Elias Sanchez leans over a medical human manikin holding the stethoscope to it's chest

Keeping it local

GVSU student finds path at Traverse City Regional Center

Share this page via facebook Share this page via twitter

stethoscope icon

Sanchez and his mother moved to Traverse City from Florida several years ago. After graduating from Central High School, he decided to attend Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) to earn an associate degree in biomedical sciences.

During one of his NMC classes, representatives from Grand Valley’s pre-physician assistant club gave a presentation about the program. It sparked his interest in becoming a physician assistant and Sanchez decided to attend a meeting to learn more. 

Sanchez discovered GVSU’s Traverse City Regional Center, which offers an allied health sciences program for students in northern Michigan. Once Sanchez learned he could attend GVSU without having to move away from home, he knew that was the best option for him. 

“I didn’t want to take out too many student loans and move to Allendale. Being able to stay local and get the exact same degree was phenomenal. That’s what really drew me to Grand Valley,” said Sanchez.

Even before enrolling at GVSU, Sanchez felt supported by the staff at the Regional Center. He credits Jackie Abeyta, an advisor, with making him feel comfortable with the program and understanding the courses he would take.

Sanchez is now enrolled full-time in the allied health sciences program with plans to graduate in May 2023. He hopes to continue his studies with GVSU with the master of physician assistant studies program, also housed in the Traverse City Regional Center. 

Sanchez said he eventually wants to work as a physician assistant at Munson Medical Center, where he currently serves as a phlebotomist. 

“I had a choice between being a nurse aide or a phlebotomist. A friend of mine had gotten certified as a phlebotomist through Munson and I thought it sounded really cool,” said Sanchez. 

After three weeks of on-the-job training, he was certified and ready to work. His role has taken him to various departments around the hospital, which Sanchez said has been an excellent learning experience.

“I love it. I get so much exposure working throughout the hospital. ER, outpatient, inpatient, I get to do it all,” he said.

Sanchez works three, 12-hour shifts per week, mostly on weekends, in order to allow him to focus on his coursework during the week. 

Sanchez admitted it can be a lot to juggle, but said he has found a productive routine for himself. He tries to hit the gym daily, and enjoys snowboarding at Crystal Mountain in the winter, which is a short drive from Traverse City.

No matter where life takes him next, Sanchez is thankful for the experiences he’s had so far, and is hopeful for the future. 

“One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was going to Grand Valley through the Traverse City Regional Center. It’s opened so many doors for me,” he said.