Donors Make Career Advancement Possible

Todd Van Auken, M.Ed., R.T.(R)(MR)
Dec. 22, 2016

Todd VanAukenChanging the trajectory of my career was the right choice, but it meant starting over and working my way up from the bottom. Now, thanks to the generous support of donors, I am once again poised to advance in the profession.

After eight years of working in the profession, I was on the fast track toward becoming an imaging department manager. While gaining experience in the medical imaging areas of trauma, interventional radiography and magnetic resonance imaging, I earned my bachelor’s degree in business management and completed a 64-hour leadership training program offered by my employer. However, I knew deep down that that wasn’t where I wanted my career to go.

In 2006, I made the nerve-wracking decision to step away from the career path laid out in front of me in order to pursue my passion for teaching. I became an adjunct instructor in the radiography program at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida, the same program where I had earned my associate degree in 1998.

Five years and a master’s degree later, I became a full-time faculty member and clinical coordinator at St. Petersburg College. I am fortunate to work alongside my mentor in the same program where I first became involved in the radiologic sciences. Together, he and I have worked with our adjunct instructors and representatives from the radiologic technology community to create an environment of collaboration and trust between the program and clinical sites.

Working closely with individuals working in various aspects of the profession made me realize that I wanted to become a leader in the radiologic sciences. I wanted to take another step forward in my career and become a program director. The timing seemed perfect because the current director would be retiring within the next few years.

This meant that I needed to prepare myself for the possibility of taking over the role, which would include earning a doctorate. That’s where the ASRT Foundation and its generous donors helped change my life as well as the lives of my family.

The financial burden of obtaining an advanced degree can be overwhelming, especially when supporting a family. My wife and I have four wonderful children, and as I write this we are expecting our fifth child. Needless to say, between household expenses and supporting the activities our children participate in, our budget is tight.

College tuition is continuously increasing, and the student loan debt I acquired while earning my master’s weighed heavily on my family. We couldn’t afford for me to pursue a doctoral degree. It was disappointing, because putting my education off until we could afford for me to return to school would likely mean I would not be prepared to advance my career when the opportunity arose in the future.

I applied for a donor-funded scholarship from the Foundation hoping to receive the hand up I needed to achieve my professional goals. Words can’t adequately express how I felt when I received the news that I had been selected to receive a Professional Advancement scholarship from the Foundation. It was an honor to know that generous donors believed in me enough to help me take the next step forward in my career.

The scholarship allowed me to enroll in a program in 2013, and now I am a doctoral candidate working on my dissertation for a Ph.D. in Career and Workforce Education from the University of South Florida in Tampa. This program has taught me what I need to know to take on the responsibilities of a radiography program director and to best serve the college, our students and the local imaging community.

I would not be where I am today without the generosity of those who contributed to the Foundation. Donors helped me overcome the financial challenges of earning the education I needed to succeed and empowered me to pursue my professional goals. The Foundation and its donors play a major role in the advancement of our profession through the development of those who wish to grow in the medical imaging and radiation therapy community.

Professionally, the degree that donors helped make possible will ensure that I am ready to support my students and keep our program running at its best. Personally, my doctorate will serve as an example for my children that with hard work and support from family and organizations like the Foundation and its donors, they too can accomplish their goals.

I hope that sharing my story will help donors understand the difference they are making in the R.T. community. I hope it inspires them to continue supporting the Foundation so that others in the profession can pursue their passion for radiologic technology as well.