4/21/19

On track for success as an athlete and healthcare professional

Meet Ray Martin. He’s humble, smart, committed and has a track record of reaching lofty goals. Just the kind of employee Carle hopes to find. And since February, Martin has been learning his new job as a medical assistant (MA) in Psychiatry and Psychology at Carle. He hopes to become a physician assistant (PA) one day.

By the way, he's also a leading wheelchair athlete who just competed in the Boston Marathon again. 

If that isn’t impressive enough, he also earned six gold medals and one silver racing in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Paralympic games and was nominated for an ESPY award.

Martin came from New Jersey to Champaign-Urbana to attend the University of Illinois, known for its elite wheelchair-racing program that has produced athletes like Boston Marathon winners Jean Driscoll and Tatyana McFadden. Martin said it was a win-win for him. Not only did he have the opportunity to set world records racing, he also earned his degree in kinesiology in 2017. In the process, he began to see his future beyond racing.

“I didn’t know really what I wanted to do until I learned about the PA profession and working in healthcare,” Martin said. “I started taking classes at the end of my undergrad to see what it was like. I took a class in phlebotomy and I took a medical assistant class, and I decided it was something I wanted to do.”

After graduation, he continued to train in Champaign-Urbana and accepted a position at Carle.

“After being out of school for a year I was kind of ready to leave, but this has been such a great work environment that I’m planning to stay a little more long-term,” he said.

Now he has two careers to manage.

By far, Martin’s favorite part of his job at Carle is the interaction with patients. He's the only medical assistant in Psychiatry and Psychology, and he spends much of his time taking vitals before patients see their providers. He likes meeting people and starting their visit off right, he said.

He also likes that one of the core values in his department is teamwork. That makes work not feel like work for Martin. But when work and training are demanding and life is stressful, his experience as a high-performance athlete kicks in, and he knows how to push through the difficulty.

“Ray displays a sense of discipline and dedication that you can tell has come from his years of athletic training,” said Donna Klawitter, RN coordinator in Psychiatry and Psychology. “He meets obstacles head on, doesn’t give up and strives on working out any barriers.”

And when it comes to his disability – Martin has a disorder known as arthrogryposis – he hopes everyone will focus on his abilities. When necessary, he works out simple accommodations to do his job. For instance, he uses a cane to reach and adjust the rod as he measures patients’ height.

His coworkers see that resourcefulness every day. He is the first MA in his department, and Klawitter said in the short time he has been there Martin has developed processes and taken the initiative to suggest solutions to serve the department better.

“Don’t assume,” Klawitter said. “I have found Ray to be more adaptable, creative and flexible than most employees when it comes to problem-solving about workflow issues or processes. I think he is the embodiment of the phrase ‘When there is a will, there is a way.’”

As Martin said, “It’s important to see disability as just a different lifestyle, not a barrier.”

Certainly, his coworkers will cheer him on if competes in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. It’s his goal to compete there, but the team isn’t selected until two months before the games .

Until then, he’ll continue training and exploring his prospects in healthcare.

“Working closely with providers in my role as an MA allows me to see the excellent care they provide to patients. This closer look has reinvigorated my passion for medicine and reaffirmed that patient care is my calling.”