The first years after Irena Stoica immigrated to the U.S. were not easy.
“I was just married, learning a new language, learning about a new culture and a new society, then experiencing motherhood, making new friends and trying to fit in another world,” she said. “There was a lot of pressure and a lot of new information to take in.”
In her native country of Romania, Stoica earned a medical imaging degree but was unable to continue her career in the U.S., which frustrated her. She decided to step out of her comfort zone and further specialize in the imaging field.
“I did not want to let my dream disappear, so I chose College of DuPage because of the reputation of the school and especially the reputation of the Sonography program,” she said. “Sonography is one of the few imaging modalities that doesn’t harm the human body, and it is a diagnostic tool more and more appreciated by the medical community.”
After taking several prerequisite courses, Stoica was admitted into the Diagnostic Medical Imaging Sonography (DMIS) program, where she found the faculty and staff friendly and helpful.
“The professors and instructors in the DMIS program are not only great educators but they also care about their students’ personal development and well-being,” she said. “Assistant Professor and Program Chair Melissa McKirdie and Assistant Professor Lisa Vondra are always available for their students with guidance and coaching, and they are always looking for new ways to improve the teaching material or for resources to help us succeed. The College’s state-of-the-art library has health science librarians and extensive resources for Diagnostic Medical Imaging.
“The COD Foundation offers many scholarships, like the one I was awarded, DuPage Area Moms Scholarship, which was not only a monetary help but also a recognition of my work.”
Her strong work ethic has resulted in a 4.0 GPA and recognition from her DMIS professors for academic excellence by discipline as part of the College’s annual Celebration of Academic Excellence.
So far, Stoica has passed the first board exam, which is the initial step in the certification process. She would like to further specialize in breast or musculoskeletal sonography and, once she completes her Associate in Applied Science degree, use it as a foundation toward a master’s degree.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stoica was fascinated by how diagnostic sonography reinvented itself and explored new areas of applications, such as lung sonography or Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS). She knows sonography is the right profession for her and encourages prospective students to conquer their fears.
“In the hospital, I am always seeing scared patients looking for answers regarding their health, and I like to be a part of the mechanism that offers them answers,” she said. “But it is not always about the answers. Sometimes, only a few words of encouragement or reassurance can do miracles in the healing process. The same happens at COD. Students come in for the first time scared, with different expectations, and they grow stronger and learn how to handle more stressful situations. Especially in the Sonography program, which is a small program, the students become a family, they go together to the same classes, and they support each other when they struggle with academic concepts or with personal issues.
“My message for future COD students is if you have a dream, don’t let circumstances in your life be obstacles in your way. Ask your colleagues, your counselors, your professors and instructors for help and fight for your dream! It is never too late to pursue a new career or to go back to a past career you enjoyed. You will receive a lot of guidance and help at COD, you will discover new interests, and new doors will open for you.”