When Angela Lewis, CMA (AAMA), was 5 years old, her mother was murdered. From that point on, Lewis’s grandma raised her in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

At a young age, Lewis learned to self-medicate for her symptoms of depression with alcohol and marijuana. By her early 20s, she was addicted to cocaine.

“On my 40th birthday, I decided to change my life. I was caring for my grandma, who raised me, and she had dementia and Parkinson disease. While learning about the conditions, I took an interest in the medical field,” says Lewis.

Around the same time, her father was battling lung cancer, which metastasized to his bones. He passed away at 56 years old.

“Seeing how the doctors diagnosed and treated him was just amazing to me,” says Lewis.

Shortly after his death, she began attending Cocaine Anonymous meetings in her area.

“Early on in my sobriety and recovery, I began thinking about a career and asking people what they did for ideas. I was leaning toward phlebotomy, and a woman at one of my meetings suggested medical assisting. She said, ‘You have the personality for it, and you can do so much more than phlebotomy as a medical assistant, including electrocar­diograms and more,’ ” recalls Lewis.

After researching the profession, she enrolled in the medical assisting program at Bryant & Stratton College. When she graduated in 2017, she immediately took and passed the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam and became certified. The family practice where she had her practicum hired her. For a year, she rotated throughout its internal medicine, family practice, and podiatry clinics.

“I’m grateful for that experience because, while it was overwhelming, it was fun at the same time, and I learned so much,” says Lewis.

She left the clinic to pursue an oppor­tunity with Advocate Aurora Health.

“Working at Advocate Aurora was my goal. Growing up, that was the major hospital close to where we lived. It’s also where my grandma was treated, and where I went to my first [Cocaine Anonymous] meeting and first detox,” explains Lewis.

When she was hired, she got to choose between three physicians to work for, and she decided to work with a physician who specializes in weight management. Her main responsibilities include rooming patients, taking their vital signs, and documenting medical histories. She also helps to educate patients about healthy eating and portion control.

“While I was in school, I was diagnosed with diabetes, and I need to pay attention to my weight and my family’s too,” says Lewis. “Obesity is such a common issue in our society. It’s interesting to help people lose weight and to help them learn about other health issues that come from being overweight.”

She taps into her experience with addic­tion to relate to patients struggling with eating challenges.

“Many times, when people put down the cigarettes or drugs, they pick up other addictions, like shopping or gambling or eating. We tend to exchange one addiction for another,” says Lewis.

The most rewarding part of her job is witnessing patients take control of their weight, make progress, and improve their overall health.

“After about a year of working on weight management, it’s great to see patients get results,” says Lewis. “I love hearing them say, ‘I’m two sizes down. Look at me!’ And the best part is that the results encourage them to keep up the healthy eating and lifestyle.”