Class of 2016 Success Stories: A Life of caring

Firelands student gains clarity by helping others

By Dean Schnurr

Bowling Green State University Firelands College student Laura Bates is no stranger to medical facilities.

When she was young, she spent 15 years with her mother who was hospitalized from the neck down due to paralysis. Later, she spent another two years in and out of the hospital with her father who suffered from a rare and terminal blood disease.

“I felt like the hospital was my second home,” said Bates, who will turn 51 this year.

Despite what many would consider overwhelming obstacles in her life, Bates has managed to achieve perspective and clarity from her experiences. She has come to realize her life’s calling.

“I had traumatic life experiences when I was young which necessitated caring for other people and that touched me deeply,” Bates said. “It was satisfying and fulfilling, and has made me realize that I want a career which allows me to care for others.”   

As she prepared to earn her associate degree in radiologic technology from BGSU Firelands on Aug. 6, Bates acknowledged that her path to this revelation has not been the most direct route.

Her father, a former IRS agent, had a significant influence on her life and she elected to follow in his career footsteps and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance. That was quickly followed by her entrance into a master’s degree program for business education. 

The lure of full-time employment was too much to resist and Bates did not finish her master’s degree. She chose to accept a lucrative position as a school district treasurer and spent the next several years in the field of school finance.

Bates eventually married, had three wonderful children, and settled into the life of a stay-at-home mom. She was content.  

“I got to be the mother that I never knew,” Bates said.

As her children began to enter college, Bates realized she needed more out of life.

“After my kids, what was I going to do with myself?” she said. “I yearned for something that would help give meaning to my life.”

At the time, two of Bates’ children were taking courses at BGSU Firelands and she had been working with a college counselor to help direct their education. Bates found that her communication with the counselor often trailed into conversations about her future and the counselor encouraged her to explore BGSU Firelands for herself.

Bates said through BGSU Firelands career counseling she was able to connect life experiences, interests and her own skill set to identify a program and a personalized career path. She was immediately drawn to the associate degree in radiologic technology

“I never even knew there was a two-year program for that,” Bates said.

Bates entered the program in 2014, joining the thousands of students who are entering the healthcare field to accommodate the high demand in the marketplace for trained medical professionals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified healthcare careers as 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations nationwide. Through 2018, the healthcare industry is expected to generate 3.2 million new jobs, due to job growth and retirements.

According to BGSU Firelands Radiology Program Director Sylvia Fedro, Bates had the skills and life experience to make her successful in the program.  

“Laura was a motivated student and had a true passion for the field,” Fedro said. “In her application class, she received the highest ranking of any potential student.”

As a non-traditional student, Bates initially had challenges.  

“I scored a 62 percent on my first test and I was ready to drop out the next day,” she said. “It was discouraging.” 

Bates stuck with it, applied herself and eventually received an ‘A’ in her first class.

It was relatively smooth sailing after the early setbacks and Bates excelled in the program.

“There was always plenty of help if I had questions,” said Bates, graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. “The faculty in the program are exceptional and inspire students while being supportive.” 

During her clinical rotations, Bates was introduced to the field of radiation therapy and she immediately knew it was her calling. It would provide a career that allowed her to care for others in need.

“I just loved the patient care and I was impressed with the orchestrated fight against cancer,” she said.

Bates also is setting the groundwork for her future. After graduation, she will continue her education in radiation therapy through a program certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. She also has been accepted by the Cleveland Clinic to perform a clinical rotation.  

“It’s a significant accomplishment — the Cleveland Clinic is a highly prestigious organization,” Fedro said. “Laura has impressive abilities, and is very dedicated to her profession. She will certainly be an asset there.”

Bates is enthusiastic about her future and is eager to begin a career which allows her to come full circle in her life: from the enriching experience of caring for her family, to a long-term future of caring for others.