As the only one in his family to gradu­ate from college, Mark Zaragoza, CMA (AAMA), EMT-B, was excited to also be the first in his family to obtain a master’s degree in human resources man­agement.

“I temped at a few places, but after several years of not being able to find a permanent job and being told ‘you don’t have enough experience,’ I knew it was time for a change,” says Zaragoza.

His wife, who has worked as a nurse for years, suggested he consider the medical field. At first, Zaragoza laughed off her idea, but after pondering the notion for a few weeks, he decided to research opportuni­ties. Medical assisting sparked his interest.

“I knew this would mean that I would have to go back to school and essentially start over,” he recalls. “I took the leap of faith and started applying to schools.”

He was accepted into Coleman College for Health Sciences at Houston Community College in Texas. Right away, Zaragoza flour­ished: he received two scholarships based on merit, was voted Most Outstanding Student, and was elected class president.

“It felt like I was exactly where I should be,” says Zaragoza.

To gain experience in addition to an internship before graduation, Zaragoza vol­unteered at a local hospital—primarily in the emergency room—handing out blankets and getting a feel for the environment.

“It was a great way to envision work­ing with doctors and nurses and helping patients,” he says.

He also volunteered at the American Red Cross, performing first aid and CPR, and for a short time, he held a paid part-time position teaching first aid and CPR classes.

When he graduated from his medical assisting program in 2010, he immediately earned his CMA (AAMA)® certification and shortly after landed a job at a cardiology practice, where he worked for about a year. For the next two-and-a-half years, he worked in a hospital on the medical-surgical floor.

While working as a medical assistant, he continued his education at Lone Star College and became an emergency medical technician (EMT) in 2013. Shortly after, he answered an advertisement for a local Houston fire department and volunteered as a firefighter for almost two years.

Then he and his wife relocated to Dallas, Texas, where he worked as an EMT for two years.

“I currently hold both EMT and CMA (AAMA) credentials and plan to keep up with both,” explains Zaragoza. “Both [certifi­cations] require CEUs [continuing education units] to maintain, and both [have CEUs that] cross over, which is great. While there are different skill sets for both positions, they are also similar in a lot of ways.”

In 2016, he left his EMT job when he was offered a full-time medical assisting job with UT Southwestern Medical Center at a pulmonary clinic. After a year, he transferred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) clinic for three years. However, in an effort to expand his skills and gain experience, he switched over to a rheumatology clinic in 2021.

“I was ready for a change and challenge,” says Zaragoza.

His days consist of rooming and dis­charging patients, routing medication refills, performing blood draws, and assisting with ultrasounds and injections. His favorite part of the job is patient interaction—something he enjoyed in all his volunteer work too.

“I get to make a difference in someone’s life,” says Zaragoza. “In today’s society, it’s important to be a light for someone, even if it’s in little ways. Sharing a smile and showing them that someone genuinely cares about them and their health is really what it’s all about.”