May 26, 2018

The Difference One School Year Makes — A Student’s Experience

Heather Reifsnyder, Loma Linda University News

Ketchup, cinnamon, and giggling.

Jessica Lopez describes, with a smile, how she and classmates practiced cleaning and dressing wounds — the first two techniques they were required to master in the skills laboratory at San Manuel Gateway College last September.

Six months later, it got real. Real patients. Real clinic. These 17 Medical Assistant (MA) students started their clinicals in March at SAC Health System, a collaborating organization that shares the building with San Manuel Gateway College at Loma Linda University Health – San Bernardino, California, United States, in addition to SAC’s other clinic locations.

Lopez performed a hemoglobin A1C finger stick test on an elderly male patient her second day in clinicals — marking her first procedure on a real patient.

The man had a first name Lopez had never heard before. He thanked her after the smoothly done procedure. As he was leaving, she built up her courage to ask him a question on her mind. What did his name mean?

She found comfort in his answer: from heaven. “It was nice to know his name meant that,” Lopez said.

A Small Taste of Heaven

For her, the environment at San Manuel Gateway College is like a small taste of heaven.

“This is my happy place,” Lopez said. She notes that many of her classmates feel the same way.

They will graduate together in a ceremony on June 14, 2018, along with three pharmacy tech students, 20 community health workers, and two clinical community health workers at San Manuel Gateway College. (The college also launched a fourth program this spring: surgical technician training.)

At the college, “they don’t judge you by your flaws,” Lopez said. “It’s more like family.”

Educational healthcare certificate programs at San Manuel Gateway College are designed to give students a pathway to stable livelihood. Many of them come from tough home lives growing up.

Lopez’s childhood home life was shattered by factors including drug abuse, jail time, and deportation of adult members of her immediate family.

It made her determined. After she moved to her grandfather’s house because home was too unstable, Lopez had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a long bus ride to her now-distant high school.

Lopez graduated from high school in 2015, the first in her family to do so. And now she will graduate as a certified Medical Assistant. She’s building a better life for herself, and her daughter: 2-year-old Zulee.

About San Manuel Gateway College

San Manuel Gateway College opened in the Fall 2016 and graduated its first students in June 2017. The college was established to give young people in San Bernardino and the Inland Empire a future beyond high school that also empowers them to serve their under-served community.

The unique didactic environment at the San Bernardino campus of Loma Linda University Health brings together San Manuel Gateway College entry-level learners with Loma Linda University Health graduate students and medical residents, school leaders explained. “They all train together to gain clinical skills through the SAC Health System clinics,” they said.