Alumni Success Stories
Unitek College alumni are doing interesting and amazing things all over the Bay Area. Here's a small sample of Unitek College graduates who are making significant strides in their professional field and/or community.
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Philip SuchikulMedical Assistant
Philip Suchikul is a former employee of the Toyota Nummi automobile manufacturing plant in Fremont, CA. He gained 17 years of experience working in the auto industry, but he never looked back once he was laid off. Philip took it in stride and immediately placed his focus to the expanding field of healthcare. After comparing different schools, Philip visited Unitek College and reminisces that "it just felt right. It felt like home."
After graduating valedictorian on November of 2011 from Unitek College’s Medical Assisting program, he was able to receive an on-call assignment with Kaiser Permanente by February 2012. He was then promoted to a full-time position in the surgical department by September 2012. While gaining experience in different departments, he had tasks ranging from prepping schedules, rooming patients, preparing patients for surgery, and aiding surgeons during procedures. Philip turned a potential disaster into his dream job, claiming that he "can’t believe they pay me to do this because it’s so much fun."
Philip was dedicated to his studies, but always made sure to give a special thanks to his favorite instructor, Miss Lisa. He appreciated her real-world education focus that helped him pass his skills from the classroom to his career. He enjoyed her refusal to just open up a textbook and read directly from the book. Philip recalled how she drew from her personal experience, allowing him to use this knowledge to make a seamless transfer to his externship at Kaiser.
His love for his job has shined through, earning him a prestigious "Above and Beyond Award" from Kaiser Permanente. This coveted award is earned when a patient submits a special recognition honoring an employee after exemplary service. While they keep the submissions anonymous, Philip has a hunch on who may have sent in this special thank you. One patient had come in for a routine procedure, but Philip made sure the service was anything but routine. Working closely with the patient, he formed a strong emotional connection, and even gave him a call on Thanksgiving to wish him a happy holiday. While he may have been recognized for going above and beyond, Philip feels like it is just another one of his duties. He makes sure he always remember that patients "don’t go to the hospital if they’re feeling good… that’s why they’re there. Always smile, always be nice to them, and put yourself in their shoes".
Best advice for future medical assistants: Doctors appreciate good medical assistants. Pay attention to the doctors and understand that each doctor has different preferences.
Michelle LeeLicensed Vocational Nurse
Michelle Lee had been selling cars at a Mercedes Benz dealership, when she woke up one day and realized that it just wasn't working for her. She didn't enjoy her job, which was all about making the sale and getting the paycheck. Although equipped with a bachelors, masters, and P.H.D in Biopsychology, her attempt at medical school was badly tainted with memories of working on cadavers. But her most memorable position was working with autistic children. It was time to give healthcare another shot.
Being the kind of person who seeks instant gratification, Michelle didn't want to wait on a list to become a nurse nor did the luck of a lottery system appeal to her. After touring various private technical colleges in the Bay area, Michelle settled her sights on Unitek College. Why? "I felt like the Educational Advisor answered all my questions and alleviated any fears I had. Other schools were more focused on making the sell."
During the program, she established a very strong tie with one of instructors who was even there during some of the most crucial moments in Michelle's life. They still keep in touch.
Michelle graduated in May of 2009, and now works full time at California Community Operations. The nine months between graduation and employment was spent applying to various positions and working her externship with Interim. Although nine months may seem like a long period of time, Michelle had certain standards for her employment and would turn down a job that didn't fit. Many fellow graduates took the first job offered, but Michelle waited patiently and feels that she was better for it. "There is no more complaining about my job. I feel like I have real job security, and at the end of the day I know I am making a difference, not just a paycheck."
The Sallie Mae loans, which covered Michelle's training, have already been paid off and she is now considering returning to school for her R.N.. She may very well return to Unitek College, unless she decides to go for her Bachelors of Science in Nursing.
Michelle is currently the only medical person on staff other than the doctors. She acts as a liaison between the clients she serves, and their specialists or primary care physicians. It's a stressful job, but Michelle enjoys it; she is the Gate Keeper.
Best Advice: If you're training for strictly monetary reasons, this is the wrong place for you. The money is there.. but at the end of the day you need to want to care for people.
Jen FreemanLicensed Vocational Nurse
Jen Freeman, who graduated from Unitek College's Vocational Nursing program, had her eyes on the ball from the very beginning. "I was standing in the ICU at a Children's Hospital with my son when I first realized I wanted to be a Nurse," Jen explains. The only thing holding her back was her full-time position as Mom to four kids; she had to juggle her time wisely. As we catch up with our Vocational Nursing graduate, she is exactly where she envisioned herself: working at the Children's Recovery Hospital in Campbell. A job she acquired within a week of gaining her temporary license. In the following interview, Jen reminisces about her experience at Unitek College and the role it played in bringing her vision to life.
