He learns, to educate others

For Zack Wilson, training in De Anza College’s medical assisting program serves as an avenue to educate others about health and well-being.

While studying for his courses, Wilson, 26, discusses the concepts he learns in class with his grandparents, explaining medical terminology to them as he would to future patients.

“I realized they don’t understand what I’m saying,” Wilson said. “They go to their doctor appointments, and they would ask me, ‘My doctor said this to me, what is this?’ because she was afraid to tell the doctor she didn’t understand.”

Through these discussions with his grandparents, Wilson discovered that technical jargon often creates a language barrier between medical professionals and their patients.

“What surprised me is sometimes the lack of education patients have about other medical things,” he said. “So you always have to make sure that you talk to patients in a way that they understand. And I need to be conscious of that, all the time.”

Wilson started this work in the beginning of 2019 when he moved from Los Banos, California, to live in the Bay Area with his cousin, Eddie Yberra.

“I was very proud of him,” Yberra said. “Anytime I have any medical questions, or if I get a blood test and don’t understand the results, he always helps me to understand what they mean.”

Before the pandemic, Wilson’s school day lasted eight to 12 hours, as he moved back and forth between the classroom and the lab to practice drawing blood or giving injections. But his favorite part of training was interacting with the patients who came in for examinations.

“The minute you walk in the room, (patients) can tell if you actually care about their well-being,” said Wilson. “That came very easy for me. I love hearing how people are and working in a doctor’s office, seeing patients get better.”

Maureen Miramontes, director of De Anza’s Health Technologies program, said communication is an essential skill for medical assistants.

“You have to like people, you have to be able to take orders and you have to perform the skills,” Miramontes said. “You’re only as good as your skills.”

For 18 years, Miramontes supervised a clinic specializing in urgent care, family healthcare and occupational medicine. She said she believes Wilson fits the bill for the work.

“I know what I would hire. I know what my doctors would like. I know what runs well in a clinic setting,” Miramontes said. “And I see that in Zack.”

After graduating from De Anza, Wilson hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in science before entering a physician assistant program. In the past few quarters, he’s gained more confidence performing his skills outside the classroom.

“Now it’s just saying, ‘Yes, I can do this, I’ve done everything up to this, and now that I’m here, I have to just push myself to do it,’” Wilson said. “If you don’t believe in yourself and all the skills that you’ve learned, you’re not going to do well. You have to be confident in yourself.”