2018 Business Graduate Gives Back to Field That Gave Her So Much
Yara Fernandez has her eyes set on giving back to the field of health care. After having three major surgeries as a child, she is determined to help people in need of health care as she once was. “I hope to make a difference in someone’s life like the hospital staff once did for me,” she says. “I want to help others. It is my passion, and it will continue to be as I take on this journey in health care.”
In June, Fernandez received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Walla Walla University (WWU) with a concentration in finance. In August, she began an exclusive finance residency program in Tampa, Fla., where she is rotating through different finance and accounting departments in the Adventist Health System while working on a master’s degree. Fernandez believes every piece of the health care puzzle matters and, through her work in hospital finance, she can make a difference in the lives of patients.
Fernandez says the School of Business, among other departments at WWU, did a great job of teaching her skills in a variety of areas including accounting, finance, ethics and psychology, which have made her a valuable candidate in the eyes of employers. “My professors have prepared me with real-life examples that I will be able to apply in the work that I will be doing,” she says. “I know I may not know everything about business, but I feel prepared enough to start in health care. I know I will quickly pick up the new tactics and aspects of the organization thanks to the skills my professors helped me develop.”
During her time at WWU, Fernandez completed internships at Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) and at Centura Health in Colorado. During her internship with the UCC, Fernandez worked with treasury databases to ensure confidential workflow while collecting and recording more than $200,000 per day. At Centura Health, she analyzed cosmetic surgery data and discovered a way to improve the hospital’s revenue by 7 percent on a specific surgical procedure. Using the Lean Six Sigma method, she also identified a way to save the hospital more than $300,000 on surgical tools.
Fernandez credits the School of Business and the WWU Student Development Center with helping her obtain her two internships. With the assistance of Lana Van Dorn, School of Business administrative assistant, she was able to see all of the available internship opportunities and to choose the ones that were most appealing to her. Fernandez also says David Lindstrom, Student Development Center director, was very supportive in helping her search for internships and career opportunities, update her resume, and improve her interviewing skills.
Dream. Plan. Believe.
Fernandez also credits the support she received from the WWU student financial services team and from church members throughout the North Pacific Union Conference. Like many students at WWU, Fernandez earned scholarships to help fund her college education. She was awarded the 2018 Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs School of Business Leadership Award and the Helen Wineberg Kendall Scholarship from the WWU School of Business for her academic performance, integrity and exceptional leadership skills. Fernandez also received the Class of 1978 Scholarship and the Thais Thrasher Sadoyama Scholarship, as well as financial support from her home church, which WWU matched dollar for dollar. Overall, she earned nearly $70,000 in scholarships and grants.
Fernandez comes from a hardworking family that has taught her to trust God and never give up on her dreams. “My family is my biggest motivation to be successful in life,” she says. “I work hard to make my family proud and to be able to give back to them in the future. I also strive to be a positive influence in my younger sister’s life. My family members are my greatest supporters in life.”
The majority of WWU students fund their education through work, family support, scholarships, student loans or a combination of those. The university provides many opportunities for students to work on campus and has a robust scholarship program. When planning to pay for college, Cassie Ragenovich, WWU student financial services director, advises students to plan ahead and start saving money sooner rather than later. She also recommends finding a summer job or an internship, while at the same time actively applying for scholarships.
Fernandez is enjoying her new finance resident position. “My ultimate goal was to work in the health care industry where I too could get to a place in my life where I would be able to give to others like my scholarship donors gave to me,” she says. “I am excited to be working in health care and pursuing my goal of giving back to the field that has given me so much.”
Malcolm Shaw, WWU university relations student writer