Encino Medical Assistant Student Turns Personal Pain into Passion for Success

After several years together, Bridget Varela Ruelas’ husband unexpectedly asked for a divorce. But, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

It soon became apparent his future plans didn’t include Bridget or their 5-year-old son, leaving it on Bridget’s shoulders to find a way to support them both moving forward.

“He left me alone with my son, and I needed to figure out something fast,” Bridget said. “I relied on him financially, being a stay-at-home housewife. I was with my husband for seven years, and I got to depending on him.”

So, amid the sudden hardship of her broken marriage, Bridget temporarily set her feelings aside. She had two things she needed to accomplish immediately, she said, to ensure her son was cared for.

“I called my old boss to get a server job, but I knew I needed something more,” she said. “I had to find a career where I could provide for my son long-term. So, the same day my husband asked for the divorce, I started looking into schools. That’s when I came across UEI.”

Bridget said she had long wanted to have a career in the medical field, but she lacked the confidence to follow through on the dream. Feeling backed into a corner, however, put her in fight-for-flight mode, and she enrolled in the Medical Assistant Program at UEI College’s Encino campus.

Since enrolling, her confidence has seemingly grown exponentially. Not only did she earn straight-A’s through her coursework, but along the way she earned several notable honors such as the President’s Award, Student of the Month, Perfect Attendance, and Encino Student Ambassador.

And now, she’s primed to take on a full-time position at the site of her externship, which she recently completed.

“I feel like the school really changed me, and I’m not just being dramatic,” Bridget said. “I lost 70 pounds since starting school, and I’m now very confident – not just in school, but in life. This year compared to last year, I wouldn’t even be able to recognize myself.”


As a child, Bridget remembers regularly accompanying her mother, who suffered from health issues, to the hospital for treatments. Seeing how the nurses paid close, personal attention to her and her mom while at the hospital has always stuck with Bridget.

“I feel like I’m a very giving, caring person,” she said. “When I was in high school, they had a little job fair going on, and they had nurses there. It really called my attention because I really wanted to help people.”

But, Bridget said she didn’t feel smart enough to enter such a profession, so she kept her dream on the backburner. Instead, she worked as a server following high school until her son was born. When she got married, she took advantage of the support from her husband to be a stay-at-home mom.

When her ex-husband walked out of their lives, however, Bridget knew it was time to take a chance on her dream.

“It was time to do what I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “It was time to put on my big girl pants and do it.”

Yet, Bridget remained nervous and unsure, even after enrolling in UEI College’s Medical Assistant program. The first time she practiced giving injections, in fact, she recalled that her limbs were shaking so badly that her instructor, Elizabeth Murillo, had to steady her hands.

But, her confidence grew as she evolved as a student. She gives credit to her instructor for helping make this transition possible.

“My instructor (Elizabeth Murillo) is the best … the best out there,” Bridget said. “She brought something out of me that I never knew that I had. She brought out confidence in me. Because of her, I’m able to do what I’m doing now. She’s amazing.”

Elizabeth said she immediately saw potential in Bridget.

“I will never forget the day Bridget walked into my classroom,” Elizabeth said. “I made it my goal to bring out the best in her – the best she didn’t know she possessed. Bridget became a true leader in the classroom. She didn’t let anyone stay behind. Her smile and laughter would light up the classroom any day. Bridget was a self-starter with contagious energy.”

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While a student at UEI College, Bridget was also forced to balance a full-time server job with all the tasks involved with being a single mom. She had no family around the help, yet she somehow made it all work.

This is a source of pride for Bridget, and not just as a personal accomplishment. She knows her son is watching, and she wants to set a positive example as they journey through all these changes together.

“I want to show my son that no matter how bad you think it is or how bad your life sucks, and you think everything’s going to go bad, you have to keep trying and doing your best, no matter what it is,” she said. “Being a medical assistant or a server, always be the best you can be.”

Bridget embodied this lesson perfectly during her externship, during which she said she impressed everyone she worked with.

“I’ve been getting nothing but good feedback,” she said of the externship experience.

Now a graduate with a full-time career, Bridget said she plans to become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). After that? She would like to continue her education to become either a phlebotomist or a Registered Nurse (RN).

“Bridget is talented, caring, intuitive, dedicated and focused in her pursuits,” said Jackie Azizyan, Senior Campus President at UEI College in Encino. “I am certain that Bridget is going to continue to do great and creative things in her future!”

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