Morgan Wells, Empire College in Santa Rosa, California

Morgan Wells beat the odds. Pregnant at 13, she delivered a beautiful baby girl, Ana, when she was only 14 years old. After her daughter’s birth, she returned to school at Adera, a Sonoma County Office of Education program for new mothers.

Even with a baby, Morgan graduated from high school at age 17. Unclear of her direction, she headed to the local junior college. She remembers completing a couple of semesters of general education, but felt unsatisfied with her efforts and the confusing school environment. She admits she lost focus because classes weren’t moving fast enough for her.

While at a friend’s house, she shared her discontent with the wife of a friend who works as a medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente who then told her about Empire College. Morgan admits being sceptical because all of her college experience had been negative to that point. Morgan remembered that from the first time she walked on campus at Empire College, people were friendly and she felt that she belonged. She is still grateful for the financial aid she received and said it was a huge plus that she was able to get help for tuition that she wouldn’t have to pay back (Pell and Cal Grants) and student loans that would not need to be repaid until she had been out of school for six months. She even recalls small living expense checks to help make ends meet as a single mom.

When asked how Empire was different than the community college, Morgan replied, "In every way. It is more organized – I got to school at 8 a.m. and was out by 2 p.m. I always felt focussed because the classes I needed were provided to me. Instead of feeling lost, I felt reassured that I had chosen the right direction. I just loved the environment. Everyone was friendly and helpful. I felt like I was accomplishing something."

Morgan added, "I will never forget my first day at Empire because my daughter Ana started kindergarten on the same day. We left the house together with new back packs and school supplies, both excited for our new life-changing adventures. We even did our homework together after school."

Morgan consistently offered to help at various volunteer events and was asked by her instructor to accompany her to San Francisco to serve at a fundraiser for "The Little Jim Club," a pediatric foundation in northern California. At this event she met several physicians including Dr. Nikola Tede, a Pediatric Cardiologist. During this event Morgan’s instructor offered to send Morgan to Dr. Tede’s office in San Francisco to complete her externship, and both ladies were excited.

While completing her externship, Morgan was able to utilize the skills she learned at Empire, as well as interpret for many of the patient’s families. The providers were so impressed with her skills and efforts that a position was created for her, and her first job as a young single mom began at $16 per hour for the Physician Foundation at California Pacific Medical Center. Morgan was excited at the adventure of commuting to San Francisco each day, knowing she would only work in Santa Rosa, her hometown, one day each month.

After a year working that schedule, the Director of Ambulatory Care Services offered Morgan a position working with multiple specialty physicians at outreach clinics in Marin and Sonoma Counties. This would give her one or two days per week closer to home. She began this schedule and soon became a favorite of the perinatologists who offered her a full-time position in her hometown of Santa Rosa.

Now Morgan holds the keys to two medical offices: Santa Rosa and Marin. Over half a dozen providers come in and out of her offices and she is in charge of the daily operations of the office. She is the first one there to open the doors and she locks up at the end of the day. Morgan not only schedules the patient appointments, she does the scheduling for the staff, too. Within the past year, Morgan has taken on the additional task of interviewing new candidates for positions within the practice.

She said, "Whenever I’m training MAs I remember how I was taught. I even teach them the song I learned in clinical class to help them with phlebotomy."

Morgan performs all administrative and clinical duties that she recalls being trained for including assisting in surgical procedures, injections, and blood work. Morgan is a self-proclaimed EKG expert. After so many years working with the tiniest of patients and needing to take a recording of the heart’s electrical impulses while the patient is as still as possible, Morgan has found it best to ask the Mother to feed her infant while she runs the tracing. Morgan says the doctor is always impressed at her ability to get the best results.

Morgan shared that she is now earning $22 per hour and has so many benefits they are hard to list, including all insurances, an education plan, and five weeks vacation to name a few. She loves that at the end of every day when the Docs are ready to go home, they always come up to her and thank her for her help.

"Morgan is one of our strongest staff people, incredibly empathetic and sweet with all patients," said Dr. Denise Main, Director of the Prenatal Diagnosis Program. "Because of her language skills and cultural understanding, Morgan has been excellent with our Latina patients. Morgan is interested in learning new things and is very smart; she has an excellent memory and is mature beyond her years."

One more accomplishment that Morgan has behind her is that she became a homeowner in October of 2009. When asked what the future holds for her, she said, "More of the same."

Specifically asked about where she sees herself in five years, she said she’d like to be doing exactly what she is doing right now. That may be, but Dr. Main sees it differently. "My expectation is that in five years Morgan will have gone to nursing school or gotten more training to become a more independent provider with even more skills."


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