For those who are interested in pursuing careers in the healthcare field but are not as interested in pursuing years of medical school, you’re in luck. The University of Connecticut’s Center for Career Development holds ‘Pathways to Healthcare’ every semester, a panel that features a handful of UConn alumni who now hold healthcare professions without having medical school, dental school, nursing school or physician assistant programs listed in their resumes. This semester’s panel was held through Zoom on Wednesday, Oct. 27, where panelists discussed what prompted their decisions to go into healthcare, ways in which they gained experience during college and how they got to where they are now.
The panel was planned by CCD career consultants Jessica Buller and Lisa Famularo, where Buller — who was the event moderator — introduced panelists Rachael Padula, Nayo Daniel, Cynthia Spitalny and Nicholas Jannetty. Padula graduated from UConn in 2014 with a B.A. in communications, and currently works as a diabetes sales representative for Eli Lilly and Company. She cited her father’s 25+ year experience with pharmaceuticals as her main source of exposure to the industry, which inspired her decision to enter the healthcare field. Although Padula felt confident in her sales ability, the lack of science-related studies in her background was a cause for concern.
“I knew sales was appealing, very interesting [and] challenging, but I was nervous,” Padula said. “I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to talk to all of these medical professionals about a disease state and convince them to write my medication?’ But what’s been really great is the amount of learning opportunity — and again, I learned a lot of the skills on the job too. A lot of my medical-specific knowledge has come from all the intensive training and has really built my confidence.”
Daniel graduated from UConn in 2020 with a B.A. in psychology and human development and family studies. She now works as the volunteer and programs coordinator at Maggie’s Place, a non-profit organization that serves homeless pregnant women in Arizona. There are four different maternity homes within the organization, one of which is called Elizabeth House where Daniel works. According to Daniel, her undergraduate degree turned out to be quite relevant to her current work.
“I think especially in the human development and family studies major, I learned a lot about how to communicate with people,” Daniel said. “Especially in this job, we get two full weeks of training before we even really step into the homes and start working, and we learned a lot about conflict resolution. Maggie’s Place is really big on trauma-informed care, so we’ve learned a lot about that.”
Spitalny graduated from UConn in 2003 with a B.S. in molecular and cell biology. Her current position is vice president of marketing at RxVantage, a technological healthcare management system. As a panelist, Spitalny listed five specific skills that she found were important when pursuing a job in healthcare: active listening, willingness to adapt, willingness to work hard, networking and advocating for yourself as a woman.
“I want you all to leave here optimistically knowing that there’s a lot of opportunity out there, but it is really damn hard being a woman in corporate America,” Spitalny said. “I don’t wanna speak for everybody because I know that that’s not everyone’s experience and I do work in more of a male-driven field in technology, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for you guys to feel like it’s okay to ask for more and take opportunities.”
Jannetty, who graduated from UConn in 2021 with a B.S. in general studies, is now a radiologic technologist and CT scan tomographer at St. Mary’s Hospital. He mentioned how his involvements at UConn, particularly during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed him to gain and demonstrate certain skills that are applicable to his job today.
“I was in the [Waterbury] Collegiate Health program — I served as president for two years — and especially during the pandemic, this became challenging because we went from being totally in-person to totally virtual,” Jannetty said. “I’ve never been good with social media or any type of virtual technology like Zoom or Webex. I knew that this was something I was going to need to learn because it was just the changing landscape and we couldn’t meet in person. So, you have to figure out how [you] use those critical thinking skills and those communication skills to say, ‘Okay, this is how we’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done, just in a different way.’ And I’m glad that I had those opportunities while pursuing my classwork.”
Among the lasting advice offered by this semester’s panelists, the idea of pursuing their intuition was shared among all four individuals, who recommended that prospective healthcare students follow their gut feeling when choosing which profession to pursue. Jannetty also brought up the standard realization that “life doesn’t always go as planned.”
“When I started off in my educational career, I wanted to do art,” Jannetty said. “I have a background in theater and fine arts, and that didn’t work as planned. I ended up in the radiology program and now I have a degree and a job in radiology, and it’s rewarding. But what I was able to do with that prior background in the arts is I utilized the skill set that I learned from that — that unique skill set–and how I could implement that and how I could use that to help my patients.”
As for Daniel, networking was her main piece of advice, which arguably left a lasting impression on attendees.
“Don’t be afraid to really connect with people and ask questions, ask questions, ask questions,” Daniel said. “Get over that fear of it maybe being silly or feeling like you’re being annoying. Be annoying if it’ll get you closer to connecting to someone possibly or just getting an answer for what you want for your future.”