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Scrubbing their way to successful careers

Students in the surgical technology program at WCCCD practice proper instrument passing. COURTESY PHOTO

Wayne County Community College District’s surgical technology program provides the helping hand area hospitals need in the operating rooms

By David C. Butty

If you ever visited a Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD) surgical technology classroom, you will notice that the students are not your typical traditional ones. They wear their white lab coats and scrub suits with pride. They wear comfortable shoes for long hours of standing and a badge that proudly displays their names. Their classroom is like a hospital operating suite with all the gadgets that only professionally trained minds and hands can understand. They practice on high-tech mannequins that can respond to their various procedures, and work diligently to hone their technical skills. Their profession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is considered one of the fastest-growing specialties in the country and expected to increase upwards of 24 percent by the year 2016.

“The Wayne County Community College District’s surgical technology program is very rigorous,” said Dr. Mark Shikhman, M.D., Ph.D., CSA, who is the program’s director. He said the program consists of a completion of a formal program with classroom instruction and clinical training and that those who successfully complete the program are prepared to take the National Certifying Examinations for Surgical Technologists (CST) credentials. Whether they choose to earn a certificate or an associate’s degree, Dr. Shikhman adds, “They are ready, upon graduation, to enter the medical profession to support the welfare of patients and assist other medical professionals as part of a surgical team and wear their scrubs with pride.”

According to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, in 2006 more than 2,700 people were employed throughout the state as surgical technologists. That number is expected to grow to nearly 3,300 by 2016.

Not only do surgical technologists, technicians or surgical assistants — often referred to as the doctors’ helping hands — pass instruments and other sterile supplies in the operating room (OR), most often some matriculate to become medical doctors. This is the path taken by Nessim Chihry, a native of Yemen and graduate of the WCCCD’s surgical assistant program.

Dr. Shikhman said he remembers Chihry very well as the student with too many questions regarding his career goals. “It took me a while to learn how to pronounce his name correctly and after failing to get it right on many occasions, I decided to just call him Sami,” Shikhman said. Chihry, whose family emigrated from Yemen and settled in Southeast Michigan to build a future for the family, worked for the Chrysler Corporation before he was laid off following seven years of work. He took advantage of the company’s retraining program and enrolled at WCCCD. “I could feel his confusion and uncertainty in the future. My advice to him was for him to go into the surgical technology field.

“I was right. Sami got through the surgical technology pre-requisite in the blink of an eye. Over the years, I saw him building up confidence in his future career through his class assignments, labs and clinical training, I knew he would succeed.”

Following his graduation from WCCCD’s surgical technology program, Chihry enrolled at Wayne State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in 2008. I am thrilled and happy for him.” Dr. Shikhman adds, “In few months, this former WCCCD’s surgical assisting student will put on the lab coat with his name embroidered on it. Next to his name will be two letters, M.D. — Medical Doctor. What is ahead of him, I do not know. But I do know that it is never enough for Sami.”

The two letters, M.D., will be inscribed on Chihry’s lab coat when he graduates from the Spartan Health Sciences University’s School of Medicine in St. Lucia, in the Caribbean, in August. It is a milestone on a long road to fulfill an educational dream goal to finally take the Hippocratic Oath “to prescribe only beneficial treatments, according to his abilities and judgment; to refrain from causing harm or hurt; and to live an exemplary personal and professional life.”

“I am very proud of our students in the surgical technology program,” Dr. Shikhman adds. “Like every professor, it is heartwarming to see your students excel. It makes me proud and it makes WCCCD a very proud institution.”

WCCCD is the largest urban community college in Michigan with enrollment of more than 72,000 credit and non-credit students each year. The Surgical Technology Program is one of more than 100 degree and certificates programs.

David C. Butty, a native of Liberia, is executive dean for International Programs and director for the Wayne County Community College District Study Abroad Program.

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