Alumna Spotlight: Cristen High

Cristen High
Cristen High

2003 graduate serves as medical assistant program director at South Central College

Cristen High, MS, CMA (AAMA), AHI (AMT), earned an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in the Medical Assistant program at Dakota County Technical College, graduating in 2003. Cristen participated in Phi Theta Kappa at DCTC and completed her Medical Assistant internship at Allina Health Faribault. She worked in the clinic’s Moderate Complexity Laboratory, performing a range of tasks, including DOT drug screenings and breath alcohol testing.

“I then took a position with Mayo Clinic Health System-EastRidge—ISJ-EastRidge at the time—to open their new clinic,” Cristen said. “I was one of the initial medical assistants hired for the facility. I received the opportunity to train and work in multiple settings such as their lab and X-ray areas as well as the referral, allergy and family medicine departments.”

Cristen went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Healthcare Management from Metropolitan State University in 2013 and a Master of Science (M.S.) in Educational Leadership and Higher Education Administration from Minnesota State University, Moorhead, in 2017. She is working on her doctorate at MSUM.

Today, Cristen, 41, serves as the director of the Medical Assistant program, Allied Health Department, at South Central College. She is also an instructor in the program. She coordinates with healthcare facilities to place her medical assistant students in their internships. She has been a nationally certified medical assistant for more than 15 years and has taught in higher education for more than a decade.

DCTC faculty perspective

Patrice Nadeau, MS, MT (ASCP), DCTC Medical Assistant faculty and former program director, started teaching at the college in 1994; Patrice began serving in her former role in 2001. Margaret Norjean, BSN, RN, Medical Assistant faculty and the college’s 2015 Minnesota State Outstanding Educator, started teaching at DCTC in 2002. Both Patrice and Margaret remember Cristen High as an excellent student.

“She was a wonderful student who I am proud to call a graduate of our program,” Patrice said. “She was a joy to have in the program because she always came with a positive attitude and worked very hard. She was one of those students who elevated the entire classroom.”

Patrice added that she remembers being quite sure Cristen would be an exceptional medical assistant and become a leader in the medical community. “I am not surprised that Cristen is now an instructor and program director!” she said.

More about Cristen…

Originally from Albany, Oregon, Cristen graduated from South Albany High School in 1996. She enlisted in the U.S. Navy while still in high school, serving from 1996–2002, followed by two years of inactive duty. Cristen was stationed in San Diego, California, initially with Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Eight Five (HC-85), the “Golden Gaters,” formerly based at Naval Air Station North Island. She then served with the Helicopter Wing Reserve, or HELWINGRES.

She served as an aviation storekeeper and earned her Aviation Warfare designation, the latter requiring knowledge of all naval aircraft. She spent much of her time airborne aboard a Sikorsky Sea King in support of the Navy SEALs. Cristen enjoyed her time in the Navy.

“The Navy framed my professionalism , how I view my job, and how I conduct myself with my employer, supervisor and coworkers,” she said. “You get a lot of experience in the military you don’t get in civilian life. The Navy also provides many educational opportunities.”

Cristen belongs to a blended family with her husband, Greg, who is the service manager at Northern Comfort, Inc., a Mankato business owned and operated by his family. Cristen and Greg have four children, Lexi, 20, an SCC student, Paige, 13, Kaylea, 12, and Justin, 11, and two pets, Roxy, 9, a German shepherd, and Reggie, 7, a cat who thinks he’s a dog. In her free time, Cristen enjoys kayaking, camping, boating, and watching her kids play sports and take part in activities. She resides with her family in St. Clair, Minnesota, a town near Mankato with roughly 900 residents.

More about the Medical Assistant program at DCTC…

Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) on recommendation of the Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB), the Medical Assistant program trains students to be professional medical assistants dedicated to patient care management.

Graduates are equipped to assist physicians with examinations and treatments, take medical histories, perform diagnostic tests, expose X-ray films, sterilize instruments and supplies, assist with minor surgery and administer medications. The program goal is to prepare competent entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains.

According to Minnesota State CAREERwise, which provides online tools in the areas of career planning and education, the medical assistant career is currently in very high demand and is seeing very high growth compared to other careers, 25.3 percent, or well above the statewide average.

There will be a need for about 14,079 new Medical Assistants to meet market demand between 2016–2026. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Graduates assist primary care physicians and specialists in clinics ranging in size from single-doctor to large, multi-specialty. Opportunities are also present in a variety of other healthcare areas. More than half of all medical assistants work in a doctor’s office.

Cristen High Q & A

Cristen High

Cristen High

What is one thing every medical assistant student should know?
One thing…there are so many. How to competently complete a blood pressure test, communicating elegantly with her or his patient as well as using sanitary and safety precautions.

What is your teaching philosophy?
Embrace new perspectives; be an active learner.

What do you like best about teaching college students?
Each cohort of students has its own personality

Three words that describe you as a medical assistant educator:

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a program director?
Balancing my program director responsibilities with my instructor responsibilities.

What advice would you give students thinking about making healthcare their career path?
Take advantage of high school science courses as well as concurrent enrollment and PSEO courses that have a science or medical base like Medical Terminology or Anatomy & Physiology, which also give you college credits.

If you have the opportunity for any career exploration, whether at your school or with a school partner, take this opportunity and ask questions. If you are not in school, but working with a WorkForce Center, see if there is a possibility to job shadow and take advantage of any career exploration opportunities.

Why are internships important for medical assistant students?
Internships are extremely important as students are taking the skills they have learned in the classroom out into the clinical setting. Students have the opportunity to simulate those skills within the classroom, but the clinical setting within their internship gives them a full perspective as well as feedback from their preceptor(s).

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Cristen High 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Walking outside
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Australia or Europe
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Explore an underground cenote in Mexico
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay taxes up front 2) Invest 3) Donate to particular nonprofits.
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: I rarely have control of the remote control, but I am looking forward to watching The Masked Singer again this fall.
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Lion King
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Completing my doctorate (EdD) at Minnesota State Moorhead
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Parakeet because they like to learn, like to make others smile and are very friendly.
  9. Dream occupation: Teacher
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Queen Elizabeth II
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Braiding my daughter’s hair
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: With recent tragedies you would want to say mental health/terrorism or gun control. But looking at the overall world, it would be pollution and climate change.
Learn more about the Medical Assistant program at DCTC by contacting:

Kathleen Paukert, CMA (AAMA)
Medical Assistant Program Director

Patrice Nadeau, MS, MT (ASCP)
Medical Assistant Faculty

Margaret Noirjean, BSN, RN
Medical Assistant Faculty