OFTC’s Business Program Prepares Charleston for Successful Career at Dublin’s VA
After graduating from West Laurens High School in 1997, Gwenett Charleston knew she wanted a career in the business side of healthcare. When she learned about medical coding from her friend, the late Mrs. Deborah Well, she knew this was the field for her.
“Medical coding was very high in demand in 1997 and still is because of the rapid growth in the number of medical procedures and tests that will be increasingly analyzed by health insurance companies, regulators, courts and consumers,” Charleston shared.
Growing up in a home where lessons on money and debt were frequently given by her father, Charleston knew she didn’t want to take on a lot of debt to receive a college education. So, she chose to attend college locally at Oconee Fall Line Technical College (OFTC), then Heart of Georgia Technical College, in Dublin.
“OFTC had a great reputation so I chose to forgo leaving home after high school and stay local and get my credits at OFTC,” Charleston said. “I wanted to take advantage of a cheaper tuition rate for as long as I could.”
Preparing for Success
Charleston enrolled in OFTC’s Applied Business Technology program with a specialization as a Medical Administrative Specialist and says she believes the program gave her the “best chance to succeed.”
The program was a great fit for Charleston and where she wanted to go in life, she said. “The program focused on me and what I wanted in life. It taught me soft skills, organization and work ethics, and I would not be who I am today without this program.”
Charleston felt very prepared for a career after going through OFTC’s program and said the hands-on experience was key. “OFTC emphasizes a hands-on approach that puts the students at the forefront of technology, skills and the expertise needed to excel in their chosen profession,” she said.
“The faculty members are also dedicated to giving you real-world experience, knowledge, and skills to help you obtain better employment and a better quality of life. Uniquely among other colleges, their focus is you.”
A Meaningful Career
Charleston graduated from OFTC in 2000 and began working at Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin as a Medical Coder while she continued her education in pursuit of her associates and bachelor’s degrees.
She then applied for and accepted a position at the Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Dublin where she now serves in the Health Information Management Department as a Release of Information/Scanning Supervisor.
“I love that I have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of veterans by serving those who have put their lives on the line for our freedom and our liberties,” Charleston said. “Just walking through our hallways is a history lesson and most importantly, I get to help heroes every day.”
When Charleston started working at the VA she truly felt prepared as she learned the roles and responsibilities associated with her new position. “OFTC has exceptionally prepared me for a smooth transition into my career by providing me with the skills necessary to succeed,” she said citing the lessons she learned on time management, how to take advantage of available resources, and networking will go with her forever.
Looking back on her career Charleston feels she’s exceeded the expectations she set for herself and credits OFTC for providing her with the knowledge and resources to get there.
“I’ve prepared myself for a successful career and the skills and education at OFTC have helped me to become well-rounded with my eyes on the future,” she added. “No matter where you are in your career OFTC provides education and resources to support your lifelong learning and continued advancement.”
Coming Full Circle
Ten years after graduating from OFTC Charleston found herself back in the OFTC classroom, only this time as an adjunct instructor, teaching several classes including: Anatomy & Terminology for Medical Administration, Medical Document Processing/Transcription, Medical Office Billing/Coding/Insurance, Healthcare Coding, and several others.
“I enjoy staying connected in higher education through teaching at OFTC,” Charleston said. “I truly love being an instructor and seeing the enthusiasm and interest in my students. I love the fact that students tell me they are using what they have learned outside the classroom in both personal and professional areas.”
Coming full circle – from student to instructor – Charleston hopes to inspire and help her students reach their goals just like she was inspired to do while sitting in their same seats.
“I hope my passion for teaching shines through,” she said.
Charleston has been impressed with the continuing growth of OFTC’s Business Technology Department under the leadership of Division Chair, Dr. Jacqueline Copenny. “The Business Office Technology Program is an essential element of high-quality technology in this community,” she shared, “and I’m truly fortunate to share my experience, expertise and passion as I work within this program.”
“My story proves that it does not matter who you are or what your background is you can succeed,” Charleston added. “I have a very successful career and I treasure my ability to help others the way I’ve been helped. Life has a way of coming full circle. Lastly, never forget Jesus plus Education equals success.”
Charleston is the daughter of Aaron and Barbara Charleston and has three brothers: Michael Godfrey, Rico Charleston, and Jawaxki Charleston. She’s the proud mother of Zaniya Evans, a freshman at West Laurens High School in Dublin. She’s an active member of the oldest African-American Church in Laurens Country, SpringHill Missionary Baptist Church, and Rev. Dr. Winfred L. McCloud is her Pastor.