Mesa, Ariz. (Nov. 11, 2014)—
At Pima Medical Institute, we are proud of our veteran students and we want to thank them for their service on Veteran’s Day.
We work with our student veterans to ensure they graduate and are able to find viable employment after graduation. Since our founding in 1972 in Tucson, Ariz., thousands of vets have graduated from Pima Medical.
After service, veterans are often drawn to healthcare careers where they can help others. They tend to be hardworking students and want to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Our vets are great,” said Mary Keith, MS, OTR/L, occupational therapy assistant clinical director at Pima Medical in Renton, Wash.
“They always look and act professionally and get good grades. Typically, they don’t talk about their time in service, but they do enjoy having some recognition for what they’ve done and sacrificed.”
At Pima Medical, instructors help veterans from all backgrounds further their goals. Some of the vets they instruct suffer from physical or mental trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of Keith’s students, Jeremy Edison, from Tacoma, Wash., has benefitted from that help and excelled in the classroom because of the support he received as a Pima Medical student. Edison is studying to be an occupational therapy assistant.
After serving in the Army since 2003 and two tours in Iraq, Edison came home with PTSD. More than half of the 2.6 million Americans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from physical or mental health problems, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“All the instructors have come up with ways to help my situation, Edison said. “They take me in after class or during a break to see how I’m doing and teach me techniques to deal with my triggers. Sometimes I get panic attacks out of nowhere. Breathing techniques really help.”
Edison began to have a fear of speaking in front of the class, so instructors allow him to stay seated as he presents, dim the lights or have a fellow classmate help him present. One instructor taught him to put ice packs on his cheeks, which helps calm him down, he said.
“Any of our teachers in OTA are willing to do these things for students,” said Karen St. Charles, OTR/L, occupational therapy assistant instructor in Renton. “We sit down, listen to them and repeat what they’re saying so they know someone is really listening. In Jeremy’s case, he’s a very quiet student. He does his work, turns in his homework and we don’t always know something is bothering him unless we sit down and talk to him.”
The occupational therapy career appeals to Edison because he knows what veterans experience after service first-hand.
Jeremy Edison is seen here with fellow Pima Medical Institute occupational therapy assistant students in Renton, Wash. Edison is part of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, which organizes events for the student body, volunteer and extra-curricular educational opportunities.
“For me, it was hard getting comfortable not being around other soldiers—dealing with regular life. It was a culture shock. A lot of veterans feel like they’re alone. I was attracted to occupational therapy because of my own struggles and want to help other veterans. I want them to know they’re not alone.”
Edison will graduate in May of 2015 and wants to work as an OTA in a place that focuses on improving the lives of veterans.
For two Pima Medical Colorado graduates, life has taken on new shape and meaning.
Paul Ciciora graduated from the Colorado Springs medical assistant program in May after serving in the Air Force for more than 20 years. Scott Montgomery graduated from the Denver campus in 2010 after studying radiography. He spent four years in the Marine Corps.
After a full career in the Air Force and numerous tours, including to Afghanistan, Ciciora decided to look for work that focused on the same skills he’d acquired in the military. He submitted over 60 resumes throughout the Colorado Springs area, he said, but still he could not find anything. Employers told him he was underqualified.
Paul Ciciora works as a medical assistant in Colorado Springs after graduating from Pima Medical Institute.
Finally he found one, but the pay was so low, he and his family struggled. Ciciora is supporting his wife and two children, one which has special needs.
“We were paycheck to paycheck. I was more than qualified for something better. I eventually said to myself, ‘I still have my G.I. Bill and I’m going to use it.’”
Ciciora enrolled into the medical assistant program at the Pima Medical Colorado Springs campus and excelled in classes.
After graduation, he landed a job he loves—and has already gotten one raise in only five months. “After being out of school for so long, things finally fell into place. This year has been better than the past several. I had to make a big switch but it paid off.”
Montgomery served in Iraq, where he trained Iraqi soldiers. He also provided humanitarian aid in Sri Lanka after the devastating 2004 tsunami.
Scott Montgomery during a tour in Iraq.
“During my third and final tour to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006, my Humvee was struck by an improvised explosion device (IED), killing everyone in the truck except myself. I received a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge a few months later. I felt very fortunate to be alive, and still do.
On one hot, muggy Fallujah day during foot patrol in a local village, my platoon and I were handing out soccer balls, water bottles, paper, pens and pencils to school children. It was amazing to see how happy and thankful they were just to receive something so simple. I said to myself, ‘Maybe there is something I can do one day to get that same feeling.’”
Once discharged, he decided to enroll in the radiography program at Pima Medical, with the hopes of helping others. After graduation, he got a job at Swedish Medical Center. Now he works at Invision Sally Jobe Imaging Services in Greenwood Village, Colo. In addition, Montgomery’s wife, Forreste, also graduated from Pima Medical’s radiography program and works at Swedish Medical Center.
“I am providing patient care day in and day out and enjoying helping others while healing my own physical and mental wounds. Pima Medical Institute was my ticket to success and healing. The program was challenging, fun, supportive and very rewarding in so many ways I can't explain. I am living the American dream.”
Scott Montgomery at work.
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 pmi.edu or call 1-888-442-5998.