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November 7, 2022

Uche Uzo understands the career of continuous learning offers. At 32 years old, she is taking the steps needed to achieve her career goals. Inspired by her passion for helping people and equipped with a master’s degree in public health, she decided to take on the challenge of going back to school as a participant in our Substance Use Disorder Counselor (SUD) Training program. As part of the program, she is receiving on the job training in her internship with Family Health Centers of San Diego. Here Uzo shares with us what it truly means to be of service to others. 

It is my calling to help people. I have always known at my core that my career path would be in healthcare. What took time was figuring out how to manifest my passion into the right job. It took some trial and error, but ultimately, I had to find a way to help that felt right to me. 

When I started my career, I thought nursing was the right job. After obtaining a master’s degree in public health and working as a nurse, I discovered that nursing was not the right fit for me. As an overly empathetic person, seeing people suffering was hard for me and having to work with their families during times of sickness and death was too much. I began to search for other ways I could use my talents and then the pandemic hit. 

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The pandemic was a significant call to serve for all healthcare workers, and I was in the thick of it. I landed a two-year contract with the County of San Diego to help deliver resources and services to families in need. There were so many people in need and it was the best place for me to be. As the pandemic became less severe and my contract ended, I knew it was time to figure out what I wanted to do next. 

That’s when I received an email about the SUD program. I thought it would be a great steppingstone toward finding a long-term career path better suited to me. That’s when I decided to join the program. 

Even though I already had a degree in public health, the first few classes were challenging. Learning about the theoretical and practical concepts of drug use and its effects on the body, both mentally and physically, was a lot to learn. I had to draw on the same strength and determination that got me through my graduate program.  

Going back to school is much different and more difficult because I must juggle more responsibilities; now, I am a mother of three young kids, ages 6, 5 and 2, with a husband on active duty who has been deployed for the past two years. I had many conflicting priorities and very few quiet places to study. On top of that I am required to work under a certified substance use counselor as an intern.  

I applied and was accepted at Family Health Centers of San Diego. I am getting hands-on experience working with individuals who are struggling with substance use. While working at Family Health Centers I can connect what I have learned in school with real people and experience. Even though it was difficult at first, I was able to find my footing and am now more comfortable balancing my responsibilities as a mother, my coursework and my internship with Family Health Centers. Luckily, I have Natasha, my program navigator, to help me. 

Uche 16:9I needed help obtaining references and other required documents when I  applied for my internship. No one I reached out to initially had responded to my request. As soon as I spoke with Natasha, she jumped in and I got the information I needed the next day.  

Thanks to her and the program I work in a place I enjoy; I love my work with Family Health Centers. Having the opportunity to help people to live a better life is what I have always dreamed of doing. Although at times, it can be challenging and uncomfortable, this new journey aligns with everything that defines me as a human being.  

It’s not a job anyone can do and I only recommend it to people who genuinely have a passion for helping others. The population I serve is hurting, their pain can lead them to doubt my sincerity, and I have been spat at and cursed out, but it’s all worth it to see the impact I’m making on their lives. 

This experience I am gaining as a SUD counselor will open many doors for me in public health. I will use this opportunity to leverage my knowledge, obtain a second master’s degree, and become a licensed social worker. 

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