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Home > Blog > February 2016 > Pima Medical Celebrates its 100,000th Graduate

Pima Medical Celebrates its 100,000th Graduate

Posted: February 12, 2016 by Elizabeth Baker

TUCSON, Ariz. (Feb. 12, 2016) – Pima Medical Institute celebrated a very special graduation ceremony on Feb. 5. Founded in Tucson in 1972, Pima Medical graduated its 100,000th student, and to commemorate this achievement, the school gave a very deserving student a big surprise by fully paying off her tuition.

Barbara Mercado, a dental assistant graduate, was given the news during the graduation ceremony held at the Tucson Convention Center. Mercado, 28, did not know she’d be receiving the award until it was announced during graduation.

“I’m very happy,” an emotional Mercado said after receiving the award. “I struggled with a lot of health issues during school, and it took a lot of work. But if you want something, you have to go get it.”
Barbara Mercado poses for a photo in her cap and gown
A group of graduates pose for a photo

When Mercado, a mother of two young sons, was diagnosed with pre-leukemia, she decided to move to Tucson to be closer to family. She was also struggling with lupus, but despite the hurdles, she began looking for a job in the dental assistant field after relocating.

However, she soon discovered employers wanted more experience, so she decided to look into dental assisting education. After touring the Tucson campus and learning more about its dental assistant program, she decided Pima Medical Institute was the right school for her.

“Pima Medical treated me like family,” Mercado said. “I always felt supported.”
Mercado attributed much of her success and support to Lead Dental Assistant Instructor, Lorinda Rowe-Small, CDA.

“Barbara is a unique person,” Rowe-Small said. “She stuck with it, despite the struggles, and she always kept an upbeat, positive attitude.”

Pima Medical Institute’s Chairman of the Board and former Chief Executive Officer, Richard Luebke, Jr., presented Mercado with the award during the ceremony.

“Barbara represents many of our students. They may struggle with adversities, but they decide to improve
their lives by getting an education, which then leads them to careers that provide for themselves and their families,” Luebke said. “We are very fortunate to do what we do here at Pima Medical—providing these life-changing opportunities.”

Upon completing the dental assistant program at Pima Medical, Mercado took a job at El Rio Community Health Center, where she works in the pediatric dental department.

The graduation ceremony also celebrated the achievements of 252 other students, who earned their certificates and degrees. The Chief Executive Officer of El Rio Community Health Center, Nancy Johnson, RN, PhD, spoke to the graduates and their families about what to expect once they enter the work force.
A group of graduates pose for a photo
A group of graduates pose for a photo

The Tucson campus offers an array of healthcare career programs, including associate degrees in health care administration, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapist assistant, radiography, respiratory therapy and veterinary technician. It also offers certificate programs in dental assistant, medical administrative assistant, medical assistant, pharmacy technician, phlebotomy technician and veterinary assistant.

For more information about Pima Medical, please visit

Media Contact                             
Elizabeth Baker
Public Relations and Communications Specialist
About Pima Medical Institute
Pima Medical Institute is a private, accredited school dedicated to provide students classroom studies paired with real-world training at medical facilities. Established in 1972, Pima Medical Institute helps students become career ready, focusing exclusively on health care professions, including medical, dental, veterinary and nursing fields. Curriculum includes certificate, associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs, ranging from nursing, medical assistant and radiology technician to veterinary assistant and dental hygienist.
Pima Medical Institute operates 16 campuses as well as an online division. The medical career college has a presence in eight western states with ground locations in Albuquerque, N.M.; Tucson, Phoenix and Mesa, Ariz.; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo.; Seattle and Renton, Wash.; Las Vegas, N.V.; Houston and El Paso, Texas; Chula Vista, Calif.; and Dillon, Mont. For more information and a complete list of programs offered at each campus, visit or call 1-888-442-5998.

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