Edgar Soto, a Bay Area Medical Academy Medical Assisting with Phlebotomy Program graduate, is one of many healthcare workers currently working dressed in a gown, goggles, mask, and gloves ensuring a patient’s COVID-19 testing experience runs smoothly and with as little stress as possible.


After graduating Bay Area Medical Academy in March 2020, Edgar was hired by Stanford Health Care. He’s absolutely a BAMA Hero working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, so let’s learn a little more about him.

Q: What do you like most about your current job?

ES: My current position is Patient Care Coordinator. Since I am only two weeks into this, I am still in the learning process. So far I really enjoy learning new tasks as in what a Medical Assistant does. I also enjoy the hands on experience; for example, patient interaction, vitalizing patients, labeling specimens, and COVID-19 testing.

Q: Describe a typical working day right now for you.

ES: We generally get to the COVID site and clock in, then we open up our work stations and set-up and prepare. After prepping, I activate my work cell phone because that is our source of communication . We then check and make sure we have enough supplies for the day because we are very strict with cross-contamination procedures. At 8 am we open our doors to the public, and we have a station where everyone that drives up is required to show ID to verify they have an appointment and it’s the correct person getting tested. Then they drive up to the COVID site and we explain the procedure to them. After that, people are checked out and that is the first four hours of the day. The next four hours of my day consist of properly labeling specimens and refrigerating them if needed. At the end of the day, we clean up and make sure everything is set for the next day .”

Medical Assisting with Phlebotomy
Edgar Soto, Bay Area Medical Academy Medical Assisting with Phlebotomy Graduate

Q: What is it like to work right now as a healthcare worker dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic?

ES: In the state that we are all living through, trying to stay healthy is by far the biggest challenge. This pandemic has not only taken charge of the way we all live, it has also tested our psychological, emotional, and mental state. As a health care worker, I have learned in my career that it’s important to have positivity, satisfaction, understanding, willingness, and patience.

Q: How did going to school at BAMA prepare you for your current position?

ES: BAMA was one of the best decisions I ever made. When I first decided to begin my career in the medical field I felt like I was ready and eager to learn,” Edgar says. “BAMA helped me with deciding what path I wanted to take, and prepared me by offering additional help. I am thankful for the support, assistance, and guidance that pushed me to success.

Jennifer Tomasovitch is a graduate of Bay Area Medical Academy’s Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Program.

Jennifer says, “I was not in a good place when I reached out to Bay Area Medical Academy. I was unemployed and had no college education. I spent years in dead end jobs. With help from the Unemployment office I found Bay Area Medical Academy. I was nervous and excited it had been so long since I’d been in school. I’m not sure how I was going to handle it with my learning disability, but I worked hard, studied all the time, and took in all the advice given. Bay Area Medical Academy has changed my life drastically, my income has doubled, and I’ve gained so many skills that I use every day! If it wasn’t for the school’s amazing teaching and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Jennifer is currently working as Medical Assistant for a healthcare provider in Cupertino, California, so let’s learn more about our latest BAMA Hero working during COVID-19.

Q: What do you like most about your current job?

JT: I like that I am able to use every skill I learned at BAMA, and apply it in my current role. I also like that I’m part of the team and staff listen to your ideas. They have many projects that we are all apart of and can also do from home.

Q: Please describe your typical working day right now dealing with COVID-19. 

JT: At this time, I work Monday ,Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 am to 1 pm swabbing anterior Nare of Apple employees that are heading into the office (of course in PPE!). Then I go home and work the second-half of my shift, checking messages, making phone calls, taking meetings, and touching base with the provider I work with. I also have various projects that are geared towards patient care and following up with patients that have underlying health conditions.

medical assistant with phlebotomy bay area medical academy
Jennifer Tomasovitch, Bay Area Medical Academy Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Graduate

Q: Can you tell us about anything you’re particularly proud of accomplishing with your healthcare work?

JT: I was able to do my Medical Assistant and Phlebotomist externship at an Endocrinologist practice. I worked hard, kept myself busy, and helped out his full time staff. Little did I know that two months after I completed my externship at the practice, I was being offered a job to work there full-time as a Medical Assistant! I then spent two-years working at another practice and became the lead Medical Assistant/Office Manager. I also was able to get the EHR conversions/upgrades at both offices that I worked at.

Q: What is it like to work right now being a healthcare worker having to deal with COVID-19? 

JT: It is stressful, I’m going to be honest. We use PPE any time we’re in contact with a patient. We have had less patient care contact than usual. We are only seeing patients for one-to-two minutes and taking no vitals. Having to deal with changes every day and the numbers increasing has been scary.

Q: Is there anything you’ve learned early on in your healthcare career that you feel is important and helps you now work better? 

JT: Be flexible and hard work pays off!

