(HARLINGEN, Texas) – U.S. Army veteran Alfredo Casillas, of San Benito, always had a desire to people the community in health care. He served as a certified combat medic in the military.
“I researched TSTC’s allied health programs and the duration for that program appealed to me,” he said. “I was ready to work, but I also longed to help the community.”
Casillas earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology from TSTC in 2020. In addition, he became certified through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
The next chapter of his life led to his health care career at Cornerstone Regional Hospital in Edinburg. He accepted a job as a certified surgical technician.
“My duties include arranging the surgical tools for each procedure,” he said. “I also maintain sterile techniques and assist the doctor with instrumentation during a surgery.”
He added that a majority of the surgeries the doctors and nurses handle are orthopedic and neurological.
“We assist patients that require fracture repair, knee replacements and hip replacements,” he said. “We also help our youth that have broken hands or arms. It is a wonderful feeling to learn that we contributed to the improvement of patients’ health.”
Casillas is honored by the experience he attained at Cornerstone Regional Hospital in Edinburg.
He recently accepted a job as a surgical technician at the Veteran Affairs Clinic in Harlingen.
“I am thrilled to connect to my military background and assist those with my expertise,” he said.
He credits the success at his place of employment to the educational lessons from TSTC’s surgical technology instructors.
“The program was engaging, but then COVID-19 changed several aspects of our education,” he said. “Our instructors went above and beyond to ensure our learning experience continued. It was great to know they were available every step of the way.”
Casillas is humbled for the second-phase of his program experience.
“When I transitioned back to civilian life I was eager to begin everything quickly,” he said. “I enrolled in the program, but I only completed a few semesters. I decided to take a break. Then a former classmate reached out to me one day. She informed me (Anna) San Pedro, a Surgical Technology instructor, inquired how I was doing. I returned to the program and earned an Associate of Applied Science degree from the program thanks to my former instructor.”
Anna San Pedro, a Surgical Technology instructor in Harlingen, said Casillas’ commitment and dedication to the program and himself demonstrated his character.
“His positive attitude, perseverance, and resilience played an integral part in his success,” San Pedro said. “Casillas is a military veteran with a strong code of ethics and core values. His understanding of these principles greatly influenced his success in Surgical Technology.”
His advice for prospective students interested in pursuing this program at TSTC.
“I strongly suggest you learn the instruments by name, picture, feel and sight,” he said. “It is also important to remember that the patient is your priority and their safety is vital.”
According to onetonline.org, surgical technologists can earn a yearly median salary of more than $50,930 in Texas. Those jobs are expected to increase 14% in the state by 2028.
TSTC offers Surgical Technology at the Harlingen campus, where students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.