arteries throughout the body, as well as OBGYN scans, abdomen and breast areas.

Tiffani is quick to identify a DMS student who is struggling and intervene with various levels of support. “As a mom of four who was once in their shoes, I remind them that the program goes go fast that they will be a graduate with an Associate’s degree in the blink of an eye.” San Joaquin Valley College also offers a Certificate DMS program.

Tiffani recalls her days as a struggling student in this same program on the Bakersfield campus. She has been that student she now instructs, supports and comforts. She has balanced work, family and school to the brink of her capabilities, as so many of her students do today. She approaches their struggles from the standpoint of her own experience and determined push toward success.

“It was a very hectic schedule, working six days a week, school, homework, then dinner,” she remembers. “But I absolutely loved it.”

But the stresses of being a student are not always around time constraints.

“Some students lack confidence or are not familiar with or have a basic understanding of anatomy,” says Tiffani. “But with perseverance about what they want and how to do it, some actually turn around and become some of my best students.”

There is a definite return on Tiffani’s investment. “There’s so much to learn on a daily basis,” she says. “I feel like the more I give them and put into them, the more I’m learning, myself.”

Tiffani always knew she wanted to be in the medical field, but she did not realize that she might one day move so comfortably into the classroom. “When I was a student, fellow students said, ‘Tiffani, you should be a teacher’. “It was natural for me.”

But first she had to have that direct patient care and experience.  “I wanted to get right into the field (after graduation) and get my hands dirty,” she remembers. But even as she worked for a radiology imaging center, she found herself confidently leading others. “I always had two students with me, teaching them.”

Eighteen months ago, Tiffani finally embraced her destiny to teach when she returned to the Bakersfield campus that helped launch her career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. “It feels like home,” she says. “The camaraderie between faculty; we all support each other. We all care about the students very much and you can tell that by the interaction between the students and staff.”

“As a former standout student and graduate, Tiffani was always a positive example in the classroom,” says Michael Rugnao, Academic Dean. “She has carried that willingness to help to her students as a teacher. Her passion for her students has no limit!”

The classroom is where the information takes root and the lab is where magic happens. It is where everything that is learned is put into physical practice. It can also be a place of discovery and surprise. Tiffani remembers when, as a DMS student, she volunteered to be scanned by her instructor. Both were watching the screen when “we found a pathology on my thyroid,” says Tiffani. “We both saw it at the same time and looked at each other with huge eyes.” A follow-up appointment with Tiffani’s doctor resulted in the removal of a benign lobe of the thyroid.

DMS students are at first amazed at what their instruments reveal inside the human body. Learning to correctly interpret shadows, migrations and size differentials can be intriguing, as well as lifesaving.

CoVid-19 had temporarily interrupted the flow of experiential education, as students continue their studies online. “I miss them all so much because we don’t get that interaction right now,” says Tiffani. “We use a hands-on scanning (computer) program that works out very well and they are still getting to utilize the skills they learned in lab on campus. Students are also getting to learn things that our program would not otherwise have offered, like ECHO (echocardiogram).”

Tiffani has a very nurturing nature when it comes to her students. “My students feel like my children, even though some of them are older than me,” she laughs.

Even with the geographical distance, they feel close. “Students tell me on a daily basis, ‘Thank you so much. I couldn’t have done it without you.’ “To see them grow from the start to the finish of the program, is very gratifying for me.”

Tiffani wants to impact the professional lives of DMS students in even greater ways. Currently working on her Bachelor’s degree and OBGYN test license, she intends to broaden the scope of her program responsibilities.  Part of that role expansion would include finding more medical facilities in which her students can serve externships and connecting with more medical practices that are in line to hire DMS graduates. She wants San Joaquin Valley College and program graduates to be at the top of every new hire list.

Tiffani is on track to have her supportive influence felt by many generations of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers to come.

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