Student Spotlight: Stacey John

Stacey John, MS, LAT, ATC, OTC-SC

Certified athletic trainer earning Medical Coding Specialist A.A.S.

Stacey John, MS, LAT, ATC, OTC-SC, 35, is a full-time mom with two small children. Stacey also works full-time as a certified athletic trainer, or ATC. She still finds the time to attend Dakota County Technical College as a student earning her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in the Medical Coding Specialist program.

In her role as an ATC, Stacey had the opportunity to pass the Orthopedic Technologist Certification (OTC) Exam in 2016. She currently works with an orthopedic surgeon at Summit Orthopedics in Woodbury, Minnesota. She started at Summit in 2014.

One year after earning her OTC, Stacey passed the OTC-Surgery Certified (SC) Exam. She is trained to go with the surgeon into the operating room (OR) and serve as the first or second assist.

“Since I am the only ATC at Summit currently assisting in surgery in a hospital setting—and not just in our ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), my surgeon and I felt this extra certification was worth it for hospital credentialing purposes.”

Stacey reported that her family was her inspiration to continue her education at DCTC in the Medical Coding Specialist program.

“I am at the point where my kids are getting close to entering school and participating in more activities,” she said. “I love my current career path, but my work-home-life balance is not always the easiest. Having the option to work remotely and be around more for my family was the huge push to enter this program.”

Faculty perspective: Adrienne Zarn, CPC, CANPC

Stacey came into the Medical Coding Specialist program last year as an athletic trainer and licensed surgical technician. Stacey is a fabulous example of the talent we often have walking in the door at DCTC.

Adrienne Zarn

Medical coding is unlike anything we are taught in our school system. The challenge in learning and applying the official guidelines for diagnostic coding and the American Medical Association (AMA) rules for procedure coding is exciting and no easy task. Stacey excels in her studies while she continues to work as a surgical technician.

The DCTC Medical Coding Specialist program prepares you to work as professional-fee medical coders for physicians and non-physician practitioners. Our Coding Capstone class is licensed through the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)—and we proctor certification exams onsite each semester. Our prior medical coding students are now coding in many different healthcare organizations; they are powerful examples of our program’s quality.

Stacey came to us through the referral of a DCTC graduate. Stacey’s ability to put her goals into action has been amazing. Her work in Honduras gives us a glimpse into her wonderful heart and her ability to give to others. I am sure Stacey will be rewarded with an exciting career in medical coding.

K. Adrienne Zarn, CPC, CANPC
Medical Coding Specialist Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

More about Stacey…

Stacey John

Originally from North St. Paul, Stacey graduated from North St. Paul High School, Class of 2005. She holds a Master of Athletic Training (M.A.T.) from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas, and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Exercise Science, magnum cum laude, from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, in Superior, Wisconsin.

Stacey played NCAA DIII soccer at UW–Superior. She served as team captain during the 2007–2008 season.

“I played multiple positions throughout my soccer career,” Stacey said. “On traveling and high school teams, I mainly played midfield and some forward. In college, I moved to more of a deep midfield position with some defensive play. I loved making friends when practices started in August before I even entered college.”

Stacey added that soccer kept college very structured for her and provided lifelong memories. The sport also took her to many new places in the state of Wisconsin.

During her time at UW–Superior, Stacey studied abroad in Scotland for a semester.

“My favorite memory is taking a bus trip up to the Scottish Highlands,” she said, “Scotland is such an amazingly beautiful area with very friendly people. We got to see and put our feet in Loch Ness. It is a truly a must-see country!”

Before arriving at Summit Orthopedics, Stacey worked as an athletic trainer at Catalyst Sports Medicine in Hudson, Wisconsin, and as a casual physician extender at Fairview Sports & Orthopedic Care in the Twin Cities. She got her start in the field working as an athletic trainer intern for the UW–Superior Athletic department, Special Olympics Minnesota, and the Institute for Athletic Medicine in Burnsville, Minnesota.

“I like the medical field as injuries have always interested me,” Stacey said. “I have a lot of family in the medical field. Being involved in soccer introduced me to athletic trainers in high school and college, and I love being around sports and athletes. The role of athletic trainer combined two things I love, so I thought it was a definite fit for me.”

Stacey has been married to her husband, Kevin, for nearly six years. Kevin works as a pipe fitter with local 455. Stacey and Kevin have two children, a son named Noah, 4.5, and a daughter named Sophia, 2.5. The family has a 9-year-old silver Lab named Abby.

In her free time, Stacey loves fishing, kayaking, spending time on a pontoon, and jet-skiing. She also enjoys relaxing with a good book.  

“I grew up going to our family cabin,” she said, “and our summers are all about time at the lake. My husband’s parents also live on a lake, and we are very lucky we have the problem of trying to split time at two lake places in summer.”

