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FITCHBURG – Community Health Connections (CHC) welcomed 25 students from Fitchburg and Leominster high schools last week for a learning session on healthcare careers and a tour of the Fitchburg facility.

Numerous CHC staff spoke to the group about their jobs, education, dedication, challenges and rewards of working in the healthcare field. Passion for their work was a key factor all presenters shared.

Chaitanya Patwardhan, DMD, originally worked for a charitable organization in India. After attending the University of Pennsylvania, CHC felt like “the right practice,” for him.

“In dentistry you have to work as a team. There are a lot of people involved – we work like an orchestra, really,” he said. “There are so many advances so you have to keep updated with courses and cutting-edge technology. Overall it’s very rewarding.”

Cindy Cadoret, MD, RDH, CDA, is the Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) Director of Dental Education Programs. She manages the programs MWCC runs at CHC for students to become dental assistants or dental hygienists.

The dental assistant program is 15 months long and after it is completed students are prepared to enter directly into the workforce. Dental hygienists have a two-year full-time program.

“Both are academically rigorous, but the students are considered well prepared to enter the workforce following the program because of the side-by-side training they are able to have with CHC employees,” she said.

Kathleen Sweeney, MD, Family Medicine physician and chief medical officer, emphasized to the importance of finding the right educational path.

Sweeney said there is a lot of schooling to become a doctor but there are different careers you can choose within the field, such as physician assistant or something in the nursing field, that doesn’t take as long and are less costly. She encouraged students to keep their options open to find the right specialization and field for them.

“I have the best job in the whole world. Every single day is always worthwhile. … You have the opportunity to influence the way people live better lives,” she said.

Lisa Ellis, RN and director of nursing, told the students about the many different careers within the field of nursing and how you can always change your job with different or more education.

“I found that CHC was a place where people needed care the most, so I thought that if I want to make the most impact, that’s where I should be,” said Ellis. “Nursing isn’t something you do – it’s who you are.”

However, the scope of jobs in the healthcare field is not just limited to dentistry or medical. CHC staff said there are a lot of other important positions that also impact patients’ wellbeing, such as Patient Services Representatives (PSR).

Glendaly Lopez, PSR team leader, said she and her team work with patients on health insurance enrollment and answer any questions they may have. During the last open enrollment CHC held, PSRs registered over 1,500 patients in health insurance. They also attend mandated trainings regularly and update their certifications biannually.

“It’s very rewarding for all of us and I enjoy it especially because when they leave I make sure they feel safe and calm,” she said.

Jill Bille, director of finance and billing, told the group that no matter the field they enter, they should work hard, have a commitment to continue learning and find good mentors to guide them.

The billing and finance department oversees billing for care, ensures bills are processed and collected on time, administers payroll for all CHC employees and reports on CHC’s finances.

Bille worked initially in financial services for the corporate sphere. When she decided to change jobs, she said it was important to her to find an organization whose mission she was passionate about.

“I was excited to be a part of an organization that has a positive impact on the community in a way that is important to me,” she said.

Community Health Connections is the federally-qualified health center serving the communities of North Central Massachusetts. It provides primary medical, dental, behavioral health, and optometry services, for all ages at locations throughout the region. For more information visit www.chcfhc.org.

Fitchburg Community Health Center

Community Health Connections fitchburg

326 Nichols Road, Fitchburg, MA

Gardner Community Health Center

Community Health Connections Gardner

175 Connors Street, Gardner, MA

Leominster Community Health Center

Community Health Connections Leominster

14 Manning Avenue, Leominster, MA

ACTION Community Health Center

Community Health Connections Action

130 Water Street, Fitchburg, MA

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