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TODAY news for Thursday, February 23, 2006

School of Allied Health Professions news

Mother and daughter prepare for careers together

Rebecca and Bonnie Szumski
Rebecca and Bonnie Szumski
Mother and daughter don’t often discover at about the same time what they want to be when they “grow up.” But LLU students Bonnie and Rebecca Szumski each cracked the career code at about the same time.

Today, both are studying in the health information administration department in the School of Allied Health Professions. Bonnie is preparing to be a medical coding specialist, and Rebecca is studying health information administration. Apart from the mother-daughter factor, it is also surprising that they ended up in the same field when you consider the circuitous path each took to get there.

Bonnie had already had an established career. She worked as a nurse at Loma Linda University Medical Center in 1978–1979 and from 1985 until 1997. At that time, she needed a break and began staying home as a full-time homemaker for a few years. As her two children began college, Bonnie found herself feeling drawn back to the workforce—but she wanted to try something other than nursing.

Hoping to teach algebra, Bonnie began studying for a math degree at California State University San Bernardino. But by her fourth calculus class, she felt overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, Rebecca was attending San Bernardino Valley College, trying to find the right major. She began studying at Loma Linda in 2003 as an occupational therapy student, but even then, she realized she wasn’t happy with her choice. So after more than a year of OT school, and then a few months of full-time working, she began studying health information administration. With this as her career foundation, she will be able to hold jobs such as a manager, coder, or anything related to working in a medical records office.

While Rebecca was enjoying her studies, her mother was struggling with calculus assignments. Rebecca was taking a coding course at the time and thought it might be up her mother’s alley.

“I helped her read the doctors’ handwriting [for her homework] since I was used to reading doctors orders as a nurse,” Bonnie says. “She began to think that I would like coding.”

While Rebecca and Bonnie were eating lunch together at Canyon Cottage Restaurant in Colton, Rebecca suggested the idea and Bonnie later decided to begin studying coding at LLU.

Now several months into the program, Bonnie loves her studies as much as Rebecca does. She enjoys the fact that it is still in the medical field but won’t be hard on her feet or back the way nursing could be.

So what’s it like for mother and daughter to attend the same school? One benefit is having a built-in study partner. Even though they aren’t in the same program, Bonnie and Rebecca sometimes take similar courses and have even had a few prerequisite classes together at Crafton Hills College and San Bernardino Valley College.

“My class knows my mom is taking the coding course and they say it’s not fair that I have the advantage of having a study partner at home (they were jealous that I knew the meanings of the acronyms that the instructor asked aloud in class),” Rebecca says.

The two women have been able to quiz each other on similar terms they need to know, such as “deemed status” and “capitation.”

“My fellow students think it is neat that [Rebecca] and I are in the same area,” Bonnie says. “They say it is really cool that we will be graduating together. So do I.”

Come June 2007, mother and daughter are going to have a big graduation party, Rebecca says.

Life after school could possibly result in a continued intersection of their paths. Rebecca aspires to be in charge of a medical records department—and Bonnie will work in one.

 “Perhaps I will work for Rebecca someday,” Bonnie says. “I think it would be really funny to have my daughter as my boss. How do you work for a boss whose diapers you used to change?”

By Heather Reifsnyder

TODAY news for Thursday, February 23, 2006