Yota Vang, CMA (AAMA), was always interested in the health care field but did not know exactly which path to take. In 2015, she enrolled in Central Piedmont Community College to see where her interests would lead.

“I was coming out of a medical termi­nology class and an instructor approached me and said, ‘I think you’d be a really good medical assistant,’ but I had no idea what that was,” says Vang.

That night, Vang researched medical assisting and felt it might be the perfect fit. Upon graduation, she was placed at Dermatology, Laser & Vein Specialists of the Carolinas in Charlotte for her practicum. Five years later, she is still working there. While she assists the dermatologist with medical dermatology, cosmetic surgeries, and laser vein removals, Vang spends most of her time assisting him with Mohs surgery, which is used to treat skin cancer.

“What I love most about this role is that each day challenges me to learn something new,” says Vang.

She especially takes pride in explaining Mohs surgery and ensuring patients are prepared and comfort­able throughout the process. As patients wait for their tissue to be pre­pared and evaluated by the practice’s labo­ratory, Vang helps bandage the surgical site. During this time, she taps into her communication skills and ability to relate to patients.

“Growing up in a working-class com­munity, I experienced and saw concerns associated with seeking medical advice, and I know hearing the word cancer can be terrifying for anyone,” explains Vang. “I like to think that I can relate to patients in a way that comforts [them] and eases their concerns related to the procedure.”

Whether talking about her dog, favorite foods, waterfall hikes, or her seven nieces and nephews, Vang finds a way to connect with patients so they can take their minds off the surgery.

For some patients who undergo Mohs surgery, reconstructive surgery is necessary to restore the look and function of the skin. After the skin is tested, Vang notifies the patients of whether the cancer is clear and informs them of the reconstruction plan. Reconstructive surgery can take up to two hours, during which the patient is typically awake. This time is when Vang exudes extra compassion and empathy.

“I’m spending four to six hours with patients during which I am fully in tune with all they are going through,” explains Vang. “I’m able to see their complete story from start to finish and witness how they process each stage.”

For instance, she assisted a 74-year-old man who had cancer on his ear. She was there for the surgery, which required removing the entire top of his ear, and reconstruction, in which the physician used the patient’s scalp to recreate his ear’s rim.

“At the end of the surgery, the patient said to me, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to take care of this,’ so I assured him that I’d bandage it really well and put Vaseline gauze around it to keep the entire area hydrated and moist for a week until he came back,” says Vang. “He was so grateful and thanked me for helping him through it.”

On a team with registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, Vang holds the distinguished position of team lead. Her role requires her to train new staff and lead a weekly meeting to discuss new procedures in the clinic, information from the physi­cian, concerns from staff, and sentiments to inspire and motivate team members to work together.

“It doesn’t matter whether I’m assisting with a procedure, learning a new skill, talking with a patient, or training a new employee. When you love your work and love what you’re doing, you’re going to be great at it and continue to thrive in it,” says Vang.