CVT program has abroad appeal
By June Dennis
Denise is a student in Media Communications 122
Special to The Summit, May 23th, 2002
Cardiovascular Technology is a specialized study at Grossmont
College that attracts a growing global group of students.
"International and foreign trained physicians have a much
greater opportunity to train here than in their country. Here
they learn the latest technology," said Rick Kirby, Coordinator
of the Cardiovascular Technology Department for the past 16
Elise Oehler completed her medical education in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil. She came to the United States to enhance her medical
training. After researching various programs, she chose
"I feel Grossmont has one of the best Cardiovascular Technology
Programs," she said. "The first year offers a wide range of
information. We have the best state-of-the-art equipment and
the professors are very committed to us."
The Cardiovascular Technology program is a two-year course of
study leading to an Associate in Science Degree or a
Certificate of Achievement. The program is on the extreme
technical end of cardiology, with very sophisticated medical
Grossmont's Cardiovascular Technology program allows students
to attend the two-year program, graduate, and in most cases get
"Of course it's important to have an education but it's really
important to have a job opportunity," said Irina
Mellos-Kygyzstan, a first year student from Ukraine who learned
about the program through a friend.
"I think people come here because we're not waiting one year
after college to find a job. Some students come into our
program and they get recruited right away," she said.
"I am here under Refugee Program status, which allows me to
work in the United States," said Kahlil Warsame, a second year
student from Somalia. "I started out in evening adult school
taking general core classes to learn the language. I found
comfort in Grossmont."
:"The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota recruited Kahlil and
me during spring break," said second year student Antonio
Lombardo from Italy. "Along with other grads we were evaluated
for three to four hours on practical performance and tested on
our technical understanding. This program, the computer lab,
the equipment and the instructors make it possible."
"I graduated from medical school and was a physician in
Russia," said Anna Khatsenko a first year student. "When I came
here I started looking for something I could apply my expertise
and experience. I have to pass the medical bar exam to become a
physician in America or get a diploma in another field to apply
my medical skills," she said. "I heard about the program from
my friend who graduated last year and already has a job."
:I like the program very much," said Nabil Sawaya, a first year
student and physician from Lebanon. "We doctors know how
important it is to continue making progress in open-heart
surgery. Now everything is being done with catheterization."
"Cardiovascular technology with its echocardiogram, ultrasound
and invasive catheterization are a rapidly progressing science
and all are good. It's very easy for me to learn in two years
and get a good job while I study for my medical license," he
"I went through medical college in my country," said Victoria
Flowers, a first year student from Ukraine. "I work part-time
at Scripps Memorial as a technician in telemetry. I was
considering a nursing program when my friend me told me about
"I hears so many good things about the (CVT) program, then I
met Rick Kirby and he explained the opportunities of the CVT
program. I really like it," she said.
"I like the invasive program. If you decide you don't want to
physically insert catheters, you can sell. That's the other
side of it. If you have good marketing skills you can get with
a manufacturer and sell medical equipment," Flowers said.
"I was getting my general requirements for nursing," said Uyen
Phan, first year student from Viet Nam. "Mr. Kirby came to our
class to explain the program. I'm going into my second year in
"I wanted to be an RN but studied for LVN," said Ying Jiang,
first year student from China. "I wanted a more challenging
job. A stranger suggested I consider x-ray technology and
ultrasound. So I did and a friend told me about the program at
Grossmont College," she said.
"Cardiovascular Disease is the nation's number one killer,"
Kirby said. "Cardiovascular medicine aims to prevent heart
attacks, strokes and heart failure. Early diagnosis is the key
The program limits acceptance to 54 students each Fall, Kirby
said. Qualified applicants are admitted on a first-come
first-serve basis based on receipt of verification of
prerequisite course completion. [top]
Grossmont College Puts Heart Into
By Yvette tenBerge
It is 1:30 p.m. on October 22 and Grossmont College's Cardiovascular
Technology lab is alive with activity. A group of first-year
students consisting of two Brazilian doctors, a Ukrainian
ballerina turned nurse and a Cuban-American who recently
retired from the Navy pour over diagrams of the human body. A
pair of second-year students sits in a darkened room to the
right, working intently on high-tech medical equipment.
It is rare that you find a specialized area of study that
draws students from such varied backgrounds, but Grossmont
College's Cardiovascular Technology program not only attracts a
diverse group of students, it also prepares them for and
propels them into a lucrative career in which the current
demand far exceeds the supply.
Rick Kirby has coordinated the Cardiovascular Technology
Department for 16 years. He describes the way in which these
technologists touch millions of lives every day.
