Student Spotlight: Valerie Phillips
Valerie Phillips earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Physiology from George Williams College and was interested in a career in medicine.
With no exposure or mentors in the medical field, she decided to apply to work in an emergency department as a tech. But in order to do so, she needed to become an EMT.
“A college classmate – James Boffa, now a surgeon – had taken the same course at College of DuPage,” she said. “While teaching college chemistry, I completed the program, and my instructors were Brian Pepich and Tim Caldwell, who just retired from COD. I was then able to work as an ED tech, which gave me the exposure to the medical field that I had been wanting.”
Phillips finished medical school and selected a residency specializing in emergency medicine. She has worked as an attending emergency medicine physician since 1993 and currently is the Medical Director of EMSS and Emergency Preparedness for Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. The hospital has a large EMS system and a paramedic training program in affiliation with COD, as well as the affiliation with COD’s EMT-B class. Phillips trains paramedics and supervises the critical care paramedic team at Good Samaritan.
“I am enjoying where I am now, but I am always looking for ways to improve pre-hospital EMS care with innovative programs,” she said. “I enjoy working with numerous talented people in the field and hope to continue teaching as well.”
She recently finished her term as president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians, and she remains on its Board of Directors. She is currently on an Illinois legislative task force for Mobile Integrated health using paramedics.
Phillips believes the EMT program at College of DuPage provides the ideal glimpse into healthcare and is a stepping stone to several career options. The natural progression for students who excel in the EMT program is to take the Paramedic curriculum.
“You also can immediately work for an EMS provider that utilizes EMT-B personnel for patient care on their ambulance service or fire department. It can be a stand-alone capability or a complement to another role, most often within fire service,” she said. “Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you aren’t sure what direction you want to go in, sample some small opportunities first.
“Everything in life comes full circle, given time. Some of my early teachers have now been my patients, and some are still my colleagues. Children of my teachers have been my students, my students have become my colleagues, and many of these people have become friends. You never know where you will end up, or by what path, but hopefully you will enjoy the experience and relationships along the way, and some of them will be with you forever.”
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