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PCC’s medical assisting leader wins national educator of the year from AAMA
Photos and Story by James Hill
Virginia Chambers, full-time instructor and program chair for Portland Community College’s Medical Assisting Program, has won the American Association of Medical Assistants 2015 Golden Apple Award, which is its educator of the year honor. Chambers was presented with the award in front of 700 medical assisting colleagues from across the nation last month.
“It was unexpected because it’s a national award,” said the Southeast Portland resident, who also won the Oregon Society of Medical Assistants 2015 educator of the year award last spring. “It was shocking. You spend so much time doing your job, doing what you can; you just don’t expect to be honored like this. It was tear-jerking for me because of the support I’ve received.”
The AAMA recognized Chambers for her efforts in cultivating excellence among partners and students as well as her involvement with the AAMA on the local, state, and national levels. She serves on the National Board for Continuing Education, which coordinates educational programs for medical assistants, updating their skills and knowledge base.
“The award is well deserved,” said PCC’s Allied Health, Emergency & Legal Services Division Dean John Saito. “We look forward to furthering the cutting-edge goals and outcomes for the Medical Assisting Program and its students. The consistent demand for our graduates from the health industry employers, both large and small, bears testament to Virginia’s efforts and those of her colleagues in furthering the excellence of PCC medical assistants throughout the Portland metro area.”
Chambers has worked at the college for six years, starting as a full-time faculty member and now as program chair for the Medical Assisting Program. A lot of her time is spent on community outreach to build relationships with partners, clinics and healthcare organizations to provide support to students, training opportunities for graduates, and the skills and training institutions need to hire qualified workers in medical assisting.
Her outreach begins with her position as president of the River Cities Chapter of the AAMA, which includes 800 members who work in the region between The Dalles in the Columbia Gorge to Tillamook on the Oregon Coast. She serves as the organization’s continuing education chair where she plans monthly workshops, seminars, and activities that are specialized to their field.
Through the state medical assisting agency, OSMA, Chambers helped plan a student activities day and is developing immunization training for students. The Oregon Health Authority cited Chambers as the first faculty member in the state to organize live computer lab education for her students on the Oregon ALERTIIS immunization registry and Vaccines for Children programs. These experiences give students a solid foundation in administering vaccines to kids, which in turn helps parents of children avoid vaccine-related expulsions at their schools.On top of all of this work, she recently created an educator’s forum where all of the local proprietary schools that teach medical assisting in the area come together and meet regularly to share resources and develop training.
“It has finally come to the point where we’ll have our third meeting soon,” Chambers said. “We have OHSU, Kaiser, Legacy, Providence, The Oregon Clinic and Multnomah County coming together to share what they want, what they see their vision for and what the schools should be doing to provide the best quality candidates for the positions they have. It’s been a nice dialogue and has really been successful.“We as a Medical Assisting Program have been changing and developing so much that there’s a lot of appreciation to our community partners that supply us with what we need to make the program successful,” she added.
Chambers’ background is as impressive as her outreach accomplishments. She has a master’s degree in Health Administration and Management from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Portland State University. Before PCC, she worked as a clinical research coordinator in endocrinology at Oregon Health & Science University and as a lead medical assistant at Woodstock Family Medicine.
The Medical Assisting Program is based at the college’s Cascade Campus in North Portland and prepares students to function under the supervision of a licensed physician or health care provider. The program offers a one-year certificate to earn entry-level work where graduates perform administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices of physicians and other health practitioners running smoothly. Assistants work directly with patients to ensure they receive the care they need while providing health professionals with vital patient information.