Following Her Heart: Michelle McMenamy ('17) Finds Her Niche in Healthcare

By Hannah Werthan

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in Human Physiology, Michelle McMenamy was unsure of what she wanted to do next. Michelle worked several jobs in the retail, food-service and healthcare industry. "I was exploring post-graduate options, but, at the same time, my immediate concern was managing my student loans," Michelle says. She knew she needed to further her education to focus in on a healthcare career.

Michelle had always been interested in studying the heart. Her interest was first ignited while taking a course in cardiopulmonary pathophysiology and interning at a stress testing laboratory. Michelle credits her exposure to different cardiac imaging specialties during her internship with guiding her career trajectory. "I remember observing a handful of stress echocardiograms. It was fascinating, even though I had no understanding to what I saw. Curiosity got the best of me," she says.

Finding the Right Program

A Molloy College Nursing student recommended that Michelle look into the College's Cardiovascular Technology (CVT) program. After researching the program, Michelle felt that it was the right fit for her. "The most appealing aspect of the CVT program was that it was a focused, two-year degree program in the cardiovascular sciences," she says. Other programs on Long Island did not have that option. "It was a perfect fit for my timeline and my interests." Michelle adds. She was accepted and enrolled in the fall of 2015.

Making the Most of Clinicals

Michelle was determined to excel as a CVT student, and that determination helped her navigate clinical rotations. She made the most of every day at the hospital sites. "It is easy for someone to sit back the first couple of weeks when most students solely observe, but I was not that kind of student," she says. Michelle wanted the hands-on experience from the start, so she took advantage of every opportunity to scan and inserted herself into all aspects of the job. "You have to be eager and aggressive, yet conscious and adaptable. Aside from creating opportunities for yourself, you have market yourself as a potential candidate for employment. Confidence is as important as competency," she explains. "Learning to scan is a process. You observe, ask questions and then you apply. Scanning is a skill-you only get better with practice. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you are trying to develop your scanning dexterity while learning to recognize and evaluate a number of pathologies that vary on a case-by-case basis. But you need to avoid showing distress because patients and staff need to believe in your management skills, in addition to your knowledge. Your mentors and hospital staff are always there to help you."

Winning a Well-Deserved Award

Michelle was a recipient of the Alan D. Waggoner Sonographer Student Scholarship Award in 2017. The scholarship, which is granted by The American Society of Echocardiography (ASE), is given to students who show passion for the field of echocardiography. Applicants are nominated by their program director and are required to submit three letters of recommendation, an essay, resume and transcript. In addition to the scholarship, Michelle received a travel stipend and complimentary registration to attend the 2017 ASE conference in Baltimore. Through she was only able to attend two days of the conference because of a busy clinical schedule, she found it to be very informative. "The conference was intimidating at first because you are a student amongst accomplished cardiologists and professionals in the field. However, it was informative and exposed me to more advanced modalities and the future for cardiac ultrasound imaging," Michelle says.

From Graduation to Employment

When it was time to find a job, Michelle's hard work paid off. She was hired as a full-time cardiac sonographer at New York-Presbyterian/Queens shortly after graduation. "I love my job because every patient is a puzzle. Every heart is different. I think what I do is really cool," she says. Michelle is happy that she chose the Cardiovascular Technology program, but she does not think she is done advancing her education. She would love to take on more responsibility at the hospital eventually, but for the time-being, Michelle is happy right where she is.

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