Surgical Technology a path to financial stability for LFCC student

LFCC Fauquier Campus student Sydnei Dowd was inspired to pursue a career in surgical technology while serving as a campus ambassador.

The 2017 Rappahannock County High School graduate enrolled at LFCC in the fall of 2018.

She originally intended to become a history teacher, but lacked the funds that would be necessary to transfer to a four-year university after obtaining her associate degree.

“I knew I had to choose a career I could enter straight from community college,” Dowd said. “I was in foster care when I turned 15 and I essentially aged out.”

Her experience in the LFCC Ambassadors program ended up inspiring her to enroll in the surgical technology program. While leading a group of eighth-graders visiting the Fauquier Campus for a visit, Dowd noticed the program during a career exploration presentation.

“I’m a Type 1 diabetic, so I have been exposed to the medical field since I was little,” she said.

In fall 2019, Dowd enrolled in the surgical technology program offered at the Vint Hill site.

“I love it,” she enthused. “My instructor, Lisa Day, is an amazing teacher, and I really enjoy the clinical and hands-on parts of the course. It’s hard to believe I’m already helping out with surgeries.”

She said she has benefited from several scholarships while at LFCC:  the Kummli Family Endowed Scholarship, the Neall Family Charitable Foundation Scholarship and the Wise Foundation Scholarship.

“I have been on my own since I was 18, so any scholarship I have received has helped me out so much,” said Dowd, who works for a drugstore chain.

Additionally, she has received help from the Path to Success program, which provides extra support to students who are first-generation college students, have income constraints or need extra developmental support prior to beginning college-level coursework.

Students in the program have access to a special study area with computers, a textbook library and hotspots, and qualify for certain scholarships and emergency grants. The program was started with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education’s Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) and a matching grant from the PATH Foundation.

The RVHI refers to the shape that would be formed if a line was drawn from the Eastern Shore west through Southside and then southwest Virginia and then up through the Shenandoah Valley. Within this region, which represents 75 percent of the state’s geography, 500,000 people have less than a high school diploma.

Because of this, Virginia is ranked 31st in the nation when it comes to the percentage of residents with at least a high school equivalency credential. The RVHI project’s vision is to transform Virginia’s rural communities through higher education and 21st-century job skills.

“Success Coach Julie Fainter was really helpful to me when it came to financial support,” Dowd said.

Fainter is proud of all Dowd has accomplished.

“She has faced a lot of challenges and adversity in her life, and RVHI grant funds helped to reduce some of Sydnei’s financial burden,” Fainter said. “Grant funds were used to purchase scrubs and OR shoes required for the surgical tech program, a laptop, textbooks, food gift cards and gas cards to help her get to her clinical locations, which were pretty far away.

“Sydnei is the thriftiest student I’ve met so far. She stretched the grant funds farther than any other student to date. I know Sydnei will do well moving forward. She’s smart, hardworking and resourceful, and possesses key life skills, such as budgeting, communication and problem-solving skills, all valued by employers and which will serve her well in her personal life.”

Dowd is grateful for all the ways in which she has benefited at LFCC.

“All aspects of LFCC have been really helpful,” she said. “I worked at the college as a work-study last year, and everyone was really nice. Everyone is just really friendly. I think the fact we can all be on a first-name basis kind of shows that.”

She is scheduled to earn her certificate in surgical technology this July, but is unsure how the coronavirus crisis might impact that. Students must work on a minimum of 120 surgical cases to complete the program, but the clinicals are on hold for now.

Day said the clinicals will be on hold at least until Gov. Ralph Northam lifts the stay-at-home order. While program leaders are hopeful, it is anticipated the surgical tech program completion time will be extended.

Dowd is also concerned about continuing her job because her diabetes puts her at high risk for complications if she contracts coronavirus, and is hoping to take a leave of absence from her job if she can afford to.

To learn more about the Path to Success program, contact Fainter at [email protected]

For more information on the surgical technology program, visit www.lfcc.edu/surgtech.