Meet BAMA Hero, Joel Clark who gives us a sneak peek into day to day life in an ER unit at a hospital in Texas, on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Tell us a little bit about where you work.

JC: I work at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, located in McAllen, Texas.

Q: How long have you worked there?

JC: This is an emergency deployment through a staffing company. I’ve been working here since July—7 days a week, 12 hour shifts.

Q: That’s amazing. We salute you and all the courageous frontline workers who are making a difference during this crisis. What is your position at the hospital?

JC: I work in the emergency room. My title is “ER Tech” and I’m an EMT and a phlebotomist.

Q: That’s important work. What do you like most about your current position?

JC: Every day is different, working side by side with doctors and nurses during some of the most critical emergencies. Our COVID area has had dozens of patients at a time. I enjoy the amount of experience and critical exposure I have and am able to assist with.

Q: What is a typical working day like right now, dealing with COVID-19?

JC: Typically we come in and scrub up at 7 am. We get reports from the night shift and get placed in a position (floor, chest pain, trauma, triage, or COVID “hot zone”). These are all located within the emergency room. We rotate throughout these positions through the week. Each position includes anything from assisting doctors with arterial lines, IV therapy, running a full code—any emergency or nursing scenario basically.

Q: That is critical work that you perform. Can you tell us about anything you’re particularly proud of with regard to your healthcare work?

JC: The thing I’m proud of is showing up to work everyday. I left my family and home with 24 hours notice to take this job and help fight COVID. I’m proud that I came out here not knowing what I was getting into, was able to meet new colleagues, and make this a home for the next few months. Being ready to jump in at any time—this is a great accomplishment for me.

Joel Clark, BAMA Phlebotomy Technician graduate and a frontline worker in an ER unit at a hospital in Texas.

Q: Well, we’re so glad you made that decision. Are there any challenges you’ve experienced during your time working as a healthcare worker?

JC: With this position, I have encountered many challenges. As this is my first time working in an emergency room, I hit the ground running, with minimal guidance, as we are understaffed. I learned many tasks on the job and I rely on my experience to push me through. Paying attention and critical thinking are very important.

Q: What is it like to work right now being a healthcare worker having to deal with COVID-19?

JC: In the beginning walking into a COVID unit I was nearly terrified. I thought “Why am I chasing this virus, flying across the country to a hot spot and risking my life to help?” As the days went on, that all subsided and I realized I’m a frontline worker and as a team we are all fighting together.

The thought of teamwork keeps me in the game. Dealing with death was hard for me, and it was a new aspect to my career. I had minimal experience in an urgent critical care environment before. Putting my first body in a body bag hit me hard. It made the experience real.

BAMA Hero, Martin Valentines graduated from BAMA Institute’s Phlebotomy Technician Course in January of this year. Now, Martin has an exciting career as a mobile phlebotomist where he enjoys bringing healthcare to people who are reluctant or unable to go into clinics.

Learn more about Martin’s experience and what it’s like to work in a mobile phlebotomy unit.

Q: What do you like most about your current job?

MV: What I enjoy most is that, as a mobile phlebotomist, I am able to assist those who are immunocompromised, or simply do not want to risk the chance of contamination by going to a clinic or hospital to get their blood drawn.

Q: Describe a typical working day right now for you.

MV: A typical work day for me usually begins around 7am. My appointments can be anywhere in the Bay Area, but typically center around San Francisco or Oakland. After collecting the blood of the patient, I centrifuge the tubes in my car as well as complete any additional processing that may be needed. I most commonly drop off my patients’ specimens at LabCorp or Quest, which is convenient for my schedule because they have numerous locations across the Bay Area. I usually drop off my last specimen around 4 or 5pm.

Q: Tell us about something you’re particularly proud of accomplishing in your career.

MV: I am proud of all the COVID-19 events I have participated in, particularly those that have reached testing populations who are more susceptible to contracting the virus, such as low income minority groups. For example, in the Mission District in San Francisco, a large portion of the residents are not able to work from home, or have been let go from their jobs completely.

Phlebotomy Technician Course
Martin Valentines at a COVID-19 testing site in the Bay Area

Another event, focused on the LGBTQ community, was set up near Dolores Park and encouraged those attending the Pride parade to get tested. I look forward to attending future events as they are a great way for people to get tested quickly and at no-cost to them.

Q: What is it like to work right now as a healthcare worker dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic?

MV: There are additional precautions that are taken to decrease the chance of contamination such as always wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)—which tends to vary depending on the medical condition of the patient. Patients are also weary of the risk of contamination, as they often prefer to have their blood drawn in the backyard to stay in an open air environment. Many patients are simply thankful that a mobile phlebotomy service exists, which I am very happy to offer.

