Equipping Chicago with Excellence in Medical Care

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Across the country, the healthcare community is celebrating Medical Assistants Recognition Day on October 19, 2022. Right here in Chicago, Christine Dzoga, CMA (AAMA), the senior director of Medical Assisting at Malcolm X College, is helping to prepare the next generation of medical assistants for careers delivering high-quality, culturally competent medical care.

After working as a medical assistant for more than a decade and teaching medical assisting courses part time, Dzoga took a full-time post at Malcolm X College in 2016.

“Malcolm X College had just built an on-campus, state-of-the-art virtual hospital in the Medical District when I got here, and programs related to health and medicine were in the midst of a transition to their new home at Malcolm X,” Dzoga said.

In 2019, she took the lead on revamping the Medical Assisting program and obtaining Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB) accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). At the time, the program had 30 enrolled students—a number that has grown to over 200 students today. In 2021, Dzoga also helped establish a Medical Assisting program at Malcolm X College’s satellite campus, the West Side Learning Center.

“One of our missions is to train a diverse pool of healthcare providers, so we are proud to have expanded our program to our satellite location. We want to bring the program to students in their neighborhoods,” Dzoga said.

In addition to providing educational opportunities, Dzoga is passionate about creating job prospects for students. During her time with City Colleges of Chicago, she has developed strong partnerships with employers across Chicago. For example, she helped arrange the Medical Assisting Pathway Scholarship in partnership with Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Northshore University HealthSystem, as well as non-profit organizations One Million Degrees and West Side United.

Students who receive the Medical Assisting Pathway Scholarship are matched with one of the sponsoring organizations for clinical rotation, and the rest of the program costs are paid for, including books and uniforms. Students are even guaranteed an interview with their sponsor organization after they graduate. The scholarship program is based off the model of the first clinical partnership Dzoga established with Northwestern Medicine in 2018. At the time, Northwestern Medicine was not placing medical assistants as externs, and Dzoga helped build that program from the ground up.

“At the start of our partnership, just two students went through orientation and were placed on a clinical rotation there,” Dzoga said. Today, Malcolm X has a robust partnership with Northwestern Medicine, and many of our medical assisting program completers have been hired by the organization.

Dzoga is happy to hear students say that they finish the program with a strong ability to communicate with their patients. Her goal is to help train medical assistants who are able to relate to their patients, no matter where they are in Chicagoland.

“Medical assistants can reach patients who often don’t seek out healthcare for various reasons,” said Dzoga. “It makes a big impact when someone can go into a doctor’s office and see someone like themself there, specifically a medical assistant, because patients spend the most face-to-face time with them. They set the tone for the rest of the visit.”

Interested in joining the healthcare field? The Medical Assisting program at Malcolm X College is now accepting applications for its spring cohort. Applications are accepted through January 6, 2023. Learn more at https://www.ccc.edu/colleges/malcolm-x/departments/Pages/Medical-Assisting-Program.aspx.

Since 2016, Christine Dzoga, CMA (AAMA) has directed the Medical Assisting program at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Dzoga successfully led the program through a specialized accreditation process, and she manages the program’s apprenticeship model with partners across the city. Dzoga has been influential in developing and implementing the race and culture committee for the Health Science department at Malcolm X College, to lead the department toward more inclusive equity and diversity practices.