Susan Yeaman, MA, B.A., is a Medical Assisting Instructor at our Carrington College California San Leandro campus. Susan is incredibly knowledgeable in her field, and a very experienced teacher; she’s been a part of our Carrington family for more than nine years, and has worked in medical assisting for 31 years.
Susan always had a desire to work in the medical field in some capacity; her interest in biology and medicine started in high school and she hasn’t looked back since.
“In my high school yearbook under future plans, I said ‘Medicine’. I didn’t put ‘medical school’ or ‘nursing school’ or anything specific because I wasn’t quite sure that any of those quite worked for me, but even then I knew I loved the field.”
Susan literally couldn’t wait to get started on her college career; she couldn’t even wait till after high school graduation in 1975!
“I started attending UC Berkeley part-time my senior year of high school and went straight into Cal full- time when I graduated; they offered me the chance to graduate high school early, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to experience my senior year! I graduated from Cal with a bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare.”
With her interest in medicine and biology, Susan still can’t really understand why she didn’t pick Biology as an undergraduate… She puts it down to her love of learning!
“I had a very hard time picking a major because I loved everything – everything was interesting to me. In fact, to this day I end every lecture I give with ‘Stay Curious’ because I just think there are an infinite amount of cool things to learn. I try to instill that love of learning in my students.”
After graduating from UC Berkeley, Susan worked in retail management for a couple of years; for no other reason than everything seemed to interest her and she wanted to give it a try!
“I got married to Blake, and my first son arrived. Robert was a surprise. He’s had some serious health issues from the day he was born. I worked for his pediatrician briefly, so I consider that my very first job in medical assisting. That was in 1982, 31 years ago! But it hasn’t been continuous for 31 years.
My eldest son, who’s now 32, has been hospitalized 26 times, so even when I wasn’t employed I was still ‘working’ in the medical field, but as a mother. I gave my first injection on my own one year old when I was 24. That really was all an education in and of itself.”
Susan’s thirst for learning was not diminished by the challenges she faced at home, although her children obviously always came first – but her college options were somewhat limited.
“I did all the prerequisites for medical school on a part-time basis while I was at home with my very ill son. I really couldn’t do much of anything at that time, but I did work for the Berkeley Free Clinic from 1986 to 1990. That was really neat because I got to do everything; it was a great experience.
I finished my prerequisites and got the necessary grades but I wanted a break, so I started working for the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. The hospital had a training program for Medical Assisting, so even though I had on the job experience as a medical assistant, my formal training was through that program in 1990. I worked at the hospital until mid 1994.”
Over the course of the next ten years, before Susan started teaching at our school in 2004, she had a variety of jobs…including venturing out of health care to see if she could make her fortune in technology!
“I worked for a chiropractor, a surgeon…I even went to work in Silicon Valley for a few years. I saw that everyone there was making a quadrillion dollars, so I thought there must be something I’d enjoy doing! I worked for an internet search company before the world had heard of Google. I love what I do now, but had that company gone the way of Google, then I wouldn’t have to be working!”
After her foray into the technology world, Susan made her way to back to health care and went to work for UC Berkeley Health Services, managing their Health Promotion department within their medical center on campus. But even though she enjoyed most of the different jobs over the years, she often felt like something was missing in her career.
“My very first job was teaching. In high school I taught swimming. It was my first paying job. I did that for two and a half years and I absolutely loved it – it was probably the happiest I’d ever been in my work.
Basically all these other jobs had been driven around what I could juggle with my son’s health issues, so rather than having a beeline to specific goal, it was more around what would fit with my children.”
So in 2004, while working in what she describes as an ‘unfulfilling’ role for a surgeon, she saw an advert for a position as a college instructor.
“I saw the opening and thought that looks like fun! They obviously thought I had what they needed in the interview and I got the job. I have a given interest in medicine, a given interest in teaching and I care about people and social issues. To me this job weaves together all those interests.
This job isn’t only about teaching information – it’s about understanding individuals and their motivations – helping people to overcome the emotional things that stand in the way of their learning. Teaching is an art – it’s not just lecturing at people.”
Next year will mark 10 years as an instructor with Carrington, so I asked Susan to tell us about her most rewarding moment as a teacher.
“There are so many – it’s really hard to pick one… But I guess this one stands out the most in my mind.
Several years ago I had a student who was extremely challenged in her previous education: she had a long way to go. But she worked hard and enjoyed fabulous success.
Then one day after she’d graduated and was employed in a full-time job, she came back to see me. She told me something that really made an impact on me. She said that every single day in her job she thought of something that I had shared in class – something that was of use to her in her career. Every day! That really got to me.”
After a long career, and at the tender age of 56, I asked Susan what still motivates her to get out of bed every day and come to work – her answer was instantaneous.
“The students – it’s like watching a flower blossom. They come in and are working with needles for the first time; a third of them are shaking and terrified. To watch their confidence build, and to see them not only realize that’ Yes I can do this’, but that ‘I’m good at it’ is very rewarding – I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have so much fun at work. They say ‘find a job that’s play’ – and for me this is play.”
Susan and her husband Blake have been married for 34 years; they have two boys – Robert, now 32, still needs permanent care, and David is 29 and works in commercial real estate in San Francisco. I asked Susan to tell us something that her students wouldn’t necessarily know about her.
“In 1975, at 18, I bicycled 800 miles through seven European countries over six weeks… on five dollars a day! It was the best time of my life. When you’re young you don’t care, as long as you get to go!”
As we do with all our Faculty Spotlights I ended our conversation by asking what book, movie and music Susan would want with her if she was stuck on a desert island, and who she would choose as a companion?
Desert Island DVD – “Camelot – I’m a sentimentalist!”
Desert Island Book – “There are so many good ones – I’m going to say the one I’m reading right now. The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People – it’s very uplifting!”
Desert Island Music – “I love lots of music. I guess I want to say Jazz, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe something by Colbie Caillat.”
Desert Island Companions – “It would be my husband Blake. A friend of mine, who has sadly since passed away, used to say if you were in the Wild West coming across the country in a wagon train, you’d want to be in Blake’s wagon! But I would want to be stranded with him for more reasons than just that!”
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