Juan Soto looks forward to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s on those days, he undergoes his clinical training, shadowing a registered nurse at Mercy Health Love County.

The Marietta High School senior and medical assistant student at Southern Oklahoma Technology Center says it is more than just shadowing and observing when he is at the hospital. He says the training gives him hands-on experience. He has administered shots, collected samples for strep tests, drawn blood and hooked up a patient to an EKG machine.

“It’s during the clinical — when I talk to patients face-to-face — that’s when I know it feels right,” he says.

That feeling is reassurance for Soto, who entered the medical assistant program at SOTC after his high school counselor recommended he look into it. He began classes as an eleventh grade student.

His goal is to attend medical school and become a doctor.

“I am taking the small steps up to (medical school),” says Soto, who adds his interest in medicine comes from a desire to help people. “I am going through the steps, starting at becoming a medical assistant. I want to work all the way up to medical school.”

The first step is SOTC. Soto enters his classroom each day, takes a seat and is surrounded by female students. He is the only male student in the medical assistants program currently.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Soto says.

His focus is on his school work, which includes learning medical terms, identifying parts of the body and understanding medical procedures. Soto says he finds it to be directly related to what he hopes to study next year when he attends University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where he plans to enter the pre-medicine program. After achieving his bachelor’s degree, he strives to attend the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

His SOTC instructor, Robin Waters, says she has no doubts he will achieve higher education and his goal of becoming a doctor. She points out he is on his way, earning college credit through Murray State College via the SOTC medical assistant program.

Soto is also a member of the National Technical School Honor Society and was on the superintendent’s honor roll last semester.

His drive to succeed, dedication to education and participation in a program that is predominately female, earned him the nomination by SOTC for the Breaking Traditions Award sponsored annually by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. The award acknowledges students who have chosen and excelled in a specific career and technology program, while not letting their gender influence their decision to prepare for nontraditional careers.

The award fits Soto perfectly. He is described as an “all-around great student,” Walters says.

“He is a high academic performer and is well-liked by his peers,” Waters says. “He is very goal oriented. He was willing to start at the ground level and work his way up.”

Typically, each school year, only one to two males will enroll in the medical assistant program. She says the program has graduated hundreds who have gone on to become nurses, but has also been the starting point for those who wish to become chiropractors or attend medical school.

At the beginning of each year, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education invites technical schools to nominate students for the award. The awardees selected from each technical department will be recognized and honored during the spring student organization state conventions and professional conferences.

Soto says he never expected the nomination, but feels very honored.

He doesn’t think too much about being the only male student in the program. Instead, his thoughts are focused on his goal.

“I felt like the medical assistant program was the most relevant to what I want to do in the future,” Soto says. “I just know I want to help people.”

@lauraeastes_ARD