Alumni Spotlight Archive
Paying it forward through education
Rebecca Sajdak views her career success as a chance to give back through education. As senior nuclear medicine technologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Sajdak and her hospital staff always take time to thoroughly educate the college students who come to the hospital to practice their clinical work on Nuclear Medicine – a very specialized field. Sajdak has served as a role model for students and professionals and an expert in the field since receiving her associate's degree from Triton College in 1991.
That's why it's only fitting that Sajdak of Plainfield received the 2013 National Technologist of the Year award from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging for her longtime dedication to the field. "It has been an honor to serve and meet nationally recognized physicians and technologists from across the globe," said Sajdak, who also holds a bachelor's degree in General Integrated Studies from Loyola University.
But, the true reward for Sajdak has been an outreach program created by the National Society and the Central Chapter Society of Nuclear Medicine that, as a member, has allowed her to travel and speak to high school students and technologists unable to attend the society's seminars about Nuclear Medicine. She loves having the opportunity to pay it forward.
What have been some obstacles you've had to overcome in pursuit of your education and career goals?
I completed my associate's degree while working full time. My husband supported my career choice and has encouraged me throughout my career to finish my bachelor's degree. He also has supported my involvement with the Society of Nuclear Medicine and has helped at home, as I travel on many speaking engagements.
What have been some sources of inspiration both in your career and in your life?
My inspiration comes first from God and family, and then from all the technologists and physicians with whom I work: Dr. Robert Wagner, Dr. Stephen Karesh, Dr. Davida Bova, Dr. James Halama and Dr. Gary Dillehay have been my family in Nuclear Medicine and have guided me and supported all of my goals. My gratitude especially goes out to Dr. Robert Henkin who was the director of Nuclear Medicine at Loyola for many years. He supported this technologist and has remained a true mentor and friend even after he retired from Loyola. He continues to support the Society and helps any physician or technologist that wants to be involved. My husband and family (son, grandsons and daughter-in-law) remain my never-ending, constant support system, and they hold down the household when I travel for the Society.
What would you describe as your strong suit?
My strong suit is the constant pursuit of making the world around me a little better. I believe we must pay forward the rewards of our life by getting the message out to young people looking for their way in life. If we each do one little thing for the next generation, the world will become a better place with hope and goals.
How has Triton College impacted your life?
Triton has impacted my life by giving me an excellent education in Nuclear Medicine. Chuck Burchett was my instructor and was the type of teacher who could work with any type of student. He would encourage and never belittle anyone. He'd help by giving the classroom a voice.
What advice would you give someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?
I would encourage anyone looking for a career in the health industry to look closely at the available careers in Nuclear Medicine or any of the allied health fields. Not everyone wants to be a nurse or doctor, but they enjoy the sciences and people. This is all one needs to pursue a career in Nuclear Medicine. We are a unique diagnostic field that looks at the "function" rather than the anatomy of an individual's body.
What are your words of wisdom for current Triton students?
I would encourage any Triton student to "dream." Each baby step will bring them closer to becoming anything that they desire. It may not be any easy road, but look at it as a journey that will pay off economically and enrich your life.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future include continuing to educate students in Triton’s Health Careers program that do their clinical rotation at our hospital, and to each day make the world around me a better place by giving the patients we serve the best of care. I also intend to remain active in the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
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