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September 17, 2012

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Layoff Inspires a New Career for a Mom in her Forties

Layoff Inspires a New Career for a Mom in her Forties

Rina Young came to American National University looking for the next step in her career and found exactly what she needed. Recently laid off from her sales position at an insurance company, she wanted a change of careers but needed further education to help her in that transition. With 16 years of experience in insurance processing medical claims, she knew she was interested in expanding into the medical office field and enrolled in the medical billing and coding diploma program at the South Bend campus.

The short one-year program added to Rina’s working experience and opened doors to her new career. Now she works at a local physical therapy practice in South Bend as their patient services manager and absolutely loves her job. “I definitely enjoy working with the patients,” Rina states as she explains what she likes most about her position.

Rina describes her tasks as ranging from patient interaction to administrative details. She says that the classes she took at National gave her the edge she needed to be successful in her current position – from her medical terminology courses to her computer application courses.

As an adult student returning to school after years of being in the workforce, Rina states that at first she wondered, “Can I do this?” But she quickly found that the small class sizes at National and “homey feel” of the campus helped her find her footing and graduated with excellent grades. “All the students knew each other,” Rina says about the campus, “You got to know everyone by name; the staff... you knew who they were and they knew you.”

Not only was Rina able to get the training she needed and graduate in a short amount of time, through federal aid from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and American National University’s matching Workforce Development Grant – she was able to graduate from her program with very little debt.

As a mom, Rina shares that going back to school and getting her degree helped to put into practice the advice that she gives her daughter who is currently in high school and considering her higher education options. After pursuing her degree, successfully graduating, and beginning a new career in her forties, Rina tells her children and her fellow students to go after their dreams. “The sky is the limit,” she says with confidence, “I feel that way about my own life.”

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Graduate Finds Employment through Networking with Instructor

Graduate Finds Employment through Networking with Instructor

Pam Ward was a housewife and stay-at-home mom when she decided that she wanted more for her life. She enrolled in the medical assisting and medical billing and coding programs at the Danville, Kentucky Campus and graduated in May to cheers of “Granny graduated!” Now she is working as a registered medical assistant in Dr. Mary Lagrew’s pediatrics office in Lexington.

When she made up her mind to go back to school, Pam wanted to get started in a program before she lost her nerve. She was pleased to discover that she could begin classes right away at National. She studied hard and excelled in her program, never earning a grade below a B. “I felt like whatever I put into it--that’s what I was going to get out of it,” she said.

She was working with Career Center Director Lacey Ebert during her job search when Dr. Lagrew’s office manager contacted National and requested that Lacey send résumés of medical assisting graduates. They contacted the school at the request of the office’s head medical assistant, Joann Coulter, who is a American National University graduate and a part-time instructor at the Campus.

National’s instructors, who are professionals working in their fields, not only bring first-hand knowledge to the classroom, they are also excellent networking contacts for graduates as they enter the workforce. Joann was Pam’s instructor in some of her medical assisting classes so she was familiar with Pam’s training and her strong work ethic. She said Dr. Lagrew and the rest of the staff liked Pam right away and that she is a great addition to the office.

Pam is putting her training to work every day in the busy pediatrics practice where she triages patients, checks their vital signs, gives injections and performs strep and other screenings. She will eventually be working in the administrative end of the office, as well. “She’s got it all down pat,” JoAnn said with a smile. “She’s doing excellent. She listened in class.”

Pam Ward is pictured above at work at Dr. Mary Lagrew’s office. She is pictured below with her family during the Danville Campus graduation ceremony in May.

Student Uses Classroom Knowledge to Save a Life

Student Uses Classroom Knowledge to Save a Life

Krista Lillpop, a medical assisting student at the Florence Campus, used the skills she learned in class to help save the life of a motorcyclist. While driving, she had noticed a wrecked motorcycle lying on the side of the road and a man in a ditch next to it. She immediately pulled over and realized he needed medical attention so she called 911.

