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December 19, 2007 > From Heartbreak to a New Beginning

From Heartbreak to a New Beginning

One Hospital Employee's Journey to a New Health Care Career

Mohammad Mojaddedi was a medical student when larger forces forced him to flee his native Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the late 1980's. Mohammad, who came to work for Washington Hospital in 2001 says he never could image working in any other field but health care.

After leaving Afghanistan, Mojaddedi lived in Pakistan for five years before moving to the Bay Area. Upon arrival he realized that he would have to start over from scratch in order to attain the type of career he long dreamed of. Initially, Mohammad worked at the San Francisco Marriot as a restaurant and catering manager in order to support his family and save enough money to return to school.

"At the time I had my bachelors degree in Physics and I knew that I was best suited for a career in the medical field. This long held conviction prompted me to finish a diagnostic imaging degree at San Francisco City College so that I could establish a career in the medical field. Prior to that, I had gained some experience working in Pakistan as head of dispensary medical teams to treat Afghan refugees in refugee camps."

Mojaddedi began to make headway and passed the oral exams and was accepted into dental school in San Francisco. He ardently finished his application and was later heartbroken to discover that dental school would cost more than $150,000 to complete. Considering his financial situation and the expense of providing for a family, Mojaddedi realized it would be detrimental for him to incur such a heavy cost.

Not willing to give up, he called a friend who informed him about a radiology program at San Francisco City College. With the deadline looming, Mojaddedi completed the application and obtained a letter of recommendation from a professor in just two days.
With 164 people on the waiting list for a program that would select only 14 students, Mojaddedi hurriedly sent transcripts from medical school in Afghanistan and waited to hear back. Saying of his acceptance that he was "lucky," he went on to complete the two-year program and began working for San Francisco General Hospital as a radiology technician.

After commuting from his home in Fremont to San Francisco for six years, Mojaddedi realized that he had a keen interest in helping his local Fremont community, a city home to one of the largest Afghan communities in the world. Now, as Lead Radiology Technician in the Medical Imaging Department at Washington Hospital, he leads a team of 27 technologists responsible for imaging in the main hospital as well as the Outpatient Imaging Center across the street at 2500 Mowry Avenue.

Mojaddedi's position in the department reflects numerous responsibilities that include patient care, scheduling, departmental matters, clinical instruction, training of new employees, quality control and assurance, employee evaluations, coordination of procedures and scheduling procedures with doctors' offices.

Mojaddedi soon found ways to expand his career horizons at the hospital. In 2001, he helped propose that Washington Hospital become a clinical teaching site for radiology technician students. With the help and guidance of Don Wood, Washington Hospital's Director of Medical Imaging, this idea soon materialized and Mojaddedi became the clinical instructor and department lead technologist. Additionally, and in conjunction with the Fremont Unified School District, Mojaddedi is responsible for orienting and supervising high school students as a part of a job-shadowing program at the hospital.

"I receive great joy in working with and mentoring students," Mojaddedi says. "It is personally enriching and it allows me to give back to my community."

Mojaddedi is involved in many community and outreach programs, both in his community and abroad. He has taken an active role in humanitarian projects in his native Afghanistan and has helped to both construct an orphanage and with the support from Washington Hospital and a local rotary club, travel to Afghanistan to establish an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a local hospital.

Mojaddedi says the field of radiology has expanded greatly over the last decade with evolving technologies, including the emergence of gamma knife procedures, advances in ultrasound technology, fluoroscopy and new Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) procedures.

"In order to be successful in this field, you need to have a firm grasp of technology," he says. "Technology is changing every few years, and it's necessary to keep up with your education and stay up-to-date on the new high tech equipment as it's being developed."

While knowing the technology is critical, Mojaddedi says the most important aspect to his career is an unbending desire to genuinely want to help people. Fluent in Persian, Urdu and Pashto in addition to English, his language skills have aided his ability to serve a diverse patient population in the Tri-City area.

For those thinking of entering the radiology field, he has plenty of advice. "It's critical for people who are coming into the medical field to be willing to have sympathy for patients," he says. "Patients come to the hospital out of necessity and they come because they need our help and our undivided attention. Providing high quality patient care is the number one priority."

For future students and those who may be interested in a career in medical imaging, Mojaddedi recommends that potential radiology technician students have some science background in areas such as anatomy, physiology and human psychology. He expects the job prospects in his field will continue to expand in the future as many other health care careers are expected to.

To learn about services and programs at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com and click on "Services & Programs." To search for available jobs at the hospital, click on the "Careers" tab on the Home page.

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