Q. Are there any challenges you’ve experienced during your time working as a healthcare worker?

MV: I faced many challenges as I began my first job in the medical profession. The issues mostly involved the variability that comes with working in healthcare, as every patient I encounter is unique. As a mobile phlebotomist, each location I arrive at is different, meaning I do not know what environment I may be stepping into. However, it is my responsibility to adapt to every situation so that I can protect myself as well as the patient.

Q: Is there anything you’ve learned early on in your healthcare career that you feel is important and that you’d like to share with our readers?

MV: I believe something that helped me early on in my healthcare work is expressing my passion and gratitude for the opportunities I have been given, and allowing that to drive me forward to achieving future endeavors.

Q: How did going to school at BAMA prepare you for your current position?

MV: I feel the staff at BAMA Institute is extremely knowledgeable and they truly care about educating their students to prepare them for a rewarding career in healthcare. BAMA helped develop my technique and facilitated the process of obtaining my license. Most importantly, they provided me with many job opportunities after I completed the program.

Just as COVID-19 was beginning to affect us all in March 2020,  BAMA Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Graduate, Suyan Song had to leave her Lab Aide/Phlebotomy position at Chinese Hospital to be a hero at home looking after her children.

Now Suyan is almost ready to restart her healthcare career and help out in the fight against COVID-19. “Once my kids can go back to school,” Suyan says, “I will go back to work. That should be in a few months.”

Let’s learn more about Suyan and her time spent working at Chinese Hospital early last year.

Q: During your time working as a Lab Aide/Phlebotomist was there any particular part of your job that you liked most?

SS: Yes! What I liked most was that I could communicate freely with some of the elder patients whose English wasn’t that good. I was able to answer some of the medical problems they cared about and that proved to be helpful to them. I was able to bridge the language barrier some patients experience.

Q: Your job must have kept you very busy. What was a usual working day for you?

A: I was very busy! My daily duties were assisting in performing clinical tests (hematology, urinalysis, chemistry, pathology/cytology), phlebotomy (performing venipuncture from inpatients and outpatients), preparing specimens to be sent out; checking off pathology reports, preparing lab reports and sending them to providers, assisting the receptionist with outpatients, order entry, filling, answering phone and mail reports, scanning lab tests and transfusion records, and each morning I inspected and took inventory of blood units. It was always a full day!

Q: You must have felt proud of the work that you were doing, yes?

A: I did feel so proud of my job skills that I learned through going to school at BAMA. Most of the patients were afraid of needles. They were afraid of pain and injury. And when I used the blood drawing skills I learned at BAMA, patients did not feel pain. They were very grateful to me in the end. That happened everyday.

Q: That’s wonderful to hear! It seems that BAMA helped prepare you well for your career?

A: Going to school at BAMA helped me a lot in my healthcare job. I learned a lot of medical knowledge. And even if I do not have a job, like right now, I can still help my family at home.

“My instructors really lifted me up. They showed me that they had confidence in me and that I could do it,” says Jennifer Davalos.

Jennifer first graduated the BAMA Phlebotomy Technician Course in 2019, and then after completing her externship she enrolled into the Medical Assistant Program, which she graduated in February 2020.

What is Jennifer, a BAMA Hero, up to now?

Let’s see what she has to say.

Q: Describe the work you do in your current job?

JD: I’m a Medical Assistant. I work in an urgent care clinic in the East Bay. I do a bit of everything: phlebotomy, EKG, COVID-19 testing (nasal swabs) and injections (COVID-19 vaccinations, intramuscular injections, T.B. etc. Being part of this clinic, I feel super happy I can support the community and can help people during this time. I was working at the Embarcadero for three months where we did COVID-19 testing (nasal swabs,) and later I began performing vaccinations for COVID-19.

Q: What is the best part about being able to do this work?

JD: I am so happy to do this work during the pandemic specifically. When doing the nasal swabs, I can see how grateful people are for our jobs in this pandemic moment. It also really touched me when I was doing vaccinations because I see that the vaccination gives people hope and brings happiness to people over 75 and people with health issues and health care employees. I see them becoming hopeful that with the vaccine their life will change back to normal, hopefully soon. It makes me super happy to see them so grateful. It’s very important to me. I think, “Wow, I’m doing something great for the community and for vulnerable people.”

Q: Do you feel BAMA prepared you for your career?

JD: Absolutely. Every skill I learned counts. If I didn’t take these courses, I wouldn’t be in the medical field, or be able to participate in the vaccination effort helping people.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the time you spent at BAMA in terms of learning?

