Twice retired but starting fresh, MA student graduates at age 77
Retirement just didn’t suit Dianna Brown-Walker. After retiring from restaurant work twice and still feeling the itch to do more, she decided to go in the opposite direction and start a new career from scratch instead.
“You get bored,” she said. “I have my plants and flowers that I do in my garden but it’s not like dealing with people. I liked being around people and being helpful.”
At the age of 77, Dianna decided to revisit a career she had left behind many years ago. When her children were small, she had enjoyed working at a hospital, transferring patients from one department to another and helping check them in. Now, she decided to follow her passion and enroll in the Medical Assistant Program at United Education Institute (UEI) in Morrow.
“I wanted to go back to something that I know something about,” she said. “When I worked at the hospital that (medical assisting) was basically what I did. I addressed the patients when they first came in, calmed them down and then admit them, make sure they are comfortable until the nurse came in to do what she had to do. I enjoyed it.”
After finishing her courses, Dianna completed her externship at Bhat and Bhat Medical and was hired for a full-time position as a Medical Assistant.
“If I could do backflips, I would,” she said. “It really makes me happy that I did this. I really did this.”
‘AT ANY AGE IN LIFE YOU CAN SUCCEED’
Going back to school at a later age did come with some challenges. Dianna struggled early on with the computer work and with overcoming her doubts.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up,” she said. “At first it was kind of hard. Then I met one person that was really helpful to me. A classmate, Kierra, helped me a lot, especially with the computer. I wasn’t really good with that. She showed me what to do and how to do it and said don’t give up.”
Kierra lives with her grandparents and was inspired seeing Dianna in class. The two hit it off quickly.
“She took me under her wing, and I took her under mine,” Kierra said. “As we got more and more into the program she got better and better. I just saw her growth and her confidence got bigger… You don’t often see (someone like her.) This can really happen. You can find a new career at any age, at any time, at any moment.”
“Being much older than her classmates, we all just had this respect for her,” said Lakeya Blue, associate instructor at Morrow. “She carried herself so well and was a really proficient and dedicated student… She inspired us so much. I just think for all of us, even me as an instructor, it was really an inspiration that at any age in life you can succeed. Age is just a number. She had spunk and an all the way around beautiful personality. That was what inspired my other students to rally around her and depended on her for her consistency, her maturity and her inspiration.”
Dianna said she appreciated the way her instructors pushed her to succeed, especially with skills she was unsure about like giving vaccinations. In her work today she gives vaccinations on a daily basis and is grateful for the training.
“You would be proud of yourself when you learned something. I was proud of myself when I started doing shots,” she said. “It really paid off. Right now, at the doctor’s office I give shots every day and it’s enjoyable.”
STAYING MOTIVATED TO THE END
With plenty of practice and effort the coursework became easy for Dianna. She’s proud to show her children and her grandchildren that with dedication, anything is possible.
“My grandbabies are real proud of me,” she said. “They kept pushing me. Sometimes they would call and I would say ‘I don’t know if I want to continue’ and they would say ‘Go ahead, Grannie, you can do it. You’re always pushing us.’”
Looking back on her experience, Dianna has simple advice for others thinking about starting something new.
“Just try,” she said. “You’ve got to have that determination that you’re going to do this and you’re going to finish. That was my biggest thing was being able to finish and then look back at what I accomplished– especially with that computer.”