Community Spotlight: Navy veteran to graduate with top honors

NORFOLK — Brandon Hutchins, a Chesapeake native and former Hospital Corpsman (HM) 2nd Class, is one of the first graduates in the Healthcare Administration Bachelor Degree Program (launched January 2010 with eight students) at Medical Careers Institute (MCI), the School of Health Science of ECPI University. With the assistance of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits and a little bit of military intuition, Hutchins is now in line to graduate with great honor (Magna Cum Laude) in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration.

Hutchins’ military career spanned from June 17, 1999 to March 7, 2010. He originally entered the Navy as a dental technician, but later transitioned into the HM rating. As a HM-8404 field medical service technician, Hutchins was responsible for providing technical and administrative assistance to support the mission and functions of Navy and Marine Corps field units. His last duty station was in Al Anbar province, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Hutchins left the military to pursue his education. When looking for a university with the right fit for him, ECPI University was chosen because their programs allowed him to graduate in as little as 2.5 years. Unlike many college students who begin college immediately after completing high school, Hutchins, now 30, started college as a war veteran, married and a father of three children. He credits his Navy training for getting him prepared and also for a portion of his academic success.

“The military taught me how to overcome not just adversity itself, but also stress,” said Hutchins. “I don’t stress as much.” He has experienced being overwhelmed at times when his instructors throw him some “curve balls,” but for the most part has handled the entire experience in stride.

When academic challenges arose, Hutchins said that he drew from survival instincts learned in boot camp.

“Any class that I thought was going to be problematic or cause me any sort of problems – I focused on it,” he said. “I went home and I studied – I was constantly taking notes – and I did well. I have an A average … the fear of not getting through, you know, I would probably let a lot of people down if I didn’t finish or do well. If I tell my kids, ‘Hey, you guys have to make A’s,’ I can’t tell them to make A’s and I’m not making A’s.”

Hutchins also lauds the support he has received from the university and the teaching staff.

“I’ve got strong support here [MCI],” he said. “I’ve got support here and I’ve got support at ECPI. I’ve met all the right people and brokered all the right deals. It’s been great – I can’t say anything bad about it.”

Although Hutchins is humble despite his amazing success, his instructors say that he is a great leader for students – both present and future.

“He’s absolutely a role model,” said Dr. Dawn B. Campbell, Director of Health Administration at ECPI College of Technology, Virginia Beach. “Everything that we put forth to get these students ready to be healthcare administrators, Brandon takes to heart. When we say that you’ve got to be professional, he dresses – always – professionally. You’ve got to be punctual – Brandon is always there at least a half an hour before class starts, and he’s not just there, he’s ready to go!”

“[Brandon] typifies everything that is right and good about a student making the transition from military to a new career,” said Matthew Albano, Campus President, MCI. “Brandon has certainly set a tremendous example, not only for other people in the Heathcare Administration Program, but just for students in general – the way he comports himself, his professionalism, his demeanor … really we couldn’t ask for a more ideal student.”

Hutchins offered some valuable advice to service members who are planning to leave military service and want to pursue higher education.

“First and foremost, if you are planning on transitioning – just be prepared. Don’t get out without a plan,” he said. ‘That’s the biggest downfall I’ve seen in people that I’ve been stationed with go through … know what you want to do when you get out, not necessarily the school, but prior to getting out when you’re getting ready for TAP [Transition Assistance Program], make sure that you have plans … and just focus, you have to focus. The same amount of determination and motivation you had in the military, you’ve got to bring that with you – wherever you go.”

Upon graduation, Hutchins has plans to continue his education and hopes to eventually earn a Master’s degree. To date, he has had the opportunity to do an internship with Navy Medical Center Portsmouth about a year ago, and is approaching his final internship with Sentara Healthcare in May.

The Healthcare Administration Bachelor Degree Program at Medical Careers Institute is dedicated to providing student-centered education opportunities in the fundamental areas of healthcare administration including: Finance, Accounting, Management, Technology, Community Health, Epidemiology, Healthcare Research, Long-term Care Administration, Global Health, Managed Care and Healthcare Delivery Systems. Currently, MCI has approximately 750 students enrolled in various degree programs.

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