HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Two healthcare programs at Wallace State Community College welcomed new department chairs to campus for their first full semester of classes. Melanie Bradford and Allen Patterson joined the Wallace State family as the fall 2015 semester was winding down. Bradford takes over as chair of the Clinical Laboratory Technician (CLT) program, while Allen Patterson takes over the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program.
Neither Bradford nor Patterson are new to the area, with both having ties to the college or the community. Both also feel lucky to have picked careers that have provided years of growth and fulfillment.
Bradford, of Arab, is 1998 graduate of Wallace State’s CLT program. She said she picked the program out of the catalog and never regretted her decision. “I worked in the lab field for 18 years and I’ve loved every day of it, so it was a great choice,” she said.
When the position opened at Wallace State, Bradford said she was ready to give back to the program that helped her establish a successful career.
“I wanted to come back as in instructor because of the education that I received when I was here,” she said. “The instructors that I had really put me on the right path to a career that I love and I wanted to come back and give that back to the students.”
When she started the program as a student in 1996, her oldest son was about five months from celebrating his first birthday. “That was the reason I needed to work, and I needed a job quick,” she said. Her son was 2-years-old when she graduated and she immediately went to work at Marshall Medical Center North in Guntersville, where she stayed for 18 years.
Coming back to Wallace State as an instructor Bradford said she thinks her experience as a student will help her identify with her students and help them succeed.
“I think it will me prepare them for what issues they’ll face when they get into the clinical lab,” she said. “Having been there and having been through that, I think that experience will help me help them.”
One of her goals with the program is offer more hybrid options where possible to give the students more flexibility in their studies and help them.
“I’m just looking forward to learning new things and being able to interact with the students and staff,” she said. “I just want to continue to building on what’s here.”
Patterson’s decision to study to become a paramedic was somewhat similar to Bradford’s. When he decided to go to college at the University of South Alabama (USA) that was the program he chose to enter. “I really don’t know why and how, nobody in my family’s in the medical field, I just ended up in it one day,” he said.
That decision lead to a 30-year career in emergency medical services for Patterson, who was born in Decatur and raised in Guntersville. He worked for an E-911 service in Mobile, for the Guntersville Fire Department, as a director of an EMS service in Georgia and as a flight paramedic, sometimes taking on two jobs at once. In 2010, he returned to USA to further his education and taught a Chattahoochee Valley Community College before taking over the WSCC EMS program.
As the head of the program, Patterson said he wants to grow the program and make it “the go-to program” for anyone interested in the field.
“There’s no reason for anyone locally to drive an hour or two away to go to another school when we can give them what they need right here,” Patterson said.
Patterson said he would focus on teaching the students all the knowledge they will need to pass their certification exams, and provide the hands-on experience they will need in the field. Along with that, he hopes to provide the students with a dose of reality by sharing with them what they can expect once they enter the field.
“It’s not a job that’s for everybody,” he admits. “I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve seen people spend a couple of years getting their paramedic certification and they last a month. They don’t like the situations they’re put in, dealing with people who are really sick or really hurt.” The secret to his longevity in the career, he said, was his ability to focus on each call individually, to work on the issue at hand and then go on to the next. That objectivity, he said, is what helped him succeed in his career.
The Clinical Laboratory Technician program is a five-semester program that offers an Associate in Applied Science. Applications for the program are accepted through April 15 for the summer semester and June 1 for the fall semester. For more information about the program, contact Bradford at 256.352.8347.
The Emergency Medical Services program offers certificates in EMT, Advanced EMT and Paramedic, as well as an Associate in Applied Science degree. The EMT and Advanced EMT certificates can be obtained in one semester, the paramedic certificate in three semesters and the Associate in Applied Science in five semesters. For more information about the EMS program, call Patterson at 256.352.8335.
Visit www.wallacestate.edu to get more information about these and any other programs offered at Wallace State Community College.