Cynthia Valdez likens her interest in human anatomy and health care to those who have a passion for automobiles.
The curiosity of how the body’s engine works, mixed with a desire to fix problems and optimize performance … well, it’s just in her blood. And, it’s kept her working in the medical field – first as a caregiver, then a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and home health aide – for the last two decades.
“I just love learning about how the body works,” Cynthia said. “People like cars and how they work, taking them apart, putting them back together. Same thing with me in the medical field and the human body. I just find it amazing.”
This interest in advancing her knowledge – and her career — led her to UEI College in Oceanside, where she recently completed the Medical Assistant Training Program and earned her high school diploma. After furthering her education, Cynthia is now a full-time medical assistant at a local clinic for internal medicine.
“This is exactly where I want to be,” said Cynthia, 41. “It just reassures that at any age, you can continue your education and strive for something better.”
UEI’s Flexibility Leads to Opportunity
Cynthia said her interest in the medical field began when she was a child. She remembers her mother taking her to one of her brother’s doctor’s appointments, and she was immediately intrigued.
So several years later, as a young 20-year-old mother of two looking to support her family, she took her first position in the health care field as an elderly caregiver.
Through the years, as Cynthia’s family grew and she became a mother of four, she strived to work her way up in the medical field. She became a CNA, but she said her lack of a high school diploma kept her from advancing much further than medical support assistant.
In addition, being a working mom left little time for attending classes and furthering her education.
But then, a couple of years ago, Cynthia said she learned about UEI and its Medical Assistant program. While she didn’t enroll right away, she always considered it one of her best options for advancing her career.
It wasn’t until last year, when she learned she could complete the program through a hybrid mix of online classes and in-person training, when both she and her sister enrolled. For Cynthia, this offered the flexibility she needed to go to school while also working and being a mom to her kids, especially her youngest, who’s 11.
“Holding down a full-time job, being a mother of four, married and all that good stuff … it really fit my schedule,” she said. “That’s what drew me toward UEI, and they make it easy with online classes and having to attend on campus only a couple of days a week.”
Building Momentum toward Future Possibilities
Despite the flexibility offered by UEI, Cynthia said it took some time to get used to going back to school. Juggling classes – even online classes – while also being a working mom made for some challenges, but she said instructors and campus staff were always available when she needed them.
“Cynthia was a hard-working, dedicated student. She was always eager to learn more. I am overly proud of Cynthia facing her challenges, overcoming them, and fulfilling her goals,” said Aundrea Wilcox, Student Services Coordinator at UEI Oceanside. “I know if Cynthia wants to further her education she will do great. She can achieve anything she puts her mind to because she does not give up, works hard, she will be great at whatever she chooses to do.”
After completing all her classes, Cynthia began her extern hours at a local clinic in December of 2020. She made such an impression that the clinic offered her a full-time position before she had even completed her hours.
“I work in internal medicine, and I love it,” she said. “Knowing I did my extern there, they’ve been really patient and welcoming. It’s really cool.”
Cynthia added the UEI prepared her perfectly for the position. Tasks she performs daily in her current position, from taking vitals and administering vaccines to taking EKGs, are all things she learned in UEI College’s Medical Assistant program.
These days, Cynthia says she has aspirations to continue to rise within the medical field. But, she also wants to take some time to appreciate how far she’s come.
“Once I’m done paying off my loan, I’d like to go further,” she said. “What direction? Some type of technician, like a cardiology tech, an ultrasound tech or [a registered nurse]. I’m not quite sure, yet. Right now, I just want to enjoy what I’ve achieved so far.”
“I am always amazed at the grit our students show in dealing with work, family and school—never quitting on any of those obligations—and driving onwards to achieve their goal of graduating and starting a new career,” said Alex Poyuzina, Campus President at UEI Oceanside. “Cynthia perfectly encapsulates the best of our students and we couldn’t be happier for her and her family.”