Recalling things she learned in class, Krista knew how important it was to keep the man as calm as possible while waiting for emergency professionals. She also applied a compress to control his bleeding and checked his vital signs. Once the EMTs arrived, Krista notified them of his vitals and the injuries that she observed. She helped them get him stabilized and into the ambulance, so that he could be airlifted to the nearest hospital. The responding fire chief praised Krista for her efforts and invited her to consider becoming a volunteer firefighter and first responder. Krista gladly accepted his offer.

Thanks to her medical classes and instructors, Krista applied the skills that she had acquired in her classes to help save a man’s life. Thanks to her quick actions, the man survived and is making a speedy recovery.

Paula Beth - Difference Maker at the Richmond Campus

Paula Beth - Difference Maker at the Richmond Campus


Paula Beth Ciolek at the Richmond Campus


  • Director of Health Care Education
  • Instructor of all medical courses
  • Oversees coordination of externships for medical assisting and pharmacy technician programs


  • American National University faculty member since 1995
  • Has 35 years of health care experience


  • Received an associate’s degree in medical assisting from Eastern Kentucky University
  • Began career at the age of 14 as a candy striper for Pattie A. Clay hospital; worked there for eight years in positions including nurse’s aide and ward clerk before enrolling at EKU
  • Worked for the Counseling Center at Eastern Kentucky University and at an ambulatory care center


As far back as I can remember I have wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. My grandmother was an LPN. Listening to her and watching her as I grew up, I knew in my heart that I wanted to be just like her. She always told me that helping people is so rewarding and knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life, you will always be happy with yourself.

There are so many special moments and so many rewarding experiences that I have been able to see in our American National University students. Words really cannot express how I feel about teaching. Just knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life is a feeling that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. National has given me the opportunity to experience that feeling.

Each student has a special need and is special in their own way. I never let them give up, always encouraging them that they can become a professional and make a difference in someone’s life and in their own life. I keep on encouraging them and rewarding them along their path of success.

Seeing students succeed in their chosen field has been my greatest reward as an instructor. There is nothing like seeing a student light up when they have accomplished something they never thought they could do. Seeing them walk across the stage at graduation brings tears to my eyes, knowing all the obstacles they had to go through to get there.

We are one big family at National. We all work together to help our students succeed. Not just one faculty member can do it; we need each other to make it happen. It lies in all our hands to help our students to reach for their dreams and make them come true.

Graduate Returns to Previous Employer With a Degree and Better Position

Graduate Returns to Previous Employer With a Degree and Better Position

Michelle Chenault, a graduate from the Lexington Campus who is working for MacLellan Industrial Services, has made the transition from the physical labor of industrial cleaning at the Toyota Plant to working in the company’s office using the computer skills that she gained from the computer applications technology and office technology professional programs.

Michelle worked for MacLellan for 14 years when she was laid off from the company. She had visited American National University when her cousin attended the school and she knew that the layoff was her opportunity to earn a college degree.

While still in school, she was called back to work to clean paint booths in the plant but her college education hadn’t gone unnoticed by the company. “They came to me and said ‘We’re really behind in the office and we need some help. We know you’ve had Excel and all of the Microsoft applications. Do you think you could help us out?’” Michelle recalled.

Michelle loves working in the office at MacLellan and said she was recently introduced to the company’s president. “My boss has talked me up to him big time,” she said with a smile. She hopes to someday work in MacLellan’s corporate office.

Michelle hopes that her teenage daughter has learned how important it is to get a college degree. “I’m trying to be a good role model for her,” she said with high hopes for her daughter’s future.

Phlebotomist Returns to College to Continue Advancing in Health Care

Phlebotomist Returns to College to Continue Advancing in Health Care

Amanda Ball, a graduate from the Pikeville Campus, is working as a phlebotomist for South Williamson Appalachian Regional Healthcare providing phlebotomy services at Good Shepherd Nursing Home. She received her phlebotomy diploma in May and was back on campus on Friday, August 31 for orientation for the Fall Term to continue her education. This time she will be working for her associate’s degree in medical assisting.