So, why Unitek College? "It was good marketing on your part," she comments. "I never seriously looked anywhere else." The campus's location in her hometown provided the ultimate convenience. She laughs as she describes her first encounter with our admission representatives, who had only the time to tell her how much it would cost before the conversation ended. But after considering the perks of an accelerated program with no wait time, Jen enrolled. "How long would I wait somewhere else?" she asks.
Jen found the curriculum understandably challenging since she had no medical experience (the endocrine system proved difficult in particular). However, she dealt with these using two methods. The first was that she followed the program laid out before her to the letter; soaking up her education in large quantities by frequently re-reading chapters and taking every opportunity to dive in. "A lot of people like to watch while others go first... but not me. I went first because I wanted the experience," she explains.
The second method enabled Jen to really explore her passion for giving care. Instead of thinking of her education as a list of key terms or clinical diagnostics, she related them to people. As she describes, "I thought of these lessons as my patients, and I want to save their lives... so I have to know this information." She also believes that it's this passion which gets a Nurse to work every day, and there is no reason to become a Nurse other than the intention of making a difference in people's lives. Sometimes it's a small difference, like the painting the nails on her patient and sometimes it's much larger; such as changing the outcome of events in more critical patients. There is a future for her in pediatrics, but not only as an LVN; Jen plans to continue her education and gain her registered nursing license.
Thuy HuynhPharmacy Technician
Thuy is a man of many hats, but none fit him quite so well as his certification as a Pharmacy Technician. Born in Vietnam and raised in the South Bay, California, Thuy has walked different paths in his search for a career which started as a degree in kinesiology (specialization Athletic Training), Information Technology during the dotcom boom, and before beginning his training at Unitek College, Thuy worked in Real Estate. When asked why he chose to train as Pharmacy Technician at Unitek College he replies, "I had a friend at Unitek College's Medical Assisting program who referred me. I've always been interested in pharmaceuticals since partaking in Magnet program in high school."
The biggest challenge for Thuy was overcoming his fear of the board test, where proper preparation is key. This wasn't too difficult to manage, as he felt inspired by his teacher Dante; "he made you want it," he exclaims. Dante's attentive teaching style made Thuy feel that he was aptly prepared for the exam. And nothing is better proof of his claim than his current employment at the in-patient pharmacy at UCSF a mere 6 weeks after his graduation. He also credits his success to a confident group of classmates, and that their interaction during his training made him feel comfortable. Ultimately, this created an easier training environment where he could focus on the task at-hand. Thuy looked forward to his externship at Kaiser Permanente and is sensitive to the nervousness that potential students feel while facing this training requirement, but wants students to know that "After the first week, it gets easier. Don't feel overwhelmed."
For anyone out there who is on the fence about whether or not they should pursue healthcare training, Thuy points out the less than obvious benefit; developing social skills. In a fast-paced healthcare environment, you are continuously interacting with the general public and dealing with people becomes effortless. He also was a fan of Unitek College's circular training; meaning, you can enter the program when you're ready, and your lessons come full circle-- you create your own start time.
Thuy is extremely satisfied with the direction his career has taken, and is thrilled to be living in San Francisco. He feels that his Pharmacy Technician training at Unitek College has opened the door to a whole different world full of diversity. And while he has no current plans to continue his education, his adaptive personality may see him to Pharmacy school in the future.
Helen TsaoMedical Assistant
Helen knew since college, where she attained a bachelor in Neuroscience, that she wanted a career in the healthcare field. Although first involving herself with research, she craved a more hands-on approach.
When first beginning her Medical Assisting training, Helen was intimidated by the idea of giving shots and drawing blood. It's an invasive procedure, and all students are haunted by medical procedures gone wrong. But with the support of Dr. Midue, an instructor for the MA program, Helen was able to overcome this challenge. Dr. Midue provided excellent feedback and helped Helen strengthen her weaknesses during blood draws. This one-on-one attention gave Helen every opportunity to perfect her techniques and feel comfortable with a syringe.
During her externship at Asian Americans for Community Involvement, Helen was shown the ropes and describes it as "a lot of fun." In fact, she clicked so well with AACI, that she was hired as soon as her externship ended and went full-time in April. Helen finds herself much more comfortable with people in general and her current position has done wonders for her social-skills. Helen plans to "sit still" and gain more field experience.
To anyone who is currently debating about entering the healthcare field, Helen encourages them, "it doesn't hurt to try!" Unitek College's unique stop-payment agreement allows students to leave if they have second thoughts, without holding them to the entire tuition. Let's face it-- the healthcare field is just not for everyone. Additionally, Helen advises students to clear their heads and work their hardest; "Put your heart into it!" Your success depends on your drive, which is a direct reflection of how bad you want it.
Johnny RayMedical Assistant
Fed-up with the job search and unsure of his path to employment, Johnny Ray took a walk one day and discovered a career at Unitek College, literally. As a recent immigrant from China, Johnny Ray's background includes teaching; specifically, teaching English to Chinese students. However, he was appalled to learn that teachers don't earn a large salary here in the States. Spending four years in college was not an attractive option, so the relatively short Medical Assisting career track at Unitek College proved to be a wise investment. It was almost as simple as checking out the current salaries for Medical Assistants in the San Francisco Bay Area which can range anywhere between $30,007 to $42,268, salaries also vary based on experience. (Source: www.salary.com, 01/2012).
Medical Assisting spoke to Johnny Ray on many levels. Although he never put his faith in Western Medicine on a whole, the opportunity to communicate with the public by listening and observing appealed to this insightful and empathetic young man. So in-tune with people's perceptions, Johnny Ray feared only that he would make a mistake. But how did he overcome those shaky hands?
"I still experience them in a different form," he explains. "But you have to face them head-on, like a boxer. Don't dodge… study- punch back. Ask yourself how you can be better," referring to the technique behind blood draws, which is probably the most invasive procedure performed by a medical assistant. Part of building this confidence came from his teachers. M.A. Instructor Lisa Saldana was able to give Johnny Ray the personal attention he required to raise his skill level.
Johnny Ray is a no-excuse kind of guy. If you are on the fence about healthcare training, he says poignantly "Do it for the good money. Undecided sounds like an excuse to me." Couple this determined attitude with his empathetic nature and well-honed skills… well, it was no wonder that he landed a job at the same place he did his externship: Tri City Healthcare.
This position is worth almost more than money to Johnny Ray, who relishes the interactions he has with the general public. Tri City Healthcare is a clinic that caters to citizens without medical insurance and is a soft point for Johnny Ray. While Johnny Ray has no current plans to continue his education, he does contemplate a career in Nursing. It's possible we'll see him again here at Unitek College. But for now, we wish Johnny Ray the best of luck with his future.
Tatum LocquiaoRegistered Nurse
Tatum is an extremely focused and motivated individual. Although she'll tell you that she had to be for her kids, it appears that she exhibited these traits before ever giving birth.
In college, while she was busy managing her double major in Vocal and Piano Performance in addition to a major in Microbiology, Tatum discovered she was pregnant. This lead to a life altering decision - continue to pursue her love for microbiology and possibly sacrifice her time, or continue the relatively easy path of majoring in Music, as Tatum began teaching the subject at age sixteen.
Eventually, Tatum became a piano teacher, real estate agent and dabbled in business with her own after school care program. But this wasn't cutting it; she struggled to afford her single mom lifestyle and still didn't have health insurance. When her four year old son came down with a chronic illness, it reignited her passion for medical science. So Tatum made a promise to herself-when her youngest son Joseph began school, she would become a Nurse. Attending Unitek College was a no-brainer for Tatum, as she had watched her sister graduate from the Medical Assisting program. She needed an accelerated course that would get her working in the shortest amount of time, with no wait list.
True to her word, Tatum graduated from Unitek College's Vocational Nursing program in June of 2009, with an award for "Best in Theory." She began a job in home health care, but it didn't end there. In October of 2010 Tatum graduated from Unitek College's Registered Nurse Bridge - LVN to RN program. She was immediately promoted at work and had health insurance for the first time. "I am able to be a single Mom without having to worry about losing my job and being unable to provide for my kids," she comments.
The program itself was indeed challenging, yet Tatum managed to graduate at the top her class and also achieved Unitek College's "Act of Caring" award. She expresses that clinical rotation was her favorite part of the RN program, because she was able to apply the theory she had studied so diligently. "It also taught me time management," she explains. "For example, I know that I should arrive at work 30 minutes before I report, so I can look at the patient's files, anticipate the drugs and doses, and get a sense for who's in the most critical condition."
During graduation, Tatum gave a speech to the Unitek College graduating class where she outlined the trials each of them faced, the camaraderie, and how proud she was to be standing there with them as a Licensed Registered Nurse. All of her classmates, including herself, had passed the NCLEX exam on the first try.
And no, it doesn't really end here for Tatum either, she plans to continue her education until she is a Licensed Nurse Practitioner- stopping at Unitek College first for her BSN. There is no real question as to whether or not she'll succeed. Being able to acknowledge her obstacles, and then overcome them, seems to be an on-going trend for this exceptional student.
Tatum's Advice for Beginning Students: Always work one lesson ahead and watch your time carefully.