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College Degree Improves Quality of Life for Alumni

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A career disruption prompted Lisa Wagoner of Boonville to return to Surry Community College and pursue a degree in the Medical Office Administration program. She was 48 years old when she returned to school.

“I was intimated. I considered going back to school for a year before I started taking classes. I thought, ‘Am I too old for this? Can I really do this? Do I have the gumption?’” she said. “Then, I thought to myself, ‘You just got to do it. You just got to see the end.’”

Wagoner described herself as a shy person who kept to herself. Her family of three brothers and one sister moved to Forsyth County from Texas her senior year of high school due to her father finding a job in the area.

“I have always wanted to work in an office since high school,” she said. “I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I helped teachers grade papers. I have always really loved paperwork and working in an office.”

Wagoner worked for Walmart for 29 years in various roles at locations in Winston-Salem and Mocksville. She worked as a cashier, in retail management and spent 15 years in the accounts payable office.

“I really enjoyed working in the invoice office and paying bills. I would match up orders and compare to claims. It was really detailed work,” she said.

Walmart centralized the accounts payable work in the home office, and Wagoner lost her job.

“It was really rough on me. I had worked at Walmart for nine years and kept applying for the office jobs. I was so happy to get that job, and when it was over, it really broke my heart,” she said.

Then, Wagoner started managing a Vision Center for Walmart in Mocksville.

“I was there for four years. I really wanted to go back to school to get a degree, so I could work in an office setting,” Wagoner said. “I was limited at Vision Center because I wasn’t a licensed optician. Surry Community College’s Medical Office Administration program was online, so that gave me an opportunity to work and go back to school.”

In December 2021, Wagoner started working at Novant Salem Family Medicine in Winston-Salem, where she is a Patient Services Coordinator III. She checks people in for appointments, schedules appointments, collects payments, and helps patients over the phone.

“I love being on the computer. I fax prescriptions and then scan information into patient charts. I do a lot of paperwork like writing no-show letters for missed appointments and other patient correspondence,” she said. “I like interacting with patients. Most are really nice. My desk is in the reception area. We are the face of the office. We play an important part in making sure the patients have a good experience. We are the first and last folks that the patients see.”

SCC’s Medical Office Administration program offers a degree, diploma and three certificates including Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing & Insurance and Patient Services Representative. The program prepares students for employment as medical administrative personnel in the areas of medical billing and coding, dental office, patient services, and medical documents.

“All of my instructors were helpful and nice,” Wagoner said. “They were always willing to answer any questions. I really enjoyed the flexibility of the online classes. If the program had been in person, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

She offered advice to other students who were contemplating coming back to school later in life. When she returned to school, she was the mother of two adult children and three grandchildren.

“You just have to go back to school. You are going to have a better life if you get your degree. Remind yourself that you are doing this for your future,” she said.

Wagoner said many of the computer programs she learned at Surry have helped her on the job. She is proficient in Microsoft products including Excel and Word. She can type 40 words per minute. She earned a degree in Medical Office Administration from SCC in May 2022.

For questions about college application, financial aid, or class registration, contact Student & Workforce Services at (336) 386-3264 or studentservices@surry.edu.

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