Katie Gutierrez does it all

Mom of two small kids works full-time and pursues degree

Returning to school can be intimidating, especially for a working parent.

As a full-time medical technologist at Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, Katie Gutierrez is trained to work in all areas of the lab—analyzing specimens, detecting diseases and monitoring treatments. After her workday, she heads home to her husband, Derek, and their two children, Gracie, 5, and Ryder, 3, and to work on another degree, a bachelor’s in medical laboratory technology.

She holds an associate’s of applied science in medical laboratory science from West Georgia Technical College. Now, she is pursuing her bachelor’s in an online medical laboratory science program offered by Thomas University in Thomasville, about 3 1/2 hours from Carrollton in south Georgia. In 2014, she was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the SouthEastern Association for Clinical Microbiology.

Q: How did you become interested in microbiology?

A: Out of all my classes it was the most interesting. I am very detailed oriented and organized. I want to make sure my results make sense A to Z. For some patients, it’s the difference between life and death.

Q: How has the SEACM scholarship helped you reach your goals?

A: It’s paid part of my tuition and for several of my books, but it’s actually not the only scholarship I’ve received. I’ve received the $500 MLS (Medical Laboratory Science) Scholarship and the William Morris Scholarship from Thomas University.

Q: Why did you pursue another degree?

A: When I was young, my mom went back to school. Knowing she could do it made me believe I could too. The online program at Thomas University allowed me to work full-time without changing my hours. Plus, it’s important to show my kids not to settle for less than what you want.

Q: What’s next for you after graduation?

A: I want to be American Society for Clinical Pathology-certified as a medical technologist. Nationally, it’s the “gold standard” of certification for the lab.

Q: How do you find balance between everything?

A: A lot of my schoolwork is done at night when the kids are asleep, so that when they’re awake and I’m home, I can focus on my family.

Q: What advice would you give other students?

A: Take time for yourself. If you don’t, you’ll get burned out. If I had plans on the weekend, I made sure to work extra hard to finish my assignments for the week. Last summer, I went on a family vacation and was able to take my work with me. I think it’s just finding a balance that works best for each person’s own individual needs.