Bryanna Williams, CMA, has known she wanted to go into healthcare from a young age when her grandfather was hospitalized with pneumonia and eventually passed away. That experience served as a catalyst and inspiration for her to begin her healthcare journey. In the sixth grade, Bryanna attended her first MAHEC program, the MAHEC Health Careers Summer Camp for middle school students on the campus of Western Carolina University.
Since then, Bryanna has attended multiple MAHEC programs, and now she works here full-time as a CMA. She attended the Future Leaders in Healthcare Conference (FLHC) for several years in high school and was later a student leader and chaperone. She was also a Minority Medical Mentoring Program (MMMP) intern and participated in the WNC Healthcare Experience and Rural Training (HEART) summer internship during college.
“I think the WNC HEART and the MMMP internships were the most helpful for me,” Bryanna shared. “With MMMP, I was able to explore different types of specialties like cardiology, OB, pediatrics, and see what I liked, what I was comfortable with, and see what I didn’t like as well.”
All throughout her middle and high school years, Bryanna’s goal was to become a pediatrician. It wasn’t until she was in college that Bryanna started thinking about changing her plans and becoming a physician assistant (PA). She realized that being a PA would be a better fit for her, and she’s been on that path ever since.
Bryanna became a certified nurse assistant (CNA) and worked in nursing homes and home health care. Then, Bryanna heard about MAHEC’s new CMA Pathways program that helps CNAs receive their certified medical assistant certification (CMA). She applied and became MAHEC’s first CMA Pathways graduate working at MAHEC Ob/Gyn Specialists.
This innovative program provides CNAs with the opportunity to receive continuing education and on-the-job training. MAHEC partners with Blue Ridge Community College, where participants take a medical assistant training class. After completing the course, CNAs are ready to take the National Healthcare Association exam.
“It feels like I’m coming full circle, just to be able to start with MAHEC and continue my journey here,” Bryanna said. “MAHEC has been such a special part of my career journey, especially Jacquelyn Hallum. She was very helpful to me back when I was a student is still a big inspiration.”
Jacquelyn Hallum, MBA, MHA, MAHEC director of health careers and diversity education, has known Bryanna since she was born and knows five generations of her family. Jacquelyn says she and Bryanna both come from families with high academic expectations.
“We all grew up in the segregated Southside of Asheville and had to work hard for it all,” Jacquelyn explained. “It was a pleasure and an honor to watch Bryanna continue her family’s legacy of excellence. Her determination is unwavering. She doesn’t ask for special treatment, all she asks is for the opportunity. I could not be more proud.”
In August, Bryanna will embark on the next stage of her journey when she joins the physician assistant program at the Emory University School of Medicine. Emory’s program is ranked fifth in the nation. It’s been a privilege to watch her journey so far, and we’re all excited to see Bryanna’s continued growth towards her admirable career goals!