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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assisting student looking for more than a job

April 4, 2016
Fresno Medical Assisting student Alex Dos Santos
Alex wants to help others hear a positive message about themselves that he wasn’t able to hear growing up.

Alex Dos Santos sums up his employment ambitions perfectly. “I was always looking for that one thing, that one career I could build a life around,” he says. “I was tired of minimum wages and being a temp.”

He took a very pragmatic approach when he weighed his options. “I did the math,” says Alex. “Healthcare was always going to be around; someone is always going to be sick,” he reasoned. That industry also hit another hot spot for him. “Plus, I wanted something where I could give back, to help someone out.”

Another important piece of his career training criteria to be met: “I wanted to get in and get out,” says Alex. “I wanted to get enough education to get my feet wet in the medical industry.”

Alex’s wife, Wendy, was already working on the administrative side of healthcare; but she, too, wanted to check out a career involving the clinical side of medicine. They both opted to enroll in the Medical Assisting certificate program at SJVC’s Fresno campus.

“I had never held a syringe before or taken blood pressure,” says Alex, who had always been interested in science and considered himself “kind of a nerd” about biology and chemistry. As luck might have it, Alex’s first class was focused on injections.

“That really threw me a curveball, but I was able to catch it,” he says. “I fell in love with it!”

The Medical Assistant program was a perfect match for Alex. And, even though he kept his full-time job (a graveyard shift), he was prepared to give it his all. Even on only 3 to 7 hours of sleep a day, Alex found time to join the American Medical Technologist Student Society on campus, where Wendy had stepped into a leadership role as the club’s president. They are both active volunteers during Orientation, campus fundraisers and meeting prospective students.

“Alex and I embraced this dream so much and every day we know we are here for a reason, not just to occupy a seat,” says Wendy. Alex has earned a 4.0 GPA and does whatever is needed to maintain his high marks.

Wendy is Alex’s biggest cheerleader. Her voice of encouragement is not one he grew up hearing from other family members.

“If I walked up to my dad and ask if he needed any help, he would tell me I would help if I stopped bothering him,” says Alex. “It built a sense of inferiority in me, and I really had to fight to overcome that.”

There were many naysayers in Alex’s life. “There were always people who couldn’t make it themselves, people who look at your appearance and judge you,” says Alex. It wore him down.

“I fell into a deep depression in high school, and in 9th grade, I wanted to jump off a subway platform because I didn’t think anyone would miss me,” he says. Alex dropped out of high school his junior year, got a job in graphic design, and became a “boomerang kid, moving out then back in.” He felt as though he was an outcast, a misfit that just wasn’t good enough.

Alex’s view of himself began to change when he became more involved with his church. “I was told I didn’t have muscles or brains to do anything, but my ministers told me I could,” says Alex. “They encouraged me, told me God wasn’t done with me yet.” He began to believe in his worth.

Alex’s revised sense of himself has created a new reality. “My ability to provide an income was not where I wanted it to be,” says Alex. “Now I am fully invested in completing this program. I’m seeing the results and am inspired to push further and do even more.”

Alex sees way beyond his own successes to the time when he might help others. “They need to hear that positive message that I wasn’t able to hear for so long. Now I get to be that voice of encouragement and help them out in (his church’s) Youth Group when I’m able to.”

His message is clear: “Hey, look, I’ve been where you’ve been. It wasn’t easy, but there is a way to do it.”

He even feels gratitude to all those who held him back. “Thanks to naysayers, I’ve pushed for more, it helped me drive myself to want more. The tricky part is to use it for positive effect.”

Alex has found that path and eagerly shares it with others.

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