JD: I feel successful because of my instructors, who were very patient with me and encouraged me. I knew I wanted to be a Nurse or something within the medical field. When I took the Phlebotomy Course, Benjamin, my instructor, really was the person who lifted me up when I felt I couldn’t do it. In the beginning, I didn’t know how to do the venipunctures. I was very nervous, and Benjamin said something very powerful, which made me feel more confident. He said, “You’re excited, and all of that emotion is because you’re doing the thing you want to do, and you want to do a good job.” He assured me that I could do this and told me I was going to be a good Phlebotomist. “You just have to be more confident,” he said. They were the right words, at the right time. He was very patient, very straightforward, and he supported me. He was very professional and helped me to feel that I really could do this work. Dr. Israel, my Medical Assistant Instructor, then saw something in me that I didn’t know I had. I was worried about needing to do everything perfectly. But Dr. Israel encouraged me to take it easy and that helped me to be more patient with myself. And thanks to Ms. Earby, my other Medical Assistant Instructor, teaching me IM injections in labs, I now have wonderful feedback from patients who say things like, “Wow, I didn’t felt anything, you have wonderful hands!”

Q: What work were you doing prior to the time you enrolled in BAMA? Were you employed prior to that?

JD: I used to work as a manager at an Italian bakery café in Berkeley. I like people. I am patient with people. That’s the number one skill: empathy, being able to know what is the priority of the patient or client. I knew I could transfer that skill.

Q: What would you tell other potential students who are considering enrolling in a BAMA course?

JD: First, if you are a person who likes to work with people, a person with patience and empathy, and you care about people: go ahead and sign up for the course, even if you don’t know anything about healthcare. It’s a great opportunity to get into a healthcare career. When you start to work you will have lots of opportunities. You can work in an amazing environment. You can help other people. Just go for it. The instructors are helpful at BAMA. You’re going to have more opportunities in life. Enrolling at BAMA was a great way to start a career for me.

Hawra Al-Shimary worked as a Loss Prevention Ambassador at Nordstrom before enrolling at BAMA.

Now Hawra has a brand new healthcare career after she graduated the Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Program in February 2020.

To learn more about Hawra, our BAMA Hero, read on!

Q: Would you describe the work you do in your current job?

HA-S: I have been at Concentra Urgent Care Clinic for a year working as a Physical Therapist Support Specialist. I got hired after my externship at Concentra in San Francisco for the South San Francisco location. I took the opportunity, even though the work I do now is different from what I was doing in my externship, because I loved it there. Currently, I do a lot of admin work, billing, and work with insurance companies on getting approvals for physical therapy so my patients can have services provided. I interact with insurance companies; I handle all scheduling; I keep patients updated on their cases; and find out how much physical therapy or chiropractic care they can do. I also do workers’ compensation cases. I enjoy keeping everything on track, keeping things clean, stocking supplies, and communicating with the doctors.

Q: What is the best part about being able to do this work?

HA-S: As I contact insurance companies and handle workers’ compensation, I understand how important it is to my patients. I build bonds with my patients. I definitely keep it professional at the same time. I learned that while working here. This job has helped me personally to have better communications skills, better people skills, and it has just made me more professional overall. I am more patient. And I can put myself in a patient’s shoes. It helps me to better understand people.

Q: Do you feel BAMA prepared you for your career?

HA-S: Yes, it did. We practiced a lot in class, performing injections, blood draws, and vital signs, so I felt I knew what I was doing. The school definitely prepared me. We also did a lot of role playing scenarios with fellow students acting as patients. We acted out what sorts of questions we might be asked, and we would walk through the possible responses we could give. So I felt prepared.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the time you spent at BAMA in terms of learning?

HA-S: There were a lot of things I took away: how to be professional; how to do these tasks with confidence which is very important as doing things with confidence makes patients feel more comfortable. I knew how to handle situations that might come up, and how to be hands-on with the patients, and how to make sure they’re comfortable.

Q: What would you tell other potential students who are considering enrolling in a BAMA course?

HA-S: It’s funny because I never felt I was a perfect candidate for BAMA. But I always worked as a nanny and I loved caring for people. Before I graduated high school, I thought maybe I wanted to try pharmacy. But I really didn’t know how to get started when I was a senior in high school. I come from a low income background. I didn’t know whether I could afford school. I was going through so many phases, and I didn’t know if I could manage my life, take care of my health, and afford to go to school. I considered going into the army. But I was motivated to go to school. I got a brochure from Andrew at an event and we stayed in touch. One day he left a voicemail encouraging me to come in and tour the school. I called back and asked whether it was okay if I brought my friend along with me. Andrew said sure, and he showed us around. Then I talked to Tanya about financial aid, and then I enrolled. I would say if you’re worrying about how you can afford school, or how you can manage going to school while you work, the school offers support. I would say you should go down and talk to Tanya and see about financial aid, scholarships, and grants from the government that you might qualify for. After I talked to Tanya and saw what was available; I felt like someone was willing to invest in me. You will have to find the right route for you. But there’s always a way for a student to get to school, and you might not know about it. Another thing is: you don’t have to worry about the money now necessarily. BAMA is going to help you, train you. And then when you get a better job, and make more money, you can pay it off later.