Growing up in picturesque Vermont, Kimberly Oddy had dreams of making her mark in the world of cinema, specifically in special effects. "I wanted to work for a company like Pixar," said Kimberly.
But after heading off to college to study film, Kimberly, who had always been incredibly close to her family, found herself grappling with homesickness. She made the difficult decision to leave her film studies behind and transfer to a community college closer to her Vermont home. Here, she obtained an associate degree in liberal arts, but by then, it was psychology that captured her attention. Kimberly decided to go on to earn her bachelor's degree in psychology from Vermont State University at Johnson in 2020.
After graduating, she took a job as a high school behavioral interventionist, working alongside students with autism and developmental delays, that Kimberly began to question her chosen career path. "I only lasted at that job for about a year and a half," she said, reflecting on her experiences. "I learned a lot about how people don't treat each other right. That job made me feel like I wasn't important enough, even though I spent the most time with these students. It made me rethink that maybe I want to go do something else."
Kimberly realized that further education was necessary to advance her career. She considered a master’s in counseling. “I asked myself, ‘do I really want to spend the rest of my life listening to everyone’s issues?’ The answer was no.”
Instead, Kimberly made ends meet working at a local supermarket while she decided what to do next. She began to ponder a healthcare career.
“In high school, I had some passion for the healthcare field, but I thought it was just a nurse or doctor,” said Kimberly. After having a hard time in biology in high school, she’d initially thrown that idea out, but now she wasn't so sure. “I kept thinking, now that I’m older, maybe that had changed.”
It was around this time that her husband was presented with a unique opportunity of his own. “My husband got a job offer and that sold us on moving to Charlotte. He works for Wells Fargo in cybersecurity,” she said.
Kimberly had zero worries about being homesick this time around, because her parents and little brother decided to leave the harsh Vermont winters -- where her dad had been a postal carrier -- to relocate with Kimberly and her husband to North Carolina.
Life in Charlotte presented Kimberly with a new set of challenges. Her initial attempts to secure a registration job in the healthcare sector were met with rejection, as potential employers sought candidates with more experience. One day, Kimberly and her husband were driving down the road beside the ECPI University Charlotte campus and she saw the billboard for ECPI. “The thing that caught my eye was that you can get things done fast at ECPI,” she said. It was perfect timing for Kimberly.
“There’s me, feeling like I’m still 10 steps behind everyone else. I’m 25 years old. When am I going to get things started, again?” she said. Intrigued by ECPI University's promise of a fast-track education, Kimberly decided to explore its nursing programs. "I wasn't leaving here until I knew what I was going to do," Kimberly recalled. "I spent all day here that day."
She took the TEAS test, and although she didn't meet the standards to enter the RN program, she discovered an alternative path that resonated with her deeply: becoming a Medical Assistant (MA). One of the defining aspects of the MA program that attracted Kimberly was its versatility. “In all honesty, when people work in healthcare, and they work 12-16 hours or overnights, people are getting burned out. I wanted to choose a job that I could be home at night, or on holidays when my husband and I have kids one day. When I heard my teacher’s say it was Monday through Friday, 8-5, weekends and holidays off, I said, perfect, sign me up!”
Kimberly's journey at ECPI University wasn't without its fair share of challenges. One significant obstacle was her learning disability in math, particularly in courses like pharmacology. "I can't do simple things in my head," she admitted. Her struggles with mathematics had led her to take lower-level classes than her peers in the past. The realization that her studies now required a deep understanding of medication and dosage calculations, coupled with learning the intricacies of the metric system, initially left her feeling overwhelmed.
Because of her math disability, Kimberly went to Campus Director of Academic Affairs Laura Glading’s office to ask inquire about receiving accommodations she’s always had in school. “She told me how it worked, how to hand in the paperwork,” she said. This time, something felt different to Kimberly. “I went home and decided to come back and try it by myself.”
Determined to overcome this hurdle, Kimberly received unwavering support from MA instructor, Mr. Charles Berry. “He stayed with me hours after class, drilling the math in my head, trying to help me figure it out,” said Kimberly.
“I think a lot of students find Pharmacology very challenging,” said Berry. “The information of the class, combined with learning at least 50 drugs and the dosage calculations associated with the medications, can be very overwhelming.”
A humble Berry is quick to downplay his role in any of his MA students’ success. “They have the drive that leads them to be successful. I’m just a bystander who gives them a little nudge every now and then,” said Berry. “If I explain a dosage calculation problem one way in class, students may not grasp the concept initially; but on an individual basis, I may be able to explain it in a different manner so the student can understand.”
Berry helped Kimberly overcome her self-doubt, encouraging her to not second-guess herself. Because of ECPI's dedicated faculty and hands-on classes, this was the first time in Kimberly's life that she didn't require accommodations to thrive.
“Her instincts were always correct. She was able to complete the assignments by the deadlines, and she made it through ECPI without any accommodations at all,” Berry shared. After completing her externship in the South Park area of Charlotte, Kimberly served as valedictorian and student speaker at her campus' graduation.
As she looks ahead, Kimberly envisions a future in which she continues to climb the career ladder, with a goal of becoming an office manager one day. For now, she’s enjoying her first job in the healthcare industry as an MA at a heart and vascular center in Charlotte, and feeling optimistic about her future in healthcare. "I am happy to finally feel like I'm doing something," Kimberly said.