Mary Cross Johnson
Registered Radiation Therapist, Smith-McMichael Cancer Center at Morehead Memorial Hospital, Eden, NC
- Tunstall High School, Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center, Pittsylvania County Public Schools
- CTE studies: Health Occupations I and II
- Additional studies: Registered Radiologic Technologist, The Moses H. Cone Radiologic Technology Program; Registered Radiation Therapist, Pitt Community College
Treating patients with care
by Jessica Sabbath
To Mary Cross Johnson, her patients become family.
As a radiation therapist in a North Carolina cancer center, she is charged with administering radiation treatments. Patients often undergo several treatments a week for six to eight weeks, so Mary gets to know them well.
“Our patients are kind of like family,” she says. “We joke around with them. We ask them about their families, anything we can do to get their minds off what they’re going through.”
Mary says patients often will return several years later to update their radiation therapists on how they’re doing. “I love our patients,” says Mary. “We have some of the best patients. They’re just so appreciative.”
The toughest part of her job is treating terminally ill patients, where the goal of the radiation therapy is to ease pain rather than cure the disease.
Mary always knew she wanted a career in the healthcare field, so she decided to take healthcare classes at Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center in high school.
“Our teacher taught us how important good patient care was,” says Mary. “If you’re in the healthcare field, your main focus needs to be patient care, and she instilled that into us.”
After graduating from high school Mary went into a two-year radiological program, which focuses on reading X-rays. During clinical rotations in the second year of the program, she became interested in radiation oncology. “I observed radiation oncology, and I immediately fell in love with it,” says Mary.
She earned a certificate in radiation therapy from Pitt Community College in North Carolina so she could pursue her dream.
Mary wants to continue in radiation therapy, learning new technology to provide the best patient care possible. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
Cindya Umaña Amador, PT, DPT
Licensed Physical Therapist, Fox Rehabilitation and Spring Arbor, Leesburg
- Wakefield High School, Arlington County Public Schools
- CTE studies: Physical/Occupational Therapy; Sports Medicine
- Additional studies: Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Performance and Doctor of Physical Therapy, Marymount University
Caring for others
by Veronica Garabelli
Cindya Umaña Amador, PT, DPT, knew she wanted to go into the medical field, but it was a high school physical therapy and sports medicine class that guided her to physical therapy.
“This class really kind of opened up my eyes, and I was like ‘Oh, OK, this is something. I can see myself doing this,’” she says about the class she took sophomore year.
Today, Cindya is a licensed physical therapist for Fox Rehabilitation, a private practice that includes physical, occupational, and speech therapists. She makes house calls and helps senior patients improve their movement and manage their pain. That can mean working on balance by playing catch with a patient or helping them walk with or without a cane. Her favorite part of her job is tailoring treatments to individual patients, while the most challenging is dealing with ageism.
“Everyone says ‘Oh, he’s 80. He shouldn’t be able to do that anymore,’ but sometimes age is just a number,” says Cindya, who also is contracted as a physical therapist at Spring Arbor of Leesburg, an assisted-living facility.
Cindya’s ultimate career goal is to become a geriatric specialist, which she says is the highest standard in her specialty.
She advises high school students who want to become physical therapists to volunteer and travel to expose themselves to the different areas of physical therapy.
Physical therapy has various special-ties, including helping children, injured athletes, and animals. While working on her doctorate, for example, Cindya did mission work in Costa Rica, providing physical therapy in communities and orphanages. Although the work-load and cases were overwhelming at times, “it improved my ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve,” she says.
Pharmacy Intern, Wal-Mart, Norfolk
- Maury High School/ Norfolk Technical Center, Norfolk City Public Schools
- CTE studies: Pharmacy Technician Program; Licensed Pharmacy Technician
- Additional studies: Pursuing Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Hampton University
Planning a prescription for success
by Veronica Garabelli
Before even graduating from high school, Tiasara Arties was working toward her first professional certificate: becoming a licensed pharmacy technician.
“Toward the end, when state boards were coming up, we had a lot of tests,” says Tiasara about the Pharmacy Technician Program she took at Norfolk Technical Center her senior year of high school.
Tiasara was well prepared, passed the test, and became a licensed pharmacy technician, but her ambitions didn’t stop there. She enrolled at Hampton University and started working as a pharmacy technician at Wal-Mart in Norfolk. After two years at Hampton, she was accepted into the university’s pharmacy program, where she expects to graduate in 2016 with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She’s still getting hands-on experience by interning part time at the Wal-Mart pharmacy where she processes prescriptions, communicates with insurance companies, and most importantly, interacts with patients.
“My favorite part about being a technician is really my patients,” says Tiasara. “They are the reason why I do it, because you build those connections with people, and it’s a way to give back in a medical way.”
Tiasara always wanted a career in the medical field, but it wasn’t until participating in Norfolk Technical Center’s Pharmacy Technician Program that she decided to pursue pharmacy. Pharmacy had a lot of pluses: it gave her a chance to interact with people, enabled her to use her mathematics and science skills, and provided room for job growth. As part of the Pharmacy Technician Program, Tiasara gained the basic mathematics and science skills required for the job and learned how to interpret prescriptions, troubleshoot insurance problems, and communicate with patients versus pharmacy professionals.
After she receives her Pharm.D., Tiasara would like to continue her post-graduate training at a residency program.
Tiasara tries to relay the message of getting an early jump-start to a career when she gives job advice to high school students. She also stresses the importance of mentors, noting that she didn’t know about the pharmacy program at Hampton until a counselor told her about it. “When you have those people who you can shadow and who can give you advice, that really opens the door for a lot of things,” she says.
The Career Clusters logo and its extensions are the property of the National Career Technical Foundation, as managed by NASDCTEc. Some content on this page is from the publication, R U College & Career Ready? - 2017 Edition; and is used here with permission from the Virginia Business Publications LLC and Trailblazers in the Demographics and Workforce Section of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.