Years ago, they were teammates on a junior-high pep squad. Cheryl Green was captain of the squad, and Tonya LaForge was one of Green’s protégés.
Fast forward several years later, to 2006. LaForge had just assembled the very first Surgical Technology class for a new program at Angelina College. LaForge would head the program – and one of her first students was Green.
Not only did Green excel in the program, she used her experiences as a launching pad for her current career: Director of Sterile Supply at CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial in Lufkin. This month, Green was selected as a guest speaker at the Texas State Assembly Association of Surgical Technologists workshop in Fort Worth.
LaForge, who nominated Green for the prestigious appearance, said the leadership qualities and motivation she remembered from her former pep squad captain never waned over the years.
“Seeing what Cheryl’s become professionally takes me back to when we were in junior high school together,” LaForge said. “I’ve known her personally, and I always knew she would excel wherever she went. That was on a personal level, so I was excited to have her in my class and see her put those qualities to work on a professional level. Cheryl was part of our first Surgical Technology class, and I feel that first year they taught me more than I taught them.
“I’m just very proud of her. She’s excelled in her area, and she’s still growing.”
In her current position, Green supervises the sterile processing procedures related to surgeries performed at CHI St. Luke’s.
“We’re the ones who make sure all surgical instruments are sterile and put together for all our doctors so they’ll have what they need for each surgery,” Green said.
Green’s path to her current role began with the phlebotomy course offered at Angelina College’s Community Services Division. Then occurred one of those life-changing experiences, one Green credits to her mother.
“I have to give credit to my mom,” Green said. “I actually enjoyed my time as a phlebotomist, but I wanted more opportunity for advancement. I wanted more interaction than what I was getting from my job at the time.
“My mom had a quadruple bypass several years ago, and that’s really where my journey started. I was just finishing the phlebotomy course, and I thought, ‘What’s it really like inside those surgeries?’ When they performed the surgery on my mom, they started at 7:30 that morning and the doctor didn’t come out until 11:30 that night. That’s how intense that heart surgery was. And 12 years later, she’s still healthy.
“That really started it all for me as far as looking for something I wanted to do with my life.”
Green enrolled in the fledgling Surgical Technology program at AC. From there, she said, life just took off.
“I started out as a scrub tech after I completed the program at AC, and I was a scrub tech for three years,” Green said. “I moved over to sterile processing after I had a baby because I wanted steadier hours. I fell in love with the job.”
This month marks four years Green has been the manager at CHI St. Luke’s. Along the way, she’s accumulated quite a list of credentials: Certified Surgical Technician (CST), Certified Registered Sterile Processing Technician (CRST), Certified Health Care Leadership (CHL) and Certified Flexible Endoscope Processor (CFEP).
Green said she realized quickly that crossing the commencement stage at Angelina College was merely the beginning of her learning process, especially in the field of health care.
“AC’s Surgical Technology program was a huge base for me to start,” Green said. “It showed me as a scrub tech what doctors wanted and what was involved in each procedure. When I moved to sterile processing, I knew exactly which doctor was using which set. It was an easy transition.
“Health Care is a never-ending education. I think this program really opened the door to show what’s out there. I loved being a scrub tech, but I love the opportunities it’s created for me. It gave me a base, and I’ve been able to expand on it.”
Green said her learning experiences merely created the desire for even more learning.
“I would tell students now, ‘This is just your first step. You’ll find different procedures and doctors you like and areas in which you’re going to be more interested. You’re going to become more curious, which will make you want to become more knowledgeable.’
“That’s exactly what happened to me.”
Cheryl Green (left), former Angelina College Surgical Technology student and current Director of Sterile Supply at CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial in Lufkin, poses with AC instructor Tonya LaForge before Green’s speaking engagement with the Texas State Assembly Association of Surgical Technologists workshop in Fort Worth. The two were teammates on a junior-high pep squad years before Green enrolled in LaForge’s Surgical Technology course at AC. (AC Press photo)