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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assistant program faculty member shows students tough love…and path to success

October 23, 2020

Medical Assistant program faculty member shows students tough love…and path to successAfter working for over ten years as a Medical Assistant (MA), Lanie Souza knows what level of professionalism doctors expect from that powerful support role. As a faculty member of the Clinical Medical Assisting program on the Madera campus, she does not miss an opportunity to drive that point home to her CMA students.

“There’s not a doctor on the planet who is not going to hold you accountable every day,” she tells her students. “Accountability is the biggest part of learning and when you’re working with people’s lives, that importance cannot be overstated.”

Lanie sees it as her job to get each student in her class to that point of preparedness. “My students all have the ability, so failure is not an option. They will learn that set of skills – that’s imperative – and with that knowledge they will have confidence in their ability.”

Lanie feels SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program gives students what they need to meet and exceed the demands of a busy medical practice. “Our Clinical Medical Assisting program is very accurate and true to what is done in the field.” She never tires of seeing her students grow into their future roles.

“It’s fulfilling to watch students transform right in front of me. Lightbulbs are going off in those moments of understanding of their role and the importance of it as a Medical Assistant.”

Her classroom is a place of collaboration. “We all stand in an opportunity to learn,” says Lanie. “I’m intrigued by everything I stand to learn from my students every day.”

Lanie knows her students and feels every bit of their pain, uncertainty, and tentative hopes for a future they are stretching to create. She is right there with them because she was once one of them.

Her first few years out of high school, Lanie floated from one no-experience-necessary job to another. “I’ve done a lot of waitressing and hostessing before working my way up to manager of a security alarm company,” she says. She remembered her childhood dream of becoming a nurse or a teacher. Maybe it was not too late.

A good friend, neighbor, and mother of four who was enrolled in SJVC’s Fresno Clinical Medical Assisting program nudged Lanie to think about enrolling as well. “I’d just had my son, Eric, but she balanced all of that too, so she inspired me and encouraged me to think about it.”

She decided to explore the possibilities of the Clinical Medical Assisting program and scheduled an appointment to see an Admissions Advisor and tour the campus. “I felt comfortable there on the campus as soon as I walked in,” says Lanie. “I went home and thought about it and the next day decided to enroll.”

A family member took care of Eric while Lanie balanced evening classes and continued to work full-time. “I dedicated myself to being there (at school) and had to tell myself that this was going to be a new direction, a new path in my life.”

Lanie earned a 4.0 GPA, perfect attendance and was the Valedictorian at her 1999 class’s graduation. Her campus Career Services Department helped her in her job search, and she went to work for a busy medical office where she stayed for 3-years.

One day she got an unexpected email from Lisa Redondo, the Clinical Medical Assisting Program Director on SJVC’s Fresno campus. “She asked me, ‘Are you interested in teaching? Come in and interview.’ My response was immediate that I would love the opportunity!” Lanie’s thoughts went back to her childhood: Nurse or Teacher.  Maybe she could have both.

Almost seventeen years later, Lanie has blended those worlds. “It was a great opportunity to do both. I loved school and it changed my life. Why wouldn’t I want the opportunity to change others’ lives?”

She is all the way in with her students. “I’m always super hands-on.  I need them to make the connection that I’m not ever going to ask them to do something that I am not willing to do with them.  It’s more shoulder-to-shoulder than hands-on.”

What ever kind of struggle one of her students is having, Lanie is going to meet them at that place of difficulty and help them find the way through it. Even if it is a struggle of their own making.

“I had a student who was very outspoken – no filter,” says Lanie. “She was incredibly bright and had the ability, but from an administrative standpoint she ran into challenges. I explained to her, ‘The things you have to say are real and valid and not incorrect. We just have to find a way to refine it so that it can be accepted in a way that someone understands.’ “She found her niche working in a county jail – in an unfiltered environment – within six months of graduating. And she’s probably one of the highest paid graduates I have.”

Lanie has a natural way of communicating that invites trust and acceptance. Part of that intuitive dynamic comes from her 22-year old son, Eric who is autistic. “He is my angel who will always be at home with me,” says Lanie. “In the first few years he was non-verbal and there were rough emotions that I had to learn to interpret. We had to learn a different kind of communication, rather than language. And now we don’t need language for me to understand what his wants and needs are.”

Maybe that is what Lanie’s students feel as well. A mentor who understands their struggles, missteps and insecurities without lengthy explanations or judgement. She is ready with more tools, more encouragement and just the right measure of tough love to get them to the next lightbulb.

And she will tell you: Flipping that switch can change everything.

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