MCC alumnus shares his knowledge with students
After working more than two decades as a radiologic technologist, Meridian Community College alumnus Matt Heblon now enjoys sharing his health care experience and expertise with students studying diagnostic imaging procedures.
Heblon, who has worked as a radiologic technologist at Starkville’s OCH Regional Medical Center for almost 17 years, also serves as a clinical instructor for students from Itawamba Community College’s Radiologic Technology Program who are gaining clinical education at the hospital.
“My favorite part is explaining things to students – things they may not have understood before, