My name is Jose Alfonso Jimenez, I’m an alumnus from Southern Careers Institute Pharr campus. I am now a certified medical assistant and I work with Wellmed Medical Management. I love my job, I love what I do as a certified medical assistant, I love working with the patients and using the skills that I picked up at Southern Careers Institute.*
SCI: Tell me about what was going on in your life when you decided to go through the medical assistant program?
JAJ: Before I started coming to school at SCI, I was working as a salesman for a lumber company, which I really liked. I worked there for 15 years. For personal reasons, I left that company and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was out of work for about 6 months. Then I got a phone call from SCI telling me about the programs that they have here at SCI and it was interesting. I came to see what it was all about. I really liked the staff that was here. Starting with Ms. Sonia Garza. She was just amazing, talked me through everything. In the beginning, I felt like it was really comfortable here. I felt like family as soon as I walked through the door at Southern Careers Institute. So I decided to give it a try and I excelled in it. I’m doing really good now.
SCI: Tell me about your student experience here.
JAJ: My student experience was great. The instructors here at SCI and the staff treat you like a family. It’s a tight-knit group of people here. We don’t have huge classes so we’re all making sure we learn everything the proper way. The instructors give you the time that you need and accommodate the way that you are going to learn. Even if you have a class of 20 students, [the instructors] take their time to teach each and every student. [They say], “OK, if you’re not going to learn it this way, well let’s try a different way.” And they will adapt to the way you’re going to learn. And I thought that it was great that they did that with each and every student.
They wouldn’t just pay attention to the people that were doing great. They would go to the students that were struggling and make sure that they understood and that they got past that hump. It was just great. It was a good feeling to see that from the instructors.
SCI: Was your family supportive of the decision to pursue career training?
JAJ: My family and my kids were very supportive of me going back to school. They loved the idea that I was waking up in the morning and coming in in scrubs with a backpack with my arms full of books. I loved it as well. It gave me that “younger” feeling, I guess. They were very supportive. It was just a great feeling, I don’t have words to describe it. It was amazing. I loved my experience at SCI.
SCI: Why were you passionate about becoming a certified medical assistant?
JAJ: What happened is that a few times when I would go to the doctor for myself, my mom, or for whatever reason, I did not like in certain places how some of the medical assistants and the staff treated [us.] You’re already feeling sick, you go to a place and you don’t get treated the right way. So what I wanted to do is go out there and become a certified medical assistant and be an example of how to treat people. I needed the skills and I needed the lingo because I already work with people really well. Career Services helped me to be able to speak a little more professionally to the providers and the people that hire. I wanted to go out there and make a difference. I wanted to be the face of the patients that come in and make them feel at home and feel good about coming to visit the provider. And now a lot of the patients look for me because of the way that I treat them. And that’s a true story! I wanted to make sure that they felt comfortable.
SCI: Tell me about life after graduation? Did you immediately get placed in a job or did you have to hunt for a bit?
JAJ: At the latter part of my classes we had externships and Career Services was helping us out with interviews and how to go about interviewing, how to dress and how to look at other people while you’re talking to them, and how to do a resume as a certified medical assistant. Career Services really goes out of their way to help you out. And that was something that I thought was just magnificent from SCI. I can talk to a group of people for hours, but when it comes to talking one-on-one and talking to providers in the medical field, I did not know the lingo and how to speak to an employer. I had held a job for 15 years so I didn’t need to speak to employers [before]. So they maneuvered me the right way and I was very grateful for that. So on my externship once I finished my hours, they did not have a position open, but the doctor made a position for me. He got me on board as a part-time certified medical assistant, and then after a little while he gave me a full-time [position.] The experience I was learning there at that office helped me get my current position now at WellMed and I just landed running.
SCI: How has SCI changed your life since you’ve started working in the field?
JAJ: My life has changed a lot drastically. Now, I consider myself a professional working in the medical field. I help out a lot of patients as a certified medical assistant and that’s a great feeling when patients come into the office and ask for me. They want me to help them out. They want me to do their vitals. They want me to do procedures on them. They want me to draw their blood. It really changed my state of mind. There was a whole new field out here from what I used to do selling lumber now I’m in the medical field as a certified medical assistant – it’s completely different – a whole new world and I’m loving it.
I started learning how the patients go to the doctor – all these new diseases and medications and it started helping me take care of my body and the people I know – my wife, my mom, my sisters: ”Hey you know, you can’t be doing this, take it easy on that. Try and eat a little healthier. You gotta do a little exercise, even if it’s walking.” It helped me live a healthier life. I started eating a lot more salads, haha.
SCI: What advice would you have for alumni that are looking for a job? What tips would you give to them?
JAJ: A tip that I would always tell somebody is that you have got to have confidence in yourself. You are already picking up the skills and lingo at SCI, all you have got to do is put it to work. Once you go in that door, you’re already selling yourself. Go in there with confidence, lose the attitude, don’t step on anybody’s shoes. You’re going in there to learn from the people already working there that have experience. So go in there and just work.
SCI: What advice would you give to a student who is considering going to SCI?
JAJ: Every time I talk to somebody that doesn’t want to go to a four year or two year college, I say, “Hey look guys, go to SCI, they have a nine month program for certified medical assistant and the instructors will make sure you get what they’re teaching you. Just go in there with a good attitude and pick up the skills that they’re teaching you and you’re going to be OK.” I recommend SCI everytime. They have morning and evening classes. Get your certification. You’ll get the job. Just like the commercial says.
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*This interview has been edited for content and brevity.