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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Respiratory Therapy students in for big surprise

February 4, 2014
This Respiratory Therapy Instructor is not content to merely see his students graduate, but to see them get involved in the community.

RT instructor, James Maddox, loves to see the expressions on his students’ faces the first time they ‘get it’; that moment when they realize their lives are about to change forever.

“New RT students have done a great job investigating the RT field and have a good grasp of our field of work,” says Maddox, who has taught RT classes at the Rancho Cordova campus for three years. “However, many are still surprised at the scope and level of our medical practice. Some have had no medical experience, and trust their due diligence and the direction of others, advising them that Respiratory Therapy is a great career choice.”

James Maddox says that is it usually by the middle of Term 1 that it starts to come together for his students and becomes very clear to them what becoming a Respiratory Therapist is all about.

“At this time they know how profoundly they will be involved with patients and their families,” says Maddox. “They realize that we’re the ones who put people on life support until they get better…or take them off life support if they are not going to get better.”

Respiratory Therapists work in close collaboration with medical doctors and Registered Nurses to take care of patients with minor and severe respiratory illnesses or other cardiopulmonary disorders.

Although RT students may have entered into this elite program from diverse and unrelated employment backgrounds – everything from fast food and financial services to retail sales – they quickly realize the potential for their futures to shift dramatically in this versatile and privileged career.

“We change their lives and their professional demeanor,” says James. “I tell my students that they are in the process of becoming a professional RT, and I challenge them to ask themselves constantly, ‘What kind of RT am I going to be.’” Mr. Maddox plans to hold them to their decision.

“I am reaching into them and grabbing whatever I have to grab to get them to their best potential to help them discover the best they can be,” he says. “They are challenged at levels they have never been challenged at before. To see them grow into that level of maturity is pretty phenomenal.”

Program success is not enough, however. James Maddox is both personally and professionally committed to helping the less fortunate. Volunteerism is not only a way of life for him; he intends for each of his students to know what he knows about the deep sense of accomplishment that comes from helping others.

The American Lung Association, Folsom Cordova Community Partnership’s annual Health Fair and the Sacramento Food Bank are among the beneficiaries of James’s philosophy and commitment. James wants his students to realize that “leadership begins with servant-hood”.

“Our students have seen how they can impact other people and change lives…and it changes them,” says Maddox. “There is a noticeable difference in their tone and their sense of themselves that makes them more appreciate what they have. The SJVC system is as much about forming our students into great citizens and professionals, as it is about giving them the tools to be great Respiratory Therapists.”

“Mr. Maddox has a true passion for serving others,” says Amy Bianco, Dean of Student Services. “He inspires those around him to volunteer and help individuals that are less fortunate.”

James Maddox knows about sacrifice first-hand. Going back generations, he is the first in his family to go to college. This single decision set him on a path toward greater abundance than he ever knew growing up. But, other influences were equally powerful.

“Teaching is something I’ve always loved to do,” he says. A life-long Sunday school teacher, James is accustomed to touching the lives of others. “I discovered early on that I had a skill for teaching and could really cause people to think about where they were and where they wanted to be.”

With all that James gives others, he realizes that his spirit must be replenished and makes certain that there are times of restoration.

He and his wife of thirty-six years, Patty, and their children are very entrenched in their home life and “have a great fellowship of people we relax with”, says James.