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Blinn College alumnus finds career inspiration through student organization

Chris Koehler accepted to cardiac perfusion technologist program in Cleveland

November 19, 2014

Chris & Laura Koehler Chris Koehler was always drawn to medicine, but it wasn’t until he witnessed an open heart surgery with the Blinn College Medical Education Development Society (MEDS) Club that he discovered his niche.

Koehler entered the Navy in 1995 after graduating from Sealy High School. As valedictorian in his military medic training class of 55, he was granted his choice to work in intensive care.

“Training was amazing,” Koehler said. “I was doing things as an 18-year-old that you can’t do in the civilian world. Critical care nursing is typically for nurses who have been in the field for 10-plus years.”

After eight years of active duty and five reserve, Koehler left the military and returned to Sealy, where he enrolled at Blinn with the goal of returning to the Navy as a physician.

“If I wanted to stay in the medical field, I would have to start from scratch,” Koehler said. “My experience in the military was both a blessing and curse—there was no way to transfer my previous experience.”

But Koehler quickly realized that eight more years of school and military service wouldn’t be compatible with his impending nuptials. Just as he began to consider other options, he transferred to Blinn’s Brenham campus, where he discovered the MEDS Club.

The club connects students interested in health professions with networking opportunities and offers a glimpse into various professions with lectures from guest speakers. Students can visit the Texas Heart Institute in Houston each semester, where they view surgeries and tour the hospital’s museum and facilities.

It was during one such visit that Koehler was inspired to become a cardiac perfusionist.

“It was a golden opportunity for me and for my wife,” Koehler said. “I’d still get to pursue my passion, but in less than half the time.”

Cardiac perfusionists work alongside attending physicians and anesthesiologists to maintain blood flow during critical surgery. Perfusionists operate circulation equipment during any medical procedure in which it is necessary to artificially support or temporarily replace a patient’s circulatory or respiratory functions during open-heart surgery or other heart procedures.

After Koehler and his wife Laura married, they moved to Cleveland so that Laura could pursue her dream job designing greeting cards. Shortly after the move, Koehler was accepted to the perfusionist program at the Cleveland Clinic, which he will begin in January.

“It’s such an exciting opportunity for me,” Koehler said. “MEDS Club and Blinn helped me identify the opportunity and channel my medical interest and experience from the Navy. Had I not come to Blinn, I might have never known about perfusion.”

The program requires an outstanding GPA and most of the prerequisite courses required for medical school admission. Upon completion of three semesters of coursework, which includes lectures and on-the-job training, Koehler will take a certification exam to officially become a cardiac perfusionist.

“Chris was a wonderful student,” said Dr. Kenneth French, MEDS Club advisor. “He stood out. He followed through diligently and was always serious and sincere. He’s one of those students professors really appreciate.”

Blinn is currently offering registration for both the Winter minimester and Spring semester. The Winter minimester runs Dec. 19-23 and Jan. 5-15, and registration is available through Dec. 18. Registration for the 16-week Spring semester is open through Jan. 19, with classes beginning Dec. 20. For enrollment information and to learn about financial aid opportunities, visit: www.blinn.edu.

About Blinn College
Founded in 1883, Blinn is a comprehensive community college committed to educational excellence and to individual and community enhancement. With an enrollment of 19,317 students, Blinn ranks among the nation’s leaders in transferring students to leading four-year universities and has received national recognition for its affordable educational excellence.

As part of its commitment to student success, Blinn is implementing a Quality Enhancement Plan titled “Destination Success: First-Year Focus,” which utilizes learning communities to support first-year college students.

For enrollment information and to learn about financial aid opportunities, visit: www.blinn.edu.