At the age of 23, Brittny Munoz’s world took a vastly unexpected turn when one day, for seemingly no reason, she fainted. And, she continued to randomly pass out during the days, weeks and months that followed.
Yet, she was unable to get a firm reason as to why this kept happening.
“It was really hard,” Brittny said. “I got taken away from driving, so I couldn’t drive anymore. Then I got to the point where I couldn’t work. I was getting frustrated when I had to go back and back again to the hospital without getting any real answers as to what was happening with me.”
To make matters more difficult, Brittny was a recently divorced single mom who felt the daily weight of having to support her young son. As the limitations mounted, so did the personal pressures of motherhood until, after about six months, Brittny got her diagnosis:
The continual fainting was the result of a serious heart condition. She would need a pacemaker in order to survive and to continue living a normal life.
This ordeal, coupled with a lifelong passion for wanting to help people, brought Brittny to the realization that she desired a career in the medical field.
“Once I kind of went through the experience that I did, I realized there are some good people and some not-so-good people in the medical field,” said Brittny, referring to the frustration she felt as physicians failed to diagnose her condition. “I developed that passion to be able to help because I didn’t get the help I needed. I wanted to be the stepping stone and be in a position to get people the help I didn’t receive.”
This motivation ultimately led to Brittny’s enrollment in UEI College’s Medical Assistant program at its Fresno campus. And, after graduating last month, she’s already earned a full-time position working in her field of choice: dermatology.
From Familiar to Challenging
When Brittny was a teen, she was already considering a career in the medical field. But, she wasn’t fully convinced she’d succeed academically if she ultimately chose to pursue that career path.
“I was at a loss because I wasn’t in all the AP classes and I wasn’t in a spot where I was doing great in math or could be considered the smartest kid in class,” she said. “Call it low self-esteem or anxiety, but I didn’t think a medical program would be right for me.”
After high school, then, Brittny chose a career that was more familiar. Her mom is a special needs teacher, and Brittny also held a passion for helping with kids. So, she set herself on a similar path by working as a teacher’s assistant for kids with special needs.
Brittny said she loved the work. She even became a certified paraprofessional. But then, at the age of 23, the fainting episodes began.
The half-year it took to get a firm diagnosis, then a pacemaker to treat her condition and ultimately save her life, vastly altered her thinking when it came to a career choice.
“It kind of made me angry, but angry in a sense that I wanted to change something,” Brittny said. “I still had a passion for special needs, but I felt it was time to set aside hobbies and what I love to do and replace them with passions and what I need to do.”
Her focus, then, became earning a career in the medical field, specifically one in dermatology. Her goal was two-fold: to better supper herself and her son, and take the first step on the journey toward advancing within the medical dermatology field.
Finding Support & Mentorship at UEI
Brittny said what first attracted her to UEI College in Fresno was actually the location of the school. As she was back to working full-time, Brittny had little time to commute, so a local campus was important.
“Everybody there was so welcoming to me,” she said of her initial visit to the campus. “[The enrollment process] seemed easy, and there was a sense of hope. The prices were low, and they were able to do financial aid which was a huge thing as a single mom. It made it really convenient.”
Classes, however, proved to be a challenge for Brittny. After enrolling, she was still dealing with a number of personal changes in her life following her divorce, and she found herself hospitalized for a time.
However, she said her Medical Assistant instructor Alma Aparicio was instrumental in keeping her on track.
“She’s straight-forward, honest and wants every student to succeed,” Brittny said. “She treats you with that tough love, and I really appreciate that. Yet, she always worked with me and was understanding. It was having a level of friendship and mentorship rather than just having a teacher to get you through class.”
“The goal is for all students to be the best out of the best and Brittny has proven to be one of them, not only in the classroom but out in the field,” Alma said. “I have no doubt that her determination and great communication skills has helped her reached her goals. She is a leader in the making, and I say thank you for your words and for always keeping an open mind, ears and heart. I am proud of who Brittny has become, and will continue to be.”
As Brittny reached the end of her classroom instruction, she earned an externship at a dermatology clinic at which she was once a patient. The clinic ultimately hired her onto the staff full-time following graduation.
So far, Brittny said she loves the experience of working there and looks forward to continuing to advance in her career in dermatology.
“The next step is to go for my RN,” she said. “But, I’m going to take some time to work and get some money saved up before jumping into that. I have plans, though, to continue my schooling and be able to work my way up the ladder.”
“Brittny, we are so proud of you! You are an awesome role model to other students and the professionals around you,” said Ada Clower, Campus President at UEI College Fresno.