Emily Whitley

Emily Whitley—Starting Over Brings Great Rewards
ITA Program
Individual Training Scholarship to Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics

Emily Whitley, worked for over fourteen years at the Sara Lee Bakery plant in Fort Payne, Alabama, along with her husband Garry. In July 2004 it was announced that the Fort Payne plant would close. In July 2004, her husband was transferred to the local Mobile, Alabama Sara Lee Bakery plant, but Whitley was asked to take early retirement and was essentially laid off from her job. Says Whitley, “It was devastating to lose my job after all those years and realize I would need a totally new career if I was to ever work again!” Whitley stayed in Fort Payne until December of 2004, when she moved to Mobile to join her husband Garry.

Whitley, who already had a two year Associate’s of Science degree with a major in elementary education from Northeast State Junior College in Rainsville, Alabama, knew that she never wanted to be in that position ever again. So she decided she would explore what possibilities lay in store for her in the medical field, since medical jobs are typically high demand occupations. 

Almost immediately after being laid off, Whitley came up with a strategy. She would work part-time as a nurse’s assistant at DeKalb Baptist Hospital in Fort Payne until she joined her husband in Mobile and get a good feel for what types of jobs were out there and what she might like to do. So she did just that. Whitley says, “I would proactively ask my supervisors if it would be okay for me to observe other workers informally in different areas of the hospital so that I could get a feel for what they did. Nobody ever said no and it was a wonderful way to learn what I wanted to do!” 

In addition to that Whitely researched job trends, salary data and other statistical information to help her make her career choice. During her informal observations Whitley had decided she would like to work somewhere in the radiology field; and based on her research, she decided to study diagnostic ultrasound since that field was in higher demand than X-ray technicians, which were already in good supply. According to Whitley, a bonus was that it took a shorter length of time to complete diagnostic ultrasound training.

Whitley had heard about the Mobile Works Individual Training Scholarship program and she found out that she was eligible to study at the Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics Medical Sonography program, which requires two years of college level courses, including certain medical courses. Since Whitely already had her Associate’s degree, she went back to school to get her medical prerequisite courses out of the way, including Anatomy 1 & 2, Physics, Medical Terminology and Medical Ethics. She took some of the courses at Gadsden State Junior College until she moved to Mobile to join her husband, then took the rest of her prerequisites at Faulkner State and the University of South Alabama in Mobile, once she arrived here. Then she was ready to begin her studies with the Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics. 

The Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer program is a very difficult program, in which continuous learning is required throughout one’s career, to keep up with rapid technological changes. It features intense military-style training which is extremely fast-paced. According to Kathy Gill, owner of the Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics, and Whitley’s instructor, “The program requires self-discipline, self-motivation and lots of studying, but for those who are willing to put in the work, it pays off. tell my students that if they do what I tell them to do, when I tell them to do and how I tell them to do it, they’ll be successful—and it’s true, just look at Emily! She took the tests required by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers to qualify in not just one, but two of the areas in which diagnostic medical sonographers can become nationally recognized and registered: Abdominal Sonography and OB/GYN Sonography, which includes being able to do complete ultrasound sonography on every organ that impacts the health of an expectant mother.”

Says Gill, “Emily was an outstanding student who applied herself and did so well that she had a firm job offer from Providence Hospital, one of our clinical affiliates, in late March when she just over halfway through the twelve-month program! They had worked with her and were so impressed that they wanted to ensure she would go to work for them as soon as she graduated in late June and she went to work for them in the second week of July.”

Veronica Duncan, Ultrasound Supervisor in the Radiology Department, Ultrasound Division, at Providence Hospital, says, “Emily is phenomenal! She’s been with us six months and has a great work ethic, a quick learner and does technically excellent, high quality work! And on top of that, she is just a really good person too, which is important when you are working with someone so closely.” 

“The assistance that I received from Mobile Works allowed me to go back to school and get an entirely new career!,” said Whitley, who rattled off a list of positives. “It made a huge difference for me and my husband Garry—we don’t have to worry about our financial future any more. I’m not worried about being laid off again because I have a great new career as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, which is a high demand field and I make significantly more money than I did in my former career!” 

When asked about what it took to get through school successfully, Whitley replies, “I had to be 110% committed and I was because I understood failure was not an option, even though it was a very intense and sometimes overwhelming program. But you just have to persevere and study hard to get through it.” As to how she stays successful in her job, Whitley adds, “I keep learning everyday and I have to, because I’m a perfectionist, looking out for the patients who come for ultrasound, since their health is my number one priority. I want my findings to be complete and accurate.” 

Emily Whitley has more goals, including getting certified in Vascular Ultrasound, something that will help her add value to her employer and which she can accomplish with cross-training at work and more studying. At Mobile Works, we are confident that she’s going to get through it with the same attitude that made her a winner to date and we applaud her on her success.

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