Medical Office Administration student achieves for her family
At 31-years old, Sy Om had waited too long to go to college to let a little thing like giving birth to her fifth child slow her down. Soon after the delivery of her son, Athan, she was eager to get home.
“The day I got home from the hospital she (Theresa Paserb, instructor) was my first call,” says Sy. Theresa had warned Sy that the Medical Coding module of her Medical Office Administration program was the “very hardest class to catch up on.”
“I could have gotten an extension,” she says. Instead, Sy’s attitude was “No, I’m going to show her.” In fact Sy was ready to show the world what she could do.
Sy didn’t always have that kind of confidence in herself.
A first-time mom at sixteen, Sy was a stay-at-home mom of four children at twenty. Her first husband made it clear that the only thing she was capable of was cooking, cleaning and staying home. She wished for a life as a profession in the medical field, performing a larger service and making decisions that affected others.
“My dream was just buried,” says Sy. “I left it alone for a very long time.”
Then, she and her children were alone and faced with every single-mom’s greatest threat: how to survive. Sy didn’t waste much time in that state of fear and bewilderment.
“I’m not going to wonder what to do in my life,” she decided. So began a long list of jobs that kept their family intact and food on the table.
“I started in fast-food and 3-years later landed a job as a teller and new accounts person at a bank,” says Sy. “Then I went to work at WalMart because they are a 24-hour store and I could pick my hours.”
Then one Thanksgiving, working the ‘Black Friday’ sale; it was 3:00 AM and she was waiting for long lines of buyers to move. Sy had an epiphany.
“It’s Thanksgiving and I’m not with my family,” she thought. “It was a kick in the head for me.”
On December 14th, right after that Thanksgiving weekend, Sy started the online MOA certificate program. Even though she was two months pregnant with Athan, Sy was determined to finally realize her dream of training to work in the medical field.
This time she had some strong support at home from Jonathan, her second husband. “He helped with children, prepared meals and kept telling me that I was smart and that I could do it,” says Sy.
After the first month of struggling to navigate the new world of online classes, things suddenly clicked for her. Sy began to string up her 4.0s and inclusions on the Dean’s List. She was unstoppable…well, until that pesky child-birth thing. But even that event was barely a deterrent.
In Sy’s Insurance Principles class any doubt she may have had about fitting in at a medical office disappeared. Her own personal ethics matched the criteria for medical standards practice.
“I would never speak of someone’s health problems, just to gossip,” says Sy. “It made me realize how important I would be to the medical field, that I could make my patients feel comfortable with that knowledge.” Her dedication and strength of character did not go unnoticed.
“It was Sy’s determination and motivation to complete the program that shined through at a level above what could ever be expected,” says Theresa Paserb, Sy’s instructor. “She took planning and prioritizing in an effort to meet course requirements to an ultimate high.”
Sy graduated in July with two other online students, who together took the stage with the Rancho Cordova graduates this September. It was a proud moment standing there in her cap and gown, and seeing her loving family in the audience made her vision complete. There before her were Jonathan and all five children, ages 16, 13, 12, 11 and 5-month old Athan.
Sy hadn’t told anyone outside her husband and children that she was in college.
“Nobody else knew I was going to school,” says Sy. “I didn’t want to hear any negative comments.”
Maybe that’s why this milestone was even sweeter when family members, including a sister she hadn’t seen in three years, traveled the distance to watch her claim her prize.
Now Sy has a new plan. “I want to get experience as a patient representative, become a medical biller and coder at UC Davis, stabilize for awhile, then go back for a degree,” she says. And, what is her highest vision?
“I want to be the Executive Director of a health care facility,” she says. We don’t doubt for a minute that she will get there.
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