She entered the phlebotomy program to help make a better life for her family. “I have children now--I want more in life,” she explained. “I want to be able to give them more. I don’t want to depend on others.”

She chose National because it offered class schedules that fit the needs of her busy family. “I was looking for evening classes at the time and not a lot of places offer that.” She also liked that the program was short and that it didn’t require a lot of unrelated courses. “National made it a good experience…You got the classes that you needed—not ten thousand other things.”

Students Attend Association of Surgical Technologists State Assembly Meeting

Students Attend Association of Surgical Technologists State Assembly Meeting

On September 7th and 8th, surgical technology students Betty Carr and Eduardo Del Toro Batista from the Louisville Campus joined Program Director Stephanie Walker and Instructor Teresa Ray at the annual meeting of the Kentucky State Assembly of the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST). Stephanie serves on the board of directors for the Kentucky State Assembly of AST and she is involved in all aspects of the association including planning the annual meeting.

During the meeting Betty and Eduardo had the opportunity to attend sessions on surgical procedures, visit informational booths, and network with medical professionals and students from across the state. A certified surgical technologist (CST) certification test review was also held during the meeting for students who were in attendance. The certification is an important credential that employers look for when hiring surgical technologists so National students take the test as part of their program before graduation.

Eduardo came from Cuba in 1983 and is currently working as an interpreter for Family Health Centers. “Since I was in Cuba I’ve always wanted to work in the OR…and save people’s lives,” Eduardo said. He attended the meetings because he wants to take every opportunity to expand his knowledge of surgical procedures to be the best that he can be when he enters the field.

Betty, who is in her last term of her program, has joined AST as a student member. The association offers many benefits to students including discounts on membership and certification tests, scholarship opportunities, and information regarding employment opportunities.

“I was really looking forward to meeting techs in field and getting information from them,” said Betty who networked with surgical technologists and first assistants from many areas of specialty at the event. She said the certification review was very beneficial and she is glad to have had the opportunity to participate.

Students Eduardo Del Toro Batista (l) and Betty Carr (2nd from left) are pictured talking with representatives from a surgical products company at the annual meeting of the Kentucky State Assembly of the Association of Surgical Technologists.

Student Helps Peers Succeed

Student Helps Peers Succeed

Laurence Speer is not only a student at the Cleveland Campus but also a valuable team player. He is working towards an associate’s degree in the information systems engineering degree program and has maintained a 3.0 grade point average. He contributes to the campus in many ways outside of his role as a student including working as a math tutor to his fellow students and helping staff and faculty when computer problems arise at the campus. Laurence will graduate in February 2013. Upon graduation, he plans to enlist in the US Army as an E-4, an acceleration rank that he will earn as a result of his education.

Students Learn Life-Saving Techniques to Prepare for Externships

Students Learn Life-Saving Techniques to Prepare for Externships

Students in the medical assisting degree program at the Charlottesville Campus recently participated in training to earn a professional level CPR certification. This certification is a requirement for medical assisting students before they begin their externship. “Medical assistants are the life link that makes the difference in life or demise,” said Director of Healthcare Education Larry Liggan as he explains why it is so important that students are certified in CPR.

During the training, students learned how to execute this life-saving technique on both adults and infants. Linda Mayhew, a registered nurse with CCHC of Mayhew Consultants, engaged the students with a video showing all too common occurrences when CPR is needed.

CPR is just one of many tools a medical assistant must know to work in the health care field. But, as students learned during their training, it should not be limited to only medical professionals. “I would advise everyone to go through a CPR class, just to know how it’s done, because you never know when you could actually save someone’s life,” said student Marquita Scott.

Student Tashae Anderson is pictured practicing CPR during the CPR certification class.

