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“I’m 37. I’ve been around the block. I think MassBay is a good place for people who have been out of the classroom for a while, get their feet wet, and get back in the swing of things. I’m like all the other adults who are paying bills, taking care of families, and all that. It’s a lot more affordable to go back to school here at MassBay compared to the four year schools.”
Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts
Major: Associate Degree in Biotechnology
Almost 20 years after graduating high school, Keith Smith is nearing another educational milestone: the attainment of his Associate’s Degree in Biotechnology at MassBay.
A member of Madison Park High School’s class of 1993, Keith was in their culinary arts program and after graduating he worked in the food service industry at Rebecca’s Café and at Au Bon Pain. In 1998, he selected a different career focus that he is still pursuing today: medical care. “I felt it was time to go back to school to do something else,” Keith explains. “I decided I wanted to help people in the health industry.”
Keith enrolled in a two-year Medical Assistant certification program at the Bryman Institute in Brookline, where he says he learned about patient care.
His first job out of school was with Harvard Vanguard, but he soon embarked on a seven-year stint at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “I was a clinical assistant, primarily with cancer patients,” he says. He also spent two of the seven years in Dana Farber’s pediatric unit.
Not one to stay put, Keith next joined a physician’s office in Brookline in 2006. “It was a small office,” he says, “so I got to play a lot of different roles.” For the next three years he worked as a clinical assistant, performing injections, EKGs, taking vitals, and assisting with procedures. He also did administrative work, ordering MRIs, helping with the billing, and helping maintain the medical records. “It was a good experience for me because I learned a lot about how an office works, while also getting the patient care experience I wanted,” he says. He also started working as a phlebotomist at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston in 2006, a position he held for five years.
In the fall of 2009, Keith left the physician’s office for the classroom, enrolling in biology and math at MassBay. “I actually applied for the nursing program, but since there was a long waitlist to get in, the academic advisors suggested I sign up for the surgical technology program. The first year I took a lot of classes that are required for both the nursing and the surg tech programs,” he explains. “But I realized that I wanted to choose something else that would enable me to go even further academically, so I chose the biotechnology program.”
Keith found that the academic lessons he was learning informed what he learned from his field work. “I understand cancer now,” he explains. “I understand things from a molecular and biological perspective. It makes sense to me – I get how cancer works from being here at school.”
“Everything is here for you at MassBay,” he continues, “There’s the homework center, the math center – I get all the support I need. It’s really been great.”
“I’m 37. I’ve been around the block. I think MassBay is a good place for people who have been out of the classroom for awhile, get their feet wet, and get back in the swing of things.” He says. “I’m like all the other adults who are paying bills, taking care of families, and all that. It’s a lot more affordable to go back to school here at MassBay compared to the four year schools.”
These days, in addition to his studies, Keith has another new job working with Cerebral Palsy of Massachusetts, a state agency that provides community-based care for children with C.P. On campus, Keith is taking organic chemistry II, pre-calculus, and microbiology, and expects to have the credits he needs for his Associate’s Degree in Biotechnology this winter. He is applying to UMass-Lowell and to Brandeis University, his first choice. Ultimately he would like to earn a Ph.D. in microbiologist.
“I would like to be a microbiologist,” he says. “I want to study bacteria and work on treatments like new antibiotics.”
Keith Smith graduated from MassBay with his Associate’s Degree in Biotechnology after the fall 2012 semester. After taking a semester off, Keith will enter UMass Lowell in Spring 2014 and major in Biology with a concentration in Bioinformatics.