Stacey and her family reside in Hastings, Minnesota.

Stacey family, work, and life gallery

Volunteering with One World Surgery in Honduras¹

Summit is proud to be a founding partner of One World Surgery, sending teams, medical supplies, and financial support to further its important work addressing the unmet need in global surgery.

One World Surgery: History

Summit surgeon, Peter Daly, MD, and his wife, LuLu, started the Holy Family Surgery Center (HFSC) in 2009, six years after a 2003 volunteer trip to Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH), an orphanage in the mountainous region outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The organization was very successful, and in 2017 HFSC and SCA (Surgical Care Affiliates) Medical Missions combined to create One World Surgery to better meet the growing medical and surgical needs in underserved communities—embracing the concept of service and the transformation of lives.

The Summit Connection

Summit Orthopedics, through the remarkable leadership of Dr. Peter and Lulu Daly, was a founding partner in One World Surgery, providing first-world medical care in a third-world environment.¹

Learn more by visiting One World Surgery.
¹ SOURCE: Summit Orthopedics

More about Stacey’s experience in Honduras…

“My surgeon, Dr. Jerome Perra, has been going to Honduras for the past 15 years, usually once or twice annually. His kids grew up going there.

“The Holy Family Surgery Center (HFSC) is a part of the NPH orphanage ranch and sits on the front of the property. The surgery center has grown immensely over the years and now houses many homeland staff, including an orthopedic surgeon who operates and sees clinic patients on a regular basis. This particular surgeon actually grew up as a kid at the orphanage. The center not only offers orthopedic care, but also PCP/dental and many other specialties.

“Our group went on a small, private brigade to Honduras. We took part in approximately 15 surgeries in the five days we were at the center, including routine total hips, bullet removal, shoulder Bankart repairs [dislocation procedure], I&Ds [incision and drainage], and more.

“We were at the center at a special time when the orphanage held a quinceañera. We were able to partake in the mass and the festivities afterward.

“The ranch is a beautiful place—we got the chance to do some hiking and see the animals they have on-site. They have cows, pigs, horses, etc. The cows are milked twice a day to provide milk for the orphanage babies. They even have an on-site cheese factory. We did help out milking the cows one day.

“This was an experience that is truly hard to put into words—absolutely amazing! The people are so kind and grateful for the smallest things. Definitely eye-opening. I am actually hoping to go back in 2024 with the new orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mikhail Klimstra, I am starting to work with now as my current surgeon, Dr. Perra, will be retiring in a year.”

Stacey John, MS, LAT, ATC, OTC-SC
Medical Coding Specialist Major
Dakota County Technical College
Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC)
Summit Orthopedics

Honduras Q & A

What did you find most rewarding about your experience in Honduras?

The trip was a very humbling experience and eye-opening to see how people in Honduras live compared to how we live here. They do not have much, and they are the happiest and most compassionate people.

What is your favorite memory from your trip?

My favorite memory is getting to be a part of the quinceañera at the orphanage. Seeing the faces of these boys and girls was something else. They were so happy and looked so beautiful being dressed up and having so many people there to support them on their day.

I was impressed to see the amount of work that the staff members had put into making the day so special for them—from the girl’s dresses to getting their hair and makeup done, and the dinner and presents provided.

What advice would you give healthcare professionals thinking about volunteering their time and expertise in a foreign country?

ABSOLUTELY, HANDS DOWN do not hesitate to go—you will not regret it one bit!

Stacey John Q & A

Stacey John

What do you like best about the Medical Coding Specialist program?

The flexibility is the absolute best thing about this program. I am able to slowly work toward this degree while working full-time. The coursework is 100 percent remote [online] and works with my current life—40 hours a week at work and a mom of two littles.

What medical coding courses have you found the most interesting so far?

I have had several courses that transferred in from my previous degrees, so I have only taken a handful of courses thus far in medical coding. So far, Medical Terminology and Medical Ethics have been very interesting to me. The courses cover some things I’ve had some experience with, but offer more of the whats and whys behind it all.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What do love most about working as an athletic trainer?

The patients and the variety of the things I get to do. I get to be in a clinic room, taking histories with patients and building that connection. Then I’m putting on braces, casts, splints, and also taking out sutures and applying wound care. Then on the flip side, I am scheduling surgeries and answering patients questions on the phone; I’m also able to assist in surgery.

I get to see the whole circle of the job from point one of a patient’s initial visit through the entire post-op care. Building that rapport with patients is huge—they love when they know me from the clinic, and then I am right there in the OR helping get them positioned as they are going under. They have a calming sense seeing a familiar face.

What have you learned from assisting an orthopedic surgeon in the operating room?

