When Deborah Pennington, manager of a local senior citizen center, found out that she had been laid off by the county, she decided to use the retraining opportunity to change careers and pursue her lifelong dream – to work in the medical field.
Supported by her husband and four children, Deborah enrolled in Centralia College’s new Medical Assistant program, juggling her studies with caring for her family. It took dedication on all their parts. “I really thank my family because it took a lot of their time,” Deborah said, noting that she often studied over 30 hours a week in addition to attending classes.
Deborah’s class happened to be the first graduating class of the Medical Assistant program. “We were kind of like guinea pigs,” she said jokingly. However, Deborah is quick to point out that the training she did receive was top notch. “Linda Murray is an excellent instructor. If students follow the program and put forth effort, they should be able to step into any medical assistant position and know what to do.”
In addition to her studies, Deborah served as Vice President of the Rotaract Club, the college level of the Rotary Club. She participated in leadership training and volunteer opportunities, working closely with Professor Lance Wrzensinski and City Council member Lee Coumbs on many community projects. She also joined Phi Theta Kappa, made the President’s List, and graduated from Centralia College with honors in 2013.
After earning her Associate in Technical Arts degree from CC, Deborah passed her board exams and received her RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) national certification as well as her MAC (Medical Assistant Certification), Washington’s state certification.
It didn’t take long before Deborah secured a job at Washington Park Medical Center in Centralia. She was hired only one and a half months following graduation. While working there as a medical assistant, she also received on the job training to become an X-tray technician.
When Washington Park Medical Center recently went through an organizational change, Deborah was invited to join Dr. McGill, who left the group practice to open his own practice in town. She enjoys her new job. “I really like the management aspect and building one-on-one connections with patients.”
Today, Deborah serves as chairman of Centralia College’s Medical Assistant Advisory Board, continuing to invest in the program that gave her a new start. “The program now is even more improved than when I attended. Students are getting better training than I did.” Much of that improvement comes as a direct result of the valuable input of physicians, management, and individuals, like Deborah, who are helping to fine tune the program with practical suggestions from the field.