"Let's say that you come into a doctor's office. The doctor
performs a physical, takes your medical history and orders a
series of tests. The cardiovascular technologist would perform
these tests and give the results to the doctor. The doctor does
the interpretation and prescribes treatment. In three to six
months, the doctor will ask you to come back, and we would do
another test to measure your progress," says Mr. Kirby, who
explains that cardiovascular medicine aims to prevent heart
attacks, strokes and heart failure. "You get to really see the
difference that we can make in people's lives. It's a
tremendous feeling to be able to help people live longer and
Although it doesn't take a medical degree to study the
"technical side of medicine," it does take dedication. Of the
54 students entering the program each year, each has already
successfully completed classes in chemistry, anatomy and
Once admitted into the two-year cardiovascular technology
program, students spend their first year tackling core courses
such as mathematics, physics and advanced cardiovascular
anatomy. In the second year, class time combines with clinical
experience, and students concentrate on one of three areas of
study: Invasive Cardiovascular Technology, Non-invasive
Cardiovascular Technology or Vascular Technology.
Although a degree from this nationally respected, two-year
program costs only $1,000 (including books), technologists
enter a career field in which growth is continuous and where
salaries range anywhere from $36,000 to $70,000 per year. Mr.
Kirby confirms that, since the program started in 1972,
Grossmont has graduated and placed roughly 1600 technologists.
these graduates are doing work everyday in labs, but some of us
like to teach. Others come back to Grossmont and take courses
in statistics and computer science to move into a career in
medical research. Others take management or supervisory
positions. Some choose to go to work for people who make
equipment," says Mr. Kirby. "Those who go into medical sales
have the potential to make as much as $100,000 per year, or
they may go to work as application specialists and demonstrate
the equipment at trade shows or at hospitals."
Elise Oehler, 29, came to the United
States after completing her medical education in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil. Looking to supplement her medical training
with technical training, she poured over material on a number
of colleges and universities. It was upon touring the
facilities at Grossmont that she stumbled upon what she refers
to as San Diego's "best kept secret."
"This is a community college, but when I saw the lab here, I
was amazed. They have equipment worth hundreds of thousands of
dollars. These professors are able to put together a lot of
good, expensive equipment and make it available to students,
and they give us 100 percent dedication. You do not find this
at most places," says Ms. Oehler. "It doesn't surprise me that
this happens to be one of the best programs of this kind in the
Although having a medical background no doubt gives Ms. Oehler
an advantage in the program, those without such training are
able to succeed, as well. Brian Showalter is now an Ultrasound
Sonographer in the Cardiology Department at Mercy Hospital. A
self-described "underachiever" throughout his youth, Mr.
Showalter focused his attention on the construction industry
rather than on school. Later, while taking courses toward his
management degree at Grossmont, the Cardiovascular Technology
program caught his eye.
"The professors and faculty are top-notch, and they devote a
tremendous amount of time and energy to ensure the success of
their students," says Mr. Showalter, who graduated at the top
of his class. "The Cardiovascular Technology program gave me
the opportunity to help people who truly need help, to work
with very talented individuals and to advance in a career that
is at the forefront of medical technology."
Instead of spending his day on a construction site, Mr.
Showalter now spends his days in a hospital. He performs tests
such as cardio ultrasounds, in which he places a small device
called a transducer on a patient's chest. This instrument sends
and receives ultrasonic waves that allow the technologist to
see various structures within the heart. With the information
that Mr. Showalter and his tests provide, doctors can determine
whether or not a patient has coronary artery disease or a
number of other vascular diseases.
"The ability to image the heart is extremely important;
however, writing concise reports and communicating with
cardiologists and heart surgeons about a patient's condition
are also valuable parts of my job. Working in a hospital, you
see some very sick people, so you stay focused and do your
job," says Mr. Showalter, who is currently training to become a
Vascular Technologist. "I love what I am doing, and the
possibilities are almost endless."
Grossmont's Cardiovascular Technology program does more than
just capture the interest of its students, it also produces
graduates who are in demand from some of the countries premiere
hospitals. Mr. Kirby proudly recalls the Mayo Clinic's attempt
to hire each of the 20 students who graduated from Grossmont's
"ultrasound track" last year.
Colin Ramsey currently manages Cardiac Services for Grossmont
Hospital. He oversees a number of labs in the hospital and is
also involved with hiring. "Ideal candidates for the
Cardiovascular Technology program are people who may have had a
medical background. They should work well in a team and be able
to perform multiple task as the same time," says Mr. Ramsey,
who lists other important candidate qualities as being
observant, self-motivated, reliable and honest. "Our Grossmont
graduates have the best training in the nation, if not the
After an extensive tour of the cardiovascular laboratories and
classrooms, Mr. Kirby waves goodbye to his students and heads
back to his office. His job satisfaction is obvious. "By far,
the person who comes here is retraining and looking for another
career. Here, you have this mature student body that has
already been through some rigorous course work, so you know
that they are here because they want to be here," says Mr.
Kirby, who hopes that those who have been laid off in other
technical fields around San Diego County will see this program
as an opportunity. "Heart disease isn't going to go away; I
don't see a cure on the horizon in my lifetime, anyway. If you
have these skills, you'll be working again in no time."
For more information about Grossmont's Cardiovascular
Technology Program call (619) 644-7302. [top]