Orthopedic surgeons are truly amazing people, starting with the care they give patients in the clinic and then following up in the OR. The job is fulfilling—and hard not only mentally, but also physically.

Having taken part in total-joint cases, I can tell you about the amount of stamina the surgeon and assisting staff need to hold retractors and limbs for hours while standing in one place. Most do this so effortlessly and with such care and without complaining at the end of a long day. They take pride in the OR days because that’s where they see what they do come to light.

Three words that describe you as an athletic trainer:

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My grandpa, Richard Lieder, was the gentlest and kindest person I have known. He touched everyone he met. He was a kind, soft soul who could bring a smile to anyone’s face. He was hardworking and provided so much for his family. He worked two jobs so his four kids could attend Catholic school.

He lived life to the fullest and had so much knowledge about so many vast topics. Family was the most important thing to him, and he made everyone in his family feel loved and special. I can only hope this is how I am viewed and respected by my family and peers.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

I will be closer to the end my career and planning for the next phase of life. Hopefully, this means more traveling and future grandchildren.

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Stacey John 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Soccer, grew up playing and played thru undergrad
  2. Place you would most like to visit: New Zealand
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I studied abroad in Scotland as an undergrad and visited nine countries during that semester; I have memories of so many great experiences
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Let my parents retire 2) TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL, and TRAVEL some more 3) Set up investments for our kids
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: I loved the Downton Abbey series and movies and would like to see how life was actually like then, from the garments people wore to how food was prepared
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Remaining happy
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: I am a Minnesotan through and through, and I love the loon
  9. Dream occupation: Baker—I absolutely love baking and am known to bring treats into the office
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Kevin Costner—I love Yellowstone, not to mention all the great past Kevin Costner movies
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I have always wished I learned how to ride a horse and would have the opportunity to have one of my own
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Humility (being humble and kind)
Learn more about the Medical Coding Specialist program at DCTC by contacting:

Adrienne Zarn, CPC, CANPC
Medical Coding Faculty

Rahziya Akeem
Academic & Financial Aid Advisor

Room 2-110

More about the Medical Coding Specialist program at DCTC…

The Medical Coding Specialist A.A.S. degree prepares you for an entry-level, professional-fee, medical coding position. You will also be equipped with the skills needed to advance your career in the healthcare system.

These positions are often offered at various locations requiring a medical coder, including:

  • Physician and non-physician practitioner clinics
  • Acute-care hospitals
  • Third-party payers
  • Consulting firms

As a graduate of the program, you will have a working knowledge of healthcare law as well as a full understanding of the need to protect patient privacy. Our program utilizes a simulated, industry-standard, electronic health record that facilitates practice in abstracting patient information.

The A.A.S. degree curriculum gives you the ability to code both procedure and diagnosis while getting you ready to take the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam. You will have the leadership know-how and communication skills needed for a supervisory/management position.

The Medical Coding Specialist diploma prepares you for an entry-level, professional-fee, medical coding position. You will also be equipped with the skills needed to advance your career in the healthcare system.

These positions are often offered at various locations requiring a medical coder, including:

  • Physician and non-physician practitioner clinics
  • Acute-care hospitals
  • Third-party payers

As a graduate of the program, you will have a working knowledge of healthcare law and a full understanding of the need to protect patient privacy. Our program utilizes a simulated, industry-standard electronic health record that facilitates practice in abstracting patient information.

The diploma curriculum gives you the ability to code both procedure and diagnosis while getting you ready to take the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CCP) exam.

The Medical Coding Specialist Certificate is designed for healthcare employees who not only have experience in the medical coding revenue cycle, but also wish to gain enough knowledge and coding practice to sit for the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam.

This program is also designed for employers seeking to have their employees become certified coders. Funding for this education can be provided via the employer’s Corporate Compliance Program or employee benefits.

NOTE: You can take the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam onsite at DCTC.

Salary information

Medical coding specialists holding AAPC credentials command higher incomes. If you hold the Certified Outpatient Coder (COC®) core credential, you have the potential to earn an annual salary approaching $64,300 annually (2023 data).

If you hold the Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO®) advanced credential, you have the potential to earn nearly $81,500 annually (2023 data).

Learn more by visiting:

2023 Medical Coding and Billing Salary Report

Medical Records Specialists

What Medical Records Specialists Do

Medical records specialists compile, process, and maintain patient files.

Work Environment

Medical records specialists typically spend many hours at a computer. Most work full time.

How to Become a Medical Records Specialist

Medical records specialists typically need a postsecondary certificate to enter the occupation, although some qualify with a high school diploma. Others might need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Certification may be required or preferred.


The median annual wage for medical records specialists was $46,660 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical records specialists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 14,900 openings for medical records specialists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (24FEB23)