Our Instructor Spotlight is on our Clinical Medical Assistant Academy and Phlebotomy Tech Academy instructor, Suzette Bowers, Ed.S. Not only does Suzette serve as an instructor for CPE, but she also develops the curriculum for the Clinical Medical Assistant Academy.
Currently, she is working on creating a 9-month blended Clinical Medical Assistant program for UTC.
Marah: What professional experience do you have relating to the course you are teaching?
Suzette: After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in natural health, I began my career as a medical assistant at a general internal medicine practice in Georgia. When I moved to Colorado in 2000, I began working as a medical assistant at Littleton Internal Medicine. I was able to gain experience in an assortment of areas—cryosurgery, PFT’s, venipuncture, you name it! Eventually, I became the owner of ON Call Service, which served multiple medical offices in the Colorado area. I provided temporary medical assistants to work in doctors’ offices when their full-time medical assistants were on vacation or called in sick. I then went on to become the lead instructor for Pima Medical Institute in Denver, where I developed curricula and lesson plans for instructional development. I was a department manager and a board member at Pima, as well. In this role, I was able to develop 20+ courses in the fields of science (like Anatomy and Physiology), administration (think Medical Office Procedures), and student success (such as Study Skills). And now I work at UTC—and love it!
M: What made you decide to become a teacher?
S: I worked in the CMA field and saw a decline in the skills needed in the profession. I loved the idea of being able to use my experience and expertise to develop courses that would enable CMA professionals with the skills they need to excel, and then being able to teach those skills to future medical professionals.
M: Why do you love teaching?
S: I love teaching because sharing my knowledge with others is very rewarding. I love encountering enthusiastic students who have a natural curiosity about life, and I love being able to feed that curiosity! Teaching goes far beyond just sharing knowledge. I have the privilege of mentoring and supporting students and hopefully making a difference in their lives. Developing courses and then teaching students what they need to learn for success in their field is my dream job!
M: What is your teaching philosophy?
S: When I begin teaching a new course, I always explain the importance of brain-based learning to students. Brain-based learning is the science behind how the brain develops, and I use its principles to help students learn effectively. It works for people of all ages in both in-person and online class settings.
I also implement a theory I call “Continuum” into my teaching method. I feel as though, in many classes, material is covered, tested on, and then never reviewed again. Then, when it’s time for the certification exam, students forget important information that was covered early on in class. I like to make sure prior material is covered throughout the span of the course. One way I do this is by testing students on topics we covered at the beginning of the course throughout the course. For example, let’s say that on quiz 3, I tested them on the cardiac life cycle. When it’s time to take quiz 4, I will test them on new topics we have covered, and additionally, I will test them on what they learned about the cardiac life cycle for quiz 3. The final is a cumulation of all quizzes. This leads to students being extremely prepared for their certification exam!
Last, students are unique individuals who need secure environments to learn in. It’s important for students to feel safe asking questions, taking risks, and sharing ideas with one another. I want my classroom to be comfortable and without negativity. I believe there are three elements to creating this environment:
- Having an instructor who acts as a guide or coach, who clearly demonstrates ethical values, and has clear lesson plans
- Allowing students to let their natural curiosity direct their learning
- Promoting respect for all people
M: What do you believe students will gain by taking your course? What are the goals you have for your students?
S: I would love for students to gain not only a career from this course, but so many other things, too:
- A sense of purpose
- A new outlook on life
- A sense of pride in completing something difficult
- The momentum in knowing they can and will make a difference
However, what students really hope to gain, on an individual basis, depends on the student, their age, their skill level, and what they desire to accomplish long-term. Ultimately, I want my students to develop a diverse, high-quality skill set that will enable them to succeed in an entry-level healthcare position.
Another goal I have is to teach students the correct way of performing medical procedures to keep themselves, and their patients, safe.
M: What kind of job opportunities are available to a CMA student after completing the course?
S: The CMA field is very diverse. Many students go on to work in physician’s offices, but there are so many different types of offices they can work in. They can work in anything from cardiovascular to respiratory, ob-gyn to pediatrics. The possibilities are endless! Any type of doctor’s office that is out there is one they can work in. Hospitals usually have more CNA’s and patient care techs; while patient care techs are like CMA’s, there are a few things they don’t do that CMA’s do because hospitals are more specialized. Patient care techs mainly focus on working closely with patients and providing them with basic care (alongside nurses). However, a medical assistant is trained in both clinical and administrative work and often focuses on various tasks in the exam room, front office, and beyond. CMA’s give immunizations, patient care, patient education, patient work, complete lab work, etc. It’s not only a diverse job, but it’s very serious in that there are many responsibilities that go along with CMA training.
Many students also go on to expand their careers in the medical field after taking the CMA course. Many go to nursing and PA school, and a handful become doctors. I even had a couple of students who are now thoracic surgeons! The career path you choose depends on what area of healthcare you have an affinity for, but if you find one you are drawn to and have a dream, go for it!
M: How do you motivate students in your classroom?
S: If a student is struggling with a certain topic and needs extra motivation, I love using multiple resources to help them learn in different ways. For online courses, Google Classroom allows me to implement a system in the assessments students take that lets them know what they got wrong immediately. Then, they’ll be able to find information about what they got wrong in the textbook quickly because Google Classroom will tell them what pages to find the information on! Students also have audio-visual resources available to them that explains topics in-depth. I’ve made a lot of video lectures! Whether online or in-person, I love using videos, visual aids, and handouts to help students. Once they grasp content with that extra help, it leads to them feeling accomplished, which in turn builds confidence.
I also like using positive reinforcement techniques to encourage students. For me, this means addressing student needs, letting students get to know me (and vice-versa) so they feel comfortable asking me questions, and employing class-building games and activities.
M: What is your favorite aspect/topic of your course to teach, and why?
S: Many students that come into the CMA field have specific reasons for doing so. Some take the course so they can get hours they need to get accepted into PA or med school, but many begin the course with preconceived notions and bad experiences from a blood draw, immunizations, etc. They are sometimes fearful of hands-on training because they know we perform the training on each other, and some students have had bad experiences in the past. They want to do it but don’t want it done to themselves! However, they begin to realize that, in the past, poorly-trained technicians were performing on them. They learn the appropriate way to perform skills, and they see it doesn’t hurt when you know what you are doing! I then watch their fear go away as students become competent and confident in the skills they are learning. They experience a totally safe and nonthreatening way of doing procedures and see how it should have been done in the first place. Then, their confidence begins building from there, and I absolutely love watching that happen.
M: What are three fun facts about you?
- I love watching medical movies that tell a significant story about health-related issues. People relate to storytelling, and I love it when movies tell medical stories. One of my favorites is Different by Design, which documents a male and female brain from their development embryo to when they are in adulthood. This shows the sex differences in brain development. I use the movie to help students learn what patient education looks like for males vs. females. Also, my students always find The History of Drugs to be interesting. It shows drugs, both past and present, and how they have been used throughout the course of time.
- My Starbucks order is an Iced Guava Passionfruit. I also loved an iced caramel macchiato. 😊
- I travel to foreign countries to observe their teaching techniques and classroom structures. So far, I have visited schools in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. One day, I would love to visit France, Germany, and Switzerland to look at their educational systems.
M: Is there anything else you would like to share?
S: The Clinical Medical Assistant course is intense. I won’t sugarcoat it because I believe it’s important for people to understand that it’s a lot of information. I’ve had many students go through who have been successful, but they would all tell you that the course requires a lot of hard work and dedication. They would also tell you that becoming CMA-certified is very rewarding, and my phlebotomy tech students would say the same thing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
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