Meiko Sotomayor-Waters Onken is the Chief Operating Officer at both Banner University Medical Center Tucson and South Campuses, and a proud 1995 graduate of the Mesa campus Radiography Associate Degree program. While her career path is not typical for many Radiography graduates, Onken says the foundation she built through her education at Pima Medical is a key to her success. She says she never set out to become a COO, but throughout her career, she always had an interest in leadership. Over the years, Onken has advanced her education, and in turn, her career opportunities. Onken said, “Each one of my leadership levels I have achieved has allowed me to be instrumental in making processes better for patients and our employees. It’s not about a title for me; it’s about how can I better the environment that I am in.” Onken added that there are many opportunities to continue in healthcare leadership roles if someone is interested and she credits her associate degree from Pima Medical, and her ability to get into her field quickly, as one of the primary stepping-stones to her success.
Here is more of her story in her own words. Watch the video to hear more from Onken.
“Shortly after graduating from high school I found myself attending a community college with the intent of majoring in psychology. One day my psychology teacher shared a list of “1000 Jobs Built to Last” and RAD Tech caught my attention, as I had always had an interest in the medical field. When I mentioned this to my teacher, he told me about Pima Medical Institute’s Radiography (RAD) program, gave me a brochure and I ended up enrolling. I was one of the youngest students in the program, but the diversity of age groups was helpful for me. The program is very intense and fast paced, so I took advantage of every tutoring opportunity. I had three amazing instructors who prepared me, allowing me to score a 98 on my boards, and taught me invaluable life skills.
I got some great experience at my first job at a radiology clinic, but I really missed the hospital setting so after a few years I obtained a position at Banner/Good Samaritan. Within the first year, I was able to work into leadership and I have benefitted from Banner’s leadership development programs over the last 21 years. I also obtained both my bachelor’s and master’s degree in business management. I have held roles of supervisor, senior manager, director, associate administrator. Currently, I am the Chief Operating Officer at both Banner University Medical Center Tucson and South Campuses. Having been a clinician has been really helpful for me in understanding the needs of both our patients and employees.
I recommend becoming a Rad Tech. You make good money and I have found it to be stable, even in uncertain economies. Plus, the sky is the limit! Not only do you have many specialty options (CT, Mammography, Ultrasound, MRI, Interventional Radiology), you get to integrate with the whole hospital and become a core part of what makes a hospital run. This allows for an easy step into leadership. I never entered this career saying I wanted to be the COO; I just wanted to make the world a better place for people.
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