Neither pandemic nor family could hold back Medical Laboratory Technology graduate

TSC Medical Laboratory Technology alum Fernando Gonzalez.

COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty, and for Texas Southmost College alumnus Fernando Gonzalez it threw a wrench into his graduation and career plans, but with patience and hope he is now where he is supposed to be.

The Los Fresnos native graduated with an associate degree in Medical Laboratory Technology in May, which Gonzalez said only happened because of his instructors.

“In March when COVID hit, everything stopped, including my hospital rotations,” said the 25-year-old. “And if I couldn’t finish, I couldn’t graduate.”

With his degree in limbo, it also meant he would have to decline a job offer he had already received.

Fortunately, for Gonzalez and his classmates, his instructors were understanding about the situation and worked diligently at creating alternate methods that would still fulfill course requirements.

“Since we couldn’t physically go to the hospitals, we focused on research,” said Gonzalez. “And I’m so thankful for this because it allowed me to graduate and begin my career, a career that COVID also delayed.”

COVID-19 delayed his start date as a medical laboratory technician at Valley Baptist Micro Hospital in Weslaco by four months since his job interview in February.

He has now been employed at the hospital since June.

“I never thought I would immediately get a job. I was preparing myself for a long job search, but it all worked out, COVID and all,” he said. “It was difficult, but I kept a positive mindset and I think it helped, because things slowly started falling into place.”

COVID-19 remains a challenge for Gonzalez because, as a laboratory technician, he is conducting COVID-19 testing and reporting results.

“Never did anyone expect a virus to take over our lives and have a place in everything we do, especially as a new lab technician,” said Gonzalez. “But it was the training I received at TSC that prepared me for such a challenging role.”

Gonzalez said conducting COVID-19 tests requires careful planning because of the personal protective equipment, such as gowns and shields, he must wear to avoid exposure, and because COVID testing also requires a designated area.

“There is no room for carelessness or lack of attention because everyone’s health is on the line,” he said. “The high standards expected of us in our program, the knowledge our instructors shared and their training exposed us early on to what’s expected of us and how to manage such a demanding role.”

Gonzalez is grateful to TSC because he says the college helped him turn his life around, especially as a first-generation college graduate. In addition to COVID-19, he also had to overcome his family’s disapproval.

“There were some that believed I should have gone straight to work and didn’t like that I was in college,” he said. “This really encouraged me to continue. I wanted to prove to everyone that college is the answer. And guess what, it was. It turned my life around.”

Gonzalez said he hopes that his accomplishments can serve as examples for his six younger brothers and sisters. After all, it encouraged his mother to go back to school.

“College, which was once unorthodox for my family, has now broken barriers and there is no regret in going against some of the people I love the most,” he said. “TSC has changed my life and created a path toward opportunity for all of us.”

In the future, Gonzalez plans on gaining additional certifications, growing in the field and continuing his education toward a bachelor’s degree.

Visit TSC’s Medical Laboratory Technology program for more information.