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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Grad Q&A with Clinical Medical Assisting graduate Portia Kincaid

August 29, 2023

Portia Kincaid had a big career decision to make: stay in the culinary field she loved and make the sacrifice of family time and financial security…or prepare for a career in the more income-stable, family-friendly medical field.

She was fortunate to have seen this career crossroad before. Portia’s dad, Joseph, had been a cook for a while before he faced the same big choice she was about to make. Portia decided to follow in her dad’s footsteps: Family first – with a new, more compatible, career interest. Her dad stepped out of the kitchen and into the medical field as a Physician Assistant. And like father, like daughter, Portia locked her sights onto another medical career: Clinical Medical Assisting.


How much did your dad’s medical career choice influence you?

Dad would come home in that prestigious white coat, like a firefighter’s uniform, that made my eyes light up. The decision he made for his family seemed the right decision for me to make for mine. And I knew the medical field was a financially stable industry. There are always jobs and room for more education and advancement in that field.


Was it a difficult decision?

I loved being a chef, cooking in people’s homes for special occasions, doing company events, high-profile client meetings, private venues. But I worked holidays and always got home late after cooking and clean-up. It was a revolving door, exhausting and not sustainable. I wanted to be a more involved parent – and be able to send my kids to college.

My family (husband J.C. and kids Colt-13 and Pepper-3) have been supportive during this entire thing. We knew we needed to pivot so that we wouldn’t continue to lose those precious hours together, as a family. Besides, my passion for work was not going to go away, I just needed to change the direction.


Why did you choose SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program?

I did some online digging and looked at a couple of other schools in our area. I made an online inquiry, and a representative of the school called me. I went to the Bakersfield campus, and I knew there would be a sales pitch.

But the school and the people were warm and inviting and I just felt comfortable. I didn’t feel like someone was trying to sell me a car. I met with Admissions and they were proficient at walking me through all the steps of the enrollment process. I didn’t feel any ‘It’s now or never’ pressure to enroll. I started my Clinical Medical Assisting program a month later.


Did being a student in your thirties give you pause…or an advantage?

I was probably one of the oldest people in each of my classes, but we were all there for the same goal. I had more life experience and some of them did seek my advice. I tried to remind them of what’s worth getting worked up over and what’s not; and I believe they did value that.


What was one of your favorite classroom moments?

My husband works in the dairy world, and my instructor thought it would be cool if I brought a cow heart to my Anatomy class. I didn’t have an aversion to those kinds of things because I was a chef. Students’ eyes lit up when they understood what they were looking at. It helped them visualize the anatomy of a heart. They went from grossed out to throwing on gloves and digging in and taking pictures. They could see it was medically informative.


What was the best thing about the program?

Every five weeks a new group of students start the program and watching our (current) students jump in to help them and seeing that camaraderie is a humble experience. They wanted to ease them in with “I’ll help you” texts.


Were there any surprises in your program?

The vast amount of things you learn in each block of 5-week classes. I feel like when I went to my extern site (on-the-job experience) nothing was a surprise. Everything had been covered: injections, wound dressing, paperwork – only the patients were the variables. We knew the material. The school did a great job of teaching us all those important constants. It’s a lot of knowledge, but they make sure you know it and can retain it.

When you get those skills and knowledge down, you can’t help but enter the field with confidence.


What challenges did you face as a student, wife, mom, and occasional chef?

My challenge was beating myself up to make sure I did my best. I might have come home and cried a little bit, but I didn’t show it at school. I wanted to set a good example for my kids; show them it’s not impossible to produce a better version of yourself while also being a spouse, mother and taking care of their needs and a house. They didn’t feel like my commitment to school took anything away from them.


Did you have the support you needed?

My husband (J.C.) was always supportive. Cooking, laundry and watching the kids became mutual chores. He would come home early so I could go to class and he would take the kids so I could do homework — and he didn’t roll his eyes or make weird noises, not one time.


Was this the right career choice for you?

I got in lockstep with the medical field right away. It’s the same customer service as the culinary field. You’re still dealing with people and their emotions, and you want them to feel special and comfortable in the environment they’re in. Procedures can be anxiety-producing, and you want to help your patient move forward smoothly and with the most successful outcome.


What advice would you give to someone considering more education toward their career dreams?

Just don’t be scared. The first step is the hardest; but once you’re in the water, keep swimming.

I don’t have a trick for organizing time because I’m not the best at it. But I will say that it’s important to carve out time for yourself though all of this because you have to maintain your sanity.


Where did you start your new career?

I was hired at my extern site (SJVC’s hands-on work experience placement) as a Medical Assistant. I prepare exam rooms, get patients’ vitals, perform injections, wound dressings, EKGs – everything from patient assessment to insurance claims. We do everything except diagnosis.

My job is very secure, and we just opened a second location, so we’re expanding staff. They will even allow me to go back to school to become an RN (Registered Nurse).


What are your future medical aspirations?

I would love to be an RN, but I would also love to be an instructor after spending some time in the field. It was really rewarding to see students in my Clinical Medical Assisting program ‘get it’, see that lightbulb come on. It’s a dual passion and I can see myself doing both long-term.

There’s no timeline to determine success. My kids are my personal reward and I feel like this success was for them.

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