Students Learn Much at Orientation

Students Learn Much at Orientation

On Thursday, August 30th, the Youngstown Campus offered a new take on student orientation with active participation by 84 prospective students. After an introduction by Campus Director Mike Boyle, the students participated in a “K-W-L” (Know, Want to know, Learn) session where they came up with a list of things they wanted to know about American National University. They then watched the orientation DVD about National. Throughout the day, students participated in mini workshops on note-taking, time management, critical thinking, writing, and money management. Lunch was provided during which time the students met with their program directors and chairs. The focus throughout the day was to provide training and understanding of skill sets to help ensure academic success. Students found the orientation helpful. Emil Sopkovich, a new student in the business administration-management program, said, “The faculty and staff covered all the questions we had, let us know what the school offered, and explained job prospects after graduation.”

New students are pictured during the Youngstown Campus orientation.

New Surgical Technologist Joins Cardiac Team at Johns Hopkins

New Surgical Technologist Joins Cardiac Team at Johns Hopkins

Roy Wood graduated in May from the Harrisonburg Campus with an associate’s degree from the surgical technology program. Two months later he was packing up his family – 2 year old daughter, Asra, and expectant wife, Natalia – and moving to Baltimore, Maryland to join the cardiac team at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Roy began his journey with National College two years ago. He always knew he wanted to be in the medical field but it took some research for him to discover his interest in surgical technology. “I wanted to learn every skill set that would help me achieve my goals that are also in line with the needs of the patient.”

A significant part of the surgical program is clinical time and Roy had some great opportunities. He spent time at Children’s Medical Center (CMC) in Washington D.C. and his supervisors spoke highly of him. Oscar, a tech at CMC stated, “Most students…don’t even know how to put a gown on. He came in and went right to work.” For his externship, Roy worked at Inova Alexandria Hospital where he was able to participate in total joint replacements. He was offered a job at Alexandria but turned it down in hopes of another opportunity. He said, “If I have to move my family, I want Johns Hopkins.”

Roy began his new job at Johns Hopkins on August 6th and he loves what he does. “I value every skill at my disposal,” he said. “I would like to enhance every skill that would improve me as a [surgical technologist].” Since moving to Baltimore, Roy has welcomed his son, Mateo Alexander.

Graduates Return to Campus to Help New Class of ISE Students

Graduates Return to Campus to Help New Class of ISE Students

Three successful graduates from the information systems engineering (ISE) degree program recently returned to the Lynchburg Campus to give back to the school that helped launch their careers. Chris Parks, Gary Mosby, and Ryan Kuenzi were invited to be guest speakers in ISE Director Pamela Hooper’s classes. “The graduates often reiterate the same points that I discuss in class about professionalism, earning certifications, and good communications skills,” she says of inviting former students in as guest speakers.

Gary, who earned his A+ and Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certifications, spoke to students in the Implementing and Troubleshooting OS Technology class about his job responsibilities as a help desk support technician for Campbell County. (See the September 2, 2011 issue of the National News to read about Gary’s story.) He emphasized the qualities that make a good help desk technician, including taking initiative, research, providing customer service, and obtaining certifications.

Chris, who earned his A+, Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), and Help Desk (HDI) certifications, was invited to speak to the same class about his job responsibilities as an IT support specialist (tier 2) at Liberty University. He discussed the importance of certifications and described how his career has advanced from a tier-1 help desk support specialist to a tier-2 support specialist. In his current position, he writes articles for the Liberty University IT Knowledgebase, which showed the students that there are many job roles and responsibilities available to IT professionals.

Ryan, also employed at Liberty University, spoke to the Network Infrastructure Configuration class about his role as a network operations center technician. He talked to the students about the tools used to monitor a network and demonstrated the network monitoring tool. He discussed how network problems are escalated from the help desk to the network operations center for problem resolution.

“I think the current students enjoy hearing about the successes of National College alumni and gain valuable information about starting a career from former students who were once sitting in the classroom just like they are now,” says Pamela.

Graduate Gary Mosby is pictured in the above photo with students in the ISE 101 class. Pictured below is graduate Ryan Kuenzi giving a presentation to students in the ISE 218 class.

The National News is a biweekly publication designed to share the success and academic accomplishments of students and graduates from American National University and National College. For more information, contact the Communications Department.

In accordance with the regulations of the Tennessee Higher Education Council, all references to "American National University" refer to "National College" in the state of Tennessee.