RT student finds inspiration abroad
Student of the Week: Dawn Michele Sansanelli
South Texas College recognizes National Respiratory Care Week Oct. 20-26. As a student within STC’s Respiratory Therapy Program, Dawn Michele Sansanelli says she returned to college after 25 years out of a desire to help those in need.
Sansanelli said she worked as a professional musician and educator for many years before opting for a change in her career path and ultimately seeking to enter the medical field after life-changing experiences abroad.
In 2012, Michele, her husband, who is a practicing optometrist, and their two sons, sold everything and moved to Panama as missionaries. Her inspiration to reenter school and pursue a degree in Respiratory Therapy developed after witnessing needless suffering.
“There were no medical doctors in those areas, and children would come through with horrible respiratory infections. It was heartbreaking,” she said.
“It has really been incredible to come back and study and ignite a fire for something new and something I'm passionate about. The teachers are amazing and supportive and they really want you to succeed. The program is set up for success."
Drawing on her own experiences as a longtime sufferer of respiratory illnesses and her experiences in Panama, a strong urge to one day help her own patients was ignited. Fast-forward seven years later, Sansanelli is now working towards her Respiratory Therapy Associate of Applied Science degree, which she plans to receive in May 2020.
“It’s very different coming back a little later in life, but it has also been really neat to work with the younger students whom are my kid's age," she said. “It has really been incredible to come back and study and ignite a fire for something new and something I'm passionate about. The teachers are amazing and supportive and they really want you to succeed. The program is set up for success.
"The whole program, from the teachers to the CLE; whatever you need is at your fingertips,” she said.
The Respiratory Therapy program at STC is five semesters in length and combines classroom, laboratory and clinical education experiences to prepare the students for their national board exams and then employment as licensed respiratory therapists.
“When you have the desire, you find out what you are capable of. No one can stop you but you.” Michele said. “If you have something that ignites a passion in you, go do it and share your life experiences with those around you. Breathing will change your life and that allows you to go change someone else's."