Blah, blah, blah? Not Dr. V. | Jesus J. Venereo, M.D.
The 8 a.m. Medical Assisting class in Diseases, Disorders and Treatment is getting underway. Students are assembled, but instead of being half asleep, they are energized by a song blaring through computer speakers. Today’s selection, “YMCA,” has everyone dancing. Their instructor, Dr. Jesus Venereo, a medical doctor and pathologist, begins every morning class by playing a student’s song choice. “It brings the class together and starts conversations. You get to know things about them that you wouldn’t otherwise, if you were a ‘blah, blah, blah’ teacher.”
“I flip it around and make them think. I kill them with questions.”
Dr. V., as his students call him, couldn’t be farther from being a “blah, blah, blah” teacher, which is how he refers to long-winded lecturers. While some lecturing can’t be avoided, Venereo prefers not to be the “sage on the stage” and uses a combination of interactive strategies that puts the responsibility for learning on the students’ shoulders. “I flip it around and make them think. I kill them with questions. I say ‘I’m your guide and I’m here to lead you to success, but do not expect me to do your job. If you don’t work, you don’t learn.’”
What do they learn? Medical assistants perform a range of clinical and administrative duties in physician offices and health care facilities. They multitask constantly – for example, going from drawing blood to updating electronic health records – and free up physicians and other health professionals to see more patients. “Doctors can’t function without medical assistants,” Venereo says. In fact, the need for medical assistants is growing fast, with demand expected to increase by 29 percent through 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
A graduate of the Higher Institute of Medical Sciences in Havana, Venereo left his native Cuba with his family in 1999 to start a new life here. He began teaching at Palm Beach State seven years ago, but the journey to the Lake Worth campus had arduous twists and turns. He took factory jobs out of necessity, learned English and worked his way to being a sought-after teacher at local schools for the allied health professions. But teaching wasn’t new to him: “I’m talking 1979, that was my first time teaching professionally. I was still a medical student and one day they pushed me into a class and said ‘you are the teacher now.’” His use of music as a class icebreaker stems from that time.
In Dr. V.’s classes, students learn through a combination of short lectures and hands-on labs in the program’s authentic medical office environment. He also makes extensive use of online learning tools and videos – anything that will stimulate the students and get them to think critically about what they are doing, step by step. He takes into account their learning styles (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic) when he chooses materials and uses technology students love, including Facebook. “Back in 1979, Havana, Cuba…computers? That was science fiction. But now you have to use what they use, if you want to reach them, if you want to make chances for them to learn.”
One recent morning, 12 graduating medical assisting students stood at the front of a classroom and like warriors returning home, told their tales of victory in health care offices throughout Palm Beach County. They had just completed their required externships and most left with jobs. Hanging onto every word was an audience of newly enrolled students, all wanting to know: “Do you use everything you learned?” The answer was a resounding “yes.”
need to ask…
Q Why did you become a medical doctor?
A I was born a pathologist. Like all boys in Cuba, I played baseball. I would play for a while and then 20 minutes later I would disappear. You want to find me? I’m in the backyard opening lizards and frogs to see what they have inside. When I was 10 years old, I already knew I wanted to be a doctor. But not any kind of doctor…I knew I wanted to be behind a microscope.
Q What are the rewards of teaching?
A There’s nothing better than when you see a student’s eyes shining…they light up with knowledge…they got the idea. That day you go home happy. Then as years pass, you start seeing your graduates – one is now a medical doctor, another a nurse, a radiology technician, a cardiovascular technologist. They come back and say ‘thank you’ – that’s wonderful.
Q When did you first come to PBSC?
A We had just arrived from Cuba. My oldest daughter asked me for a ride to PBCC to register for her first class. I had just come from the window factory where I was working. I was all greasy and my clothes were dirty. The registrar looked at me from top to bottom. It was bad, but it was good. That put the idea in my head that one day I’m going to be in a lab coat again.