Monica Thurston’s leadership garners Black Faculty and Staff Association award

By Juan Calvillo

Monica Thurston, Allied Health department chair, said bonds she made with faculty and teach-by-example mentality are major components to good leadership at the college. 

The Los Angeles Community College District Black Faculty and Staff Association highlighted the leadership of Thurston and two other members of East Los Angeles College’s faculty and staff on Feb. 23 during the Black History Month Celebration Mixer and Awards Ceremony.

When it comes to leadership among her colleagues, Thurston said the department thrives on input from everyone that is a part of it. 

She said the different backgrounds and disciplines within Allied Health allow for a sense of creativity and freedom. The department is full of true health care professionals and Thruston said it is the bonds the group have created that help her lead and work together with her team so well.

Thurston said her focus with students is to see them get to the end of their scholastic goals. 

To that end, she tells her students how she came up in her profession and how they can accomplish their goals. 

She said leading her students is about setting a good example of what it means to work in Allied Health and its various disciplines. Thurston said that she got to where she is today through the help of two mentors, one of which is Dorothy M. Hendrix, Allied Health Curriculum Specialist Health Information Technology.

Thruston said one of the biggest parts of Allied Health professions is listening. She said to help students focus on this and be informed about post graduation responsibilities, she would gather groups of students and take them to the California Health Information Association Convention. 

She said this would help students learn more acutely what is going to be expected of them in the real world.

She said her goal is to make sure all her students understand what they need to be prepared to do once they graduate from school. This includes continuing to earn continued education units that the HIT students need to earn every two years. 

She said showing students what they need to know and do is important to her and to her students. It is all about leading by example.

“I inform the student that, ‘The things I am asking you to do, all it would do is make you a better person [in] the end,” Thurston said.

The BFSA awards ceremony is co-sponsored by the African American Initiative. 

Dr. Dionne Washington, second vice president of the BFSA, said the association was honored to award Thurston with the dedicated leadership award.

“She is truly a gift to East Los Angeles College, and the Los Angeles Community College District at large. She represents everything that the BFSA stands for. Indeed, she is the textbook definition of excellence,” Washington said.

She said the association sees leadership as the main guide for everything BFSA does. The association works with the LACCD to advocate for fair hiring, encouraging professional excellence through networking and mentoring, creating a sense of community and enhancing self-esteem. 

This is just a little bit of what the BFSA and the LACCD do for African American faculty and staff. 

Thurston has been in Allied Health at ELAC for 10 years and said she is glad that the department has received the type of recognition that comes from a BFSA award. 

She is recognized as a leader not just in her department but on campus as a whole. 

Her time in the Allied Health Department started in 2013, back when it was still under Life Sciences. Thurston said the two separated in 2015 and that with support of faculty she was voted as the chair of the new department in 2016. 

Alberto Roman, ELAC president, said when it comes to Allied Health it’s hard not to think of Thurston. He said the leadership she exemplifies is a credit to ELAC’s quality programs.

“Her ability to understand and respond to the needs of our students is commendable. More recently, we tasked Chair Thurston to lead ELAC’s efforts to create a Bachelor’s of Health Information Management. 

“This will be an amazing accomplishment for ELAC’s and the first BA degree offered to our Allied Health students. We could not do this without the leadership of Chair Thurston,” Roman said.

During her time as chair of the Allied Health department, Thurston said the department has added new programs. 

The Allied Health program consists of programs that exclude nurses and physicians. 

This would mean things like Health Information Technologies and Technicians, Lab Techs, Phlebotomists, Speech therapy, Physical therapy and various others. 

Both the Monterey Park Campus and the South Gate Center have Allied Health programs for students. 

Thurston said converting the HIT program entirely online was key to getting students access to the program. 

These students are typically those that can’t take classes during the day for a variety of reasons and thus take the courses online in the evenings. 

Since arriving at ELAC ,Thurston has put immense work into making Allied Health what it is today. Thurston said some people might say she puts too much into her work or that what she does is extra. 

She said what she does is required for her work and is a normal amount and that it’s the work of not only herself but her faculty and staff in Allied Health that does the trick. She said that all the work has been challenging but that she focuses on why she came to ELAC to get her through it.

“I’m here at ELAC to offer the student the opportunity to receive training and education in Allied Health professions,” Thurston said.

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