Breaking Through the Excuses to Advance Your Degree – Bethelhem Markos

 Published: May 15, 2018

By: Heather Willden


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This month we bring our Breaking Through the Excuses series to a close as we learn how Bethelhem Markos is advancing her degree.

Bethelhem’ Story

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Bethelhem Markos

Markos graduated from Boston University with her Bachelor of Science degree in human physiology. She then returned to her hometown of Laurel, Maryland to work for a year as a research assistant and physical therapy technician while searching and applying for graduate schools in the field of allied health.

“I was mostly concerned with choosing the right program and the right field to go into,” Markos said, when asked about what obstacles she faced in her higher education journey. “I knew I was interested in working in medicine but I was still trying to figure out my place in it.”

She was also concerned about how she would pay for school.

The right path

Markos initially planned on entering a physician assistant program, but she then came across Rush University Medical Center’s Master in Respiratory Care program.

“It seemed like a unique program and the field of respiratory therapy aligned with my interests of working in a critical care environment,” Markos said. “I also found the potential for growth in this field to be tremendous, especially with a master’s degree.”

Finding a way

Markos found a way to afford to pursue a higher degree by applying for federal loans, scholarships through Rush University, obtaining a work-study position, and with the support of her family.

“Paying for higher education is not an easy task and is different for each student, so I would recommend meeting with a financial aid counselor at prospective schools to see what kinds of options are available,” Markos said.

A lifelong decision

Markos’ top piece of advice for anyone interested in pursuing higher education is research.

“My biggest tip is to definitely do plenty of research,” Markos said. “Getting an advanced degree usually means that you are choosing a lifelong career path. Do not be afraid to reach out to schools or shadow healthcare providers in the field so you can be confident in your decision.”

When Markos was first learning about respiratory therapy, she often visited the AARC website and its information pages.

“The Careers tab was very helpful in understanding what the profession is all about and gave me insight into what I could expect from respiratory therapy programs,” Markos said. “Also, as I browsed through the News section I found stories about new research taking place in respiratory care, which I found exciting because I hope to continue working in research in the future.”

An added perspective

For an added perspective to this story, Markos reached out to her colleague Zoë Bilello, a fellow student pursuing a master’s degree. Markos and Bilello worked together on a proposal to present their current research on “Exploring the Development of a Standardized Respiratory Care Language” at the 2018 AARC conference.

Why are you pursuing a higher degree?

Bilello: I am pursuing the Masters in Respiratory Care because I have a passion for problem-solving and a need to be of service to others. The path to this decision was not direct. After completing my undergraduate degree in biology, I actually chose to get my BFA in studio art and spent a year in a related career field before finding myself at Rush. My professional life wasn’t stretching me enough mentally and didn’t allow me to be of value in a way I felt was meaningful. I can confidently say that the Masters in Respiratory Care is preparing me to be an outstanding clinician and leader.

What has been your biggest obstacle in pursuing your higher education degree? And, how did you overcome that barrier?

Bilello: I think the biggest obstacle in pursuing this degree has been maintaining a work-life balance. When I started out, I was very concerned that any missed question on an exam directly related to a time I might harm a patient in the future. I obsessed over my studies and didn’t allow any time for myself. As time in the program went on, I realized that almost all concepts are taught once and then reinforced time and time again across different classes. Acknowledgment of this teaching process, along with a lot of reassurance from our faculty has allowed me to take on a healthier mindset and give myself a break.

What so far has been the most exciting part of being in a higher ed program?

Bilello: Research! Beth and I, with the guidance our professor Dr. Constance Mussa, have been working on a really exciting project that began in one of our first term courses. Our research, entitled Exploring the Development of a Standardized Respiratory Care Language, aims to create continuity of communication, support evidence-based practice, enhance respiratory care research and education, and demonstrate the value of the respiratory therapist as an integral part of the healthcare team. We have received such support and positive feedback. I can’t wait to take the process to the next level!

Tips for Advancing Your Degree

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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