Medical Assisting program helps graduate find her inner strength
When Tameira Thomas enrolled in Visalia’s Medical Assisting program last year, she had no idea that she would walk away with a whole lot more than new skills, education and an Associate’s degree. She would leave campus a changed woman, with resources that went way beyond material aspects.
Tameira had been working for almost 10 years as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). But it was a conversation with her 14-year-old daughter, Jenna, about college and career choices that brought an uncomfortable realization. Tameira had not gone to college and did not know how to help her. Tameira’s son Lathan (12) would need college direction, too, at some point.
“Helping her lit a fire in myself,” says Tameira. “I thought if I’m going to help her, I should do this myself.”
But a big question lingered. Did Tameira have the strength and energy to take on the rigors of college? At 32, she had just experienced one of the most difficult years of her life. Her fiancé, Jack, had been diagnosed with leukemia and their world became very small as they fought to get the medications and treatments he needed to survive.
Tameira spent her days researching the disease, medications, treatments and resources. “The meds he needed to keep him alive were very expensive, $7,000/month, and his insurance would only cover generic,” she says. “He was losing his hearing and would get short-winded easily,” says Tameira, who found the help Jack needed. “There are a lot of resources out there for cancer patients.”
A year later, Jack was cancer-free and back to work; and Tameira was motivated to help others who have medical problems and no advocate to help them chart a course of treatment and support.
“I wanted to help people who didn’t know how to help themselves,” she says. She wanted something that would take her into acute care, surgeries and pre/post op, and give her a deeper relationship with those to whom she provided care. The Medical Assisting program on the Visalia campus seemed a perfect fit for Tameira’s career aspirations and she committed to giving it her all.
However, the Medical Assisting program proved a challenge that took Tameira a bit by surprise. “I didn’t know what an ‘accelerated’ course meant until I got into it,” she says. “The intensity of the class took it right to the brink of too much; but it only made me stronger.”
By the second mod, she had her rhythm down and could be seen in her green scrubs and SJVC rolling backpack all around town. “I was at basketball practice and games and color guard events, doing homework, studying flash cards and sometimes on my laptop writing a paper. If I didn’t have homework, I was knitting for Hats for Hope.”
Tameira was also very involved with AMTSS (American Medical Technologists Student Society), and as its President, organized and led many fundraisers and events. Not surprisingly, she was named “Student of the Year” at a national AMT conference in Hawaii this past July.
“Tameira is an inspiration to her classmates and AMTSS members,” says Sujana De Almeida, Medical Assisting instructor. “Her role as a leader is unparalleled. I have confidence that Tameira will travel far in the medical field and will uphold the high standards of AMT with integrity and pride.”
Tameira recently completed her Medical Assisting program and was immediately hired by a local surgeon associated with the Visalia Medical Clinic. At the same time, Tameira took a deep breath and sat for her exam to become a Registered Medical Assistant. Not only did she pass this rigorous exam, she achieved a perfect score.
Tameira counts her many blessings.
“You form bonds when you go through struggles and you are with people who help you go through that,” she says of her classmates. “Instructors made it great too, with just the right amount of firmness, caring and empathy that it takes.”
Tameira’s walk through fire gave her something else. “I’m really a different person from when I started school. I had low self-worth and never held my head up or asked questions. I wasn’t the best student in high school and kind of let that define me. Being here (at SJVC) taught me that I am smart and I am equal to other people.”
Somewhere along the way, Tameira also realized her primary source of strength. “I found God while I was at school,” she beams. “I think that it is with God’s grace that I was able to do any of this.”
Tameira wants to share her newfound passion. “I want every student to have a passion like I do. I want every student to transform like I did. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
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