When Lirio Balbuena Romero moved to the United States 13 years ago, she didn’t know a word of English. Her father died when she was 7, and her mother moved to the United States to work and save enough money to bring Romero and her two siblings. Together again, the family has lived in Sun City, Fallbrook, and Temecula, Calif., where her mother stresses the importance of education.
“She has always pushed my siblings and me to go to school and prepare ourselves to have a better life than she had,” says Romero, now 28.
In high school, Romero was active in community service, filling a binder with commendations and certificates for her work, including service with Vista Community Clinic (VCC), where she first learned about the medical services accessible to residents in need. Without language skills or transportation, one of the struggles Romero’s family had after arriving in the United States was access to healthcare.
“Even though (medical services) were available for the community, we didn’t know where to obtain them,” Romero remembers. “Now, that is something that I want to share with the community.”
Three years ago, Romero became a staff member at Vista Community Clinic and she has worked at several sites as a receptionist, patient services representative, outreach worker for health promotion, prenatal assistant and OB-GYN surgery scheduler.
But her goal was to work directly with patients as a medical assistant. When VCC announced a new medical assistant training program in partnership with CSUSM, Romero immediately signed up. The six-month program was challenging, she says, but she was able to master all of the skills she needs, and it gave her the flexibility to continue working full-time while she earned her certificate.
“I’m putting into practice everything I learned I’m doing injections on my patients, immunizations, lab work, vital signs,” Romero says, now three months into her new position as a medical assistant with VCC. But she wants to provide more. “I am the type of person that believes patients need more than treatment or a plan; they also need to be surrounded by hope, confidence and respect.”
Keeping her mother’s advice close to her heart, Romero is sure she is not done with education. “I would like to become an RN so I can help my community more,” she says. “Someday, I would like to travel to different countries and provide health services for people who don’t have access to those services. That is my biggest dream.”