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This is the story of how Esteve Cobos and Susan Dang worked together to pursue their dreams of starting careers in healthcare. They accomplished this by attending Bay Area Medical Academy’s phlebotomy and medical assisting programs and ultimately found meaningful work as medical assistants in the Bay Area.
In 2019, while working a job in security, Esteve Cobos saw students leaving their building in scrubs each day and finally asked them where they were coming from. They explained they were students at Bay Area Medical Academy in the phlebotomy program. Esteve had always wanted a career in the medical field and wanted to apply. First, however, he’d need to get his high school diploma, so he enrolled at the local adult school.
At the adult school, Esteve first met Susan, and they began their relationship by helping to motivate each other. Soon, they each received their high school diplomas while working in different fields. Esteve had worked several jobs in security, restaurants, and in fast food; Susan had been working at Grocery Outlet as a cashier. They wanted more meaningful work.
Once they had their diplomas, Esteve enrolled in BAMA’s phlebotomy program. Susan hadn’t really considered careers in healthcare, though she had the experience of taking care of her grandfather while he was in hospice. Her family members told her she would be great at a job in healthcare, but it wasn’t until she started helping Esteve study for his phlebotomy certification exam that she realized it might be something she could pursue. She followed in his footsteps to BAMA, but enrolled in the Medical Assisting program. Susan even received a scholarship to attend.
Once enrolled, Esteve and Susan learned new skills and volunteered whenever they could.
“The more I did in class, the more I realized healthcare was for me,” Susan said. “I really liked the hands-on aspect. Also, my personality really matches what the healthcare system is looking for. It’s just who I am.”
Esteve additionally signed up for the Medical Assisting program: “Susan and I started class together again,” Esteve said. ”We met a lot of great people at BAMA. We learned a lot and we carry that knowledge with us.”
By the time they were finishing their program, there was a public health emergency with COVID-19. They each took part in a public health initiative, volunteering to perform COVID testing with BayPLS. Susan’s healthcare career took off as the public health emergency meant ever-developing changes to how her employer needed to respond to the pandemic.
“I wanted to get experience and started volunteering at BayPLS. Initially, I started doing swabbing for covid testing, then I did testing with Binax cards, then I switched to quality control at the testing site, becoming a site lead. Eventually, because of my medical assisting training from BAMA, I was actually one of the first to do vaccinations for our company, under our doctor’s supervision,” Susan said.
Susan could administer vaccines to staff, then when vaccines opened to the public, she took the lead as a medical assistant with greater responsibilities.
“I’m a go-getter, so I always ask what’s needed. How can I help? And at that time, transporting vaccines was needed. So, I got the vaccine coordinator position. We are the ones responsible for the storage and handling of the vaccines and also the documentation at the site for each vial.”
Susan is now a vaccine manager. In this role, she receives updates from vaccine manufacturers, attends weekly calls to stay informed, and preps vaccines.
“We just launched the Moderna vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. MAs do not vaccinate that population, only RNs do, but we prep and assist. I learned how much dilution needs to be applied for each dose, and specifics about storage, and I relay that to the staff. I prepare labels with lot numbers and take all necessary safety precautions.”
When asked how BAMA prepared her for her job, Susan added: “I was the first MA hired at the company (mobile phlebotomy). The company wanted to provide flu shots initially. So, they’d asked in my interview what I knew about injections. I explained to them the three types of injections and how to do them. Everything I needed to know to become a medical assistant I learned at BAMA.”
Esteve and Susan credit hard work, encouragement from one another, and BAMA’s training for their career success.
“Susan and I always encourage each other,” Esteve noted. “We work really well together. And we have accomplished a lot. There’s more that we want to do. I owe a lot to her. I would not have achieved as much without her.“
“Prior to completing the BAMA program and getting a job in healthcare, I was working at Grocery Outlet, ‘’ Susan said. “And my goal was to be an employee of the month. But now I have more responsibility.”
Their journey has not been without struggle.
“In the beginning, I had to sacrifice. I was doing blood draws on call and that was hard. I had to be ready at all hours to do a draw. Sleep deprivation was hard.” Esteve said. “But now, I like what I’m doing. My favorite part is that every day there’s something new that I’m learning. I like that because it feels like I’m enriching my mind.”
Esteve is continuing his education at San Jose City College. He hopes to pursue a degree in science and in research, from MLT (Medical Laboratory Technician) to CLS (Clinical Lab Science).
When asked whether he had any advice for someone just starting out, Esteve said:
“If you really want something, you have to fight for it. This can be a competitive field if you want to work for Kaiser, or UCSF. You have to work for it. The fundamentals will be given in the training, but the rest is up to you.”
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