SANFORD - Caring for people around him has always been a top priority for Andrew Sescilla. Now, the former Central Carolina Community College student will make that pursuit his life's work as he begins study in the prestigious physician assistant program offered by the Yale School of Medicine.
Not long ago, the University of Pittsburgh graduate in business administration was thinking about anything but medicine, serving as Director of Army Engineer operations, where he provided assistance to people facing crisis situations across the United States and in other locations around the globe. But that experience sparked an interest in healthcare, a path he decided to pursue after leaving the U.S. Army -- first as a paramedic in Chatham County, where he has lived for the last decade, and soon as a physician assistant.
Sescilla will be studying in an online master's degree program that prepares graduates to seek licensure as physician assistants. While courses are delivered online, the 28-month, full-time program requires some in-person instruction, as well, with clinical rotations near students' home communities and three weeklong, hands-on "immersions" in New Haven, Conn., on the Yale University campus.
Pursuing an online degree program, even with plenty of in-person instruction, wouldn't have seemed like a viable option a few years ago. Sescilla admits that it took him a while to adapt to online instruction, though he eventually discovered during his return to college that the online format actually did fit his learning style.
Another challenge: Juggling his new academic pursuits with family obligations, though the devoted father learned a lot about how to make it work during his return to the classroom at CCCC.
Part of that lesson came from his own experience -- squeezing study into short breaks in his EMS work schedule and taking long walks with class notes in hand. Oddly enough, the walks gave him the time and mental refreshment needed to memorize the massive amount of information covered in his anatomy and physiology classes.
Then, he learned a lot from his fellow students, many of whom were facing some of the same challenges. "I met more students than I expected that were like me," he says. "These students were either changing or advancing careers later in their life. It was also a great experience to share having to do school work with my kids."
When the first year of study begins with online classes in topics as diverse as human anatomy, patient assessment, pharmacology and behavioral medicine, it won't be easy. But CCCC Biology instructor Dr. Amy Kennedy has no doubt her former student is up to the challenge. "He is an exceptional worker," Kennedy says. "He seemed to juggle a lot of balls, yet managed to fulfill his varying roles well."
Sescilla is confident, too. He says the CCCC faculty has prepared him to reach his professional goals, even in a medical field that he would never have considered just 10 years ago. And he carries with him one important lesson that he offers for current CCCC students and that should serve him well as he launches into study in one of the nation's most respected universities. "Something that took me a long time to learn in life," he says, "is that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness."
Andrew Sescilla, a previous student of CCCC, is one who has gone over and beyond to find his calling in life. He has been accepted into the Yale School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.