Turning 80 did not mean the end of certification for Donna Schultz, CMA-A (AAMA). In fact, for her, recertifying was as expected as another birthday.

"Why wouldn’t I recertify? Even though I’m retired, I like the challenge of learning," says Schultz. "Just because I’m not practicing anymore doesn’t mean I should just let my credential go. I take pride in it."

Schultz first took the exam in 1971 but did not pass until she took it again a year later. "I didn’t have formal education beyond high school, so I only had job experience and involvement in the AAMA going into the exam," she says.

In the mid-1950s, Schultz worked as a medical transcriptionist in the radiology department of her local hospital, and her twin sister, Dawn, worked in a clerical role in the hospital’s laboratory. In 1962, the Schultz sisters became members of their local AAMA chapter and the Wisconsin Society of Medical Assistants (WSMA). Donna’s involvement in the WSMA grew steadily, and she served as president from 1967 to 1968.

Knowing her AAMA involvement and work experience, a colleague encouraged Schultz to take the certification exam. "My sister and I decided to take it together. It was kind of a competition between us to see who could pass," notes Schultz.

The competition ended in a tie, as Schultz and her sister both passed. "It was the best thing for both our careers," says Schultz. "My job didn’t allow me to gain too many skills outside of my role, but becoming certified gave me the background to show my manager that I had the potential to advance."

Shortly after becoming certified, Schultz was promoted to a supervisory position, in which she overlooked the medical transcriptionist, receptionist, and file clerk. "I don’t know if that would have happened if I wasn’t certified or involved in the AAMA," says Schultz.

However, after working with the same hospital for 40 years, Schultz lost her job when the hospital laid off several employees. "I was in my late 50s, so it was like starting all over again," she says. After a year teaching medical transcription courses, Schultz landed a full-time position in health information with Affinity Medical Group in Neenah, Wisconsin. She stayed in that position for 15 years until she retired in 2011 at the age of 74.

Throughout every stage of her career, Schultz’s involvement in the WSMA remained a constant. She sat on several committees and served a second term as president from 1988 to 1989. She became a life member of the WSMA in 1986 and a chapter life member in 2003. Even in retirement, Schultz stays active in the WSMA and her local chapter. "I like going to the state meetings because that’s how I keep my certification up. I also like mentoring younger medical assistants through my chapter and state work," she says.

The friendships she has made over the years are another reason Schultz stays so involved. While her sister passed away from breast cancer in 1991, she says she remains in touch with AAMA friends the twins made together. "It’s great to stay involved in something we shared and cared about so much," says Schultz. "We did everything together."