August 04, 2020

Essential and Prepared: Stories From Our Alumni

Anoka Technical College is proud of the contributions of our alumni community working in areas directly impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  Here are just a few of their stories.

BMET graduate Kodjo

Kodjo Vossah-Messan ’19

Electronics Engineering Technology and Biomedical Equipment Technician AAS

Kodjo first arrived in the U.S. in 2000. Born and raised in a small village in Togo, West Africa, Kodjo saw firsthand how a lack of medical resources can impact a life. “We had a small clinic, but it was not equipped. I saw a couple aunties die there. They went in for labor and they died delivering the baby because there was no equipment,” he shared.

Those losses inspired Kodjo to take interest in the medical field. Being more mechanically inclined, he had an electronics diploma in Africa which he used to make money repairing TVs, VCRs, radios, etc.

With the knowledge from his electronics education, encouragement from his employer at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), where he worked in the maintenance department alongside the Biomed Tech team, and his motivation to help, Kodjo applied to Anoka Tech’s Electronics Engineering and Biomedical Equipment Technology (BMET) program

Kodjo continued working throughout the program while also making time for his three children. For him, taking care of family, near and far, is his main motivation.  Over time, Anoka Tech became part of that family.

“I can only say good things about Anoka Tech,” said Kodjo, “The college location is intimidating for a person of color like me. But, when you walk into the campus, you will meet amazing people. The teachers, security guards and cafeteria workers, all welcome you with open arms and make you feel like home.”

Since graduating, Kodjo continues to work at HCMC as a facilities management specialist and with degree in hand, expands his role in more technical support regularly. “Since the pandemic started, I worry mostly about my kids, my family. Working in a hospital especially. We’re getting too many patients now. I don’t work directly with them, but I work around them and I worry about coming home and how to protect my family.”

Even with the stress of working in health care during a pandemic, Kodjo has not lost sight of what’s important to him. Kodjo uses his skills and resources to fix and ship used basic medical equipment, like gurneys and heart rate monitors, back to the clinic in Togo.

“For now, since I’m not there, all I can do is help remotely,” shared Kodjo. “It’s not taking me away from my family here right now, so that is how I can help. But maybe one day, when I retire, I will go back there and help more.”

LPN graduate Rose Sommerfeld

Rose Dominguez Sommerfeld ‘19

Licensed Practical Nursing

After years working as a home health aide in residential hospice, Rose Dominguez Sommerfeld was introduced to Anoka Tech’s Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program by a colleague. Compelled to do more, she joined the program and graduated in December 2019.

Today, Rose is working as an LPN at the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Heart Institute. “When I graduated in February, I was moved to an activities position as clinics started closing due to COVID,” said Rose. “I knew with everything going on in the world, the skills I learned at Anoka Tech could be put to better use.”

“I’ve been able to use what I learned in school and really help people,” said Rose.

It wasn’t an easy transition; in fact it was one of the most difficult seasons in Rose’s life. She was starting a new job, navigating homeschooling three young children after school closings and, while onboarding into her new role, her husband was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Rose credits the training she received at Anoka Tech for being able to recognize dangerous symptoms in her husband early and get him the critical emergency care he needed to save his life.

“I don’t think anyone can be prepared for what’s happening now, but the things I learned at Anoka Tech have helped me to stay healthy,” said Rose.

Without a lot of experience to compare it to, Rose said one of the most difficult things for her working as an LPN during the pandemic is communicating. “I suffer from hearing loss and have relied heavily on reading lips. Since all of us have to wear masks, I can’t do that right now.”

Beyond her personal challenge with communication, seeing the patients struggle with limited visitors is also difficult.

Rose knows some of the changes brought on by the pandemic will be lasting. But, she’s proud to be in the nursing field and plans to get her Associate of Science (AS) in Nursing from Anoka-Ramsey Community College once her kids are older.

Jon Macho ‘19­

Electronics Engineering Technology and Biomedical Equipment Technician AAS

­­­For years, Jon Macho worked in sales­ ­­­­a career he loved that often took him away from home, his kids and wife. Looking for more long-term stability and more time for family, Jon decided to make a career change.

Based on a recommendation from his wife, who works in radiology, Jon started the Electronics Engineering Technology and Biomedical Equipment Technician programs at Anoka Tech.

“The coursework in my degree programs give a broad aspect of everything you might see in the field,” said Jon. “They gave me an excellent starting point for anything I could come into.”

With a clear plan created by using the resources available at the college and lots of motivation, Jon finished the programs in 2019 and began working for Philips Healthcare as a field service engineer specializing in radiology equipment–including the portable X-ray machines used widely across hospitals that they’re using to do chest X-rays in COVID-positive patients.

“As equipment is used more and cleaned more there are more issues and different things wrong with them than we typically see,” shared Jon.

The bottom line for Jon: “We’re here for people. We need to make sure we’re using the technology to help the customer.”

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