maria luisa diaz

Maria Luisa Diaz

2023 Medical Assistant Graduate
Medical Assistant at East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP) in Newport, RI

When Maria Luisa came to the US in 2011 from Guatemala, she spoke no English. Today, she is bilingual. Her ability to speak both English and Spanish, together with her training in MTTI’s Medical Assistant program, helps Luisa serve East Bay Community Action Program’s practice of getting to know each patient personally, and connecting them with the right services, at the right time.

My first year in an American school, I struggled to learn English.

I was just twelve years old. I couldn’t understand what my teachers were saying, so I didn’t learn much. We had an ESL Program, but over time I learned the language mostly by talking with classmates and other English-speaking people.

I attended Community College for a year or two, after graduating Rogers High School.

I was about half-way towards earning an Associate’s Degree in ultrasonography and working in housekeeping at St, George’s School. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough in my life. I wanted a faster way to start a medical career—one in which I would be able to talk with people, get to know them, and care for them.

By enrolling in MTTI’s program, in only seven months I could work as a Medical Assistant.

I would have an opportunity to make a better life for myself and help people to have better health. All of the reviews I read online had good things to say about the school. But I worried because English is not my first language. Would I understand what I was studying well enough to pass the course?

maria sitting at her desk
I interviewed with the Medical Assistant Department Chair, Ms. Courtney, before I enrolled.

She asked me questions to help us decide if the program was right for me. Had I completed high school? Did I have reliable transportation? What work experience did I have? Why did I want to be a Medical Assistant? I asked whether she thought I would be able to pass the course. She said, “It sounds like you speak and understand English well. I think you will be able to do this.” I was excited to enroll in the Medical Assistant program.

I knew right away that I had made the right decision.

I really liked my instructor, Ms. Kelly, and the way in which she taught. Ms. Kelly was always willing to help and to answer my questions.  I liked the school environment. All of my classmates were so nice. We would get together sometimes to study. Even after graduation, I still talk to former classmates; two of them have become good friends.

I enjoyed learning all of the procedures hands-on in the lab.

We practiced ear lavage, EKGs, and giving vaccines. We also role-played communicating with patients. When patients are not well, they can feel angry. We learned to stay calm, look at the patient directly to maintain eye contact, and speak clearly in a positive tone of voice. Every person’s needs are a little different. We learned how to talk with each person in a way that respects cultural differences.

Shadowing a couple of medical practices helped me choose a place to intern.

Shawn, the Career Services Specialist, worked hard to help us write our resumes and practice interviewing. He helped me connect to places where I might shadow and intern. At one location where I shadowed, Medical Assistants did less hands-on and more administrative work on the computer. I wanted to be running tests, giving vaccines, and assisting the provider with procedures. I chose to intern at the primary care practice where I had shadowed. Medical Assistants there do administrative work, but they also take vitals and give vaccines. I liked my internship, but they didn’t have an open position.

maria in the medical practice
Hired by EBCAP, I liked working there right away.

I knew I wanted to stay. This was my first job as a medical assistant. I had been to EBCAP as a patient, but I hadn’t interned there. I didn’t know what to expect, or what would be expected of me. I was happy to find that everyone is very nice, and willing to help me. Someone always answers my questions or shows me how to do a new task.

At EBCAP, we help children, young people, adults, elders and we also provide family medicine.

EBCAP serves diverse communities and cultures. We provide care to insured and uninsured patients. EBCAP offers social services in addition to medical and dental care. I ask new patients a lot of questions to understand what they need—if they need food or a safe place to live. For every patient of any age, we document their medical history, whether they have a history of domestic violence, and if they feel safe in their home. I ask them about alcohol use, whether or not they smoke, and if they follow any special diet. We do a lot of in-house tests, including for COVID, pregnancy, A1C or glucose. We also enter the results into the electronic medical records on the computer.

At MTTI I learned how to protect patients’ privacy.

Now as a Medical Assistant at EBCAP, I am careful that nobody looks at my computer screen. I make sure to keep papers facing away from others when in the hallways. When I greet the patient in the waiting room, I say only their first name. I don’t talk about the patient’s health in the public areas or to someone other than their providers.

I always ask patients which language they prefer to speak.

As a young girl, I would go with my mom and little sister to the medical clinic. My mom didn’t speak English and clinics at that time didn’t employ many people who spoke Spanish. She had to find someone who could go with us, to translate for her. Today, at EBCAP, I can speak with patients in English or Spanish. It makes them more comfortable to speak face-to-face with someone who understands and speaks their language.

I thank my family for encouraging me to go to school.

I am the first in the family to complete a post-secondary education. My sister is in college. I have eight siblings: three sisters and five brothers. They are all here with me in the United States. Guatemala, my home county, is very beautiful, but life there is not easy. My family is happy to be living in the United States, where there is more opportunity. I hope that seeing me and my sister go to school will encourage our siblings to train for careers.

You have to have a passion for helping people if you want to be a good Medical Assistant.

You have to be positive and not take it personally when people are upset. You need to adapt to every culture, and to people’s differences. I feel satisfied when I see that I have helped someone feel better; it encourages me to want to keep helping patients.

Go to MTTI if you want to train for a Medical Assistant career.

It will be a good choice. You will learn what you need to do the job well, and will get help finding internships and employment. When someone asks me about MTTI, I tell them that the bottom line is I went to MTTI and I got a job. I’m making a better life for myself while I’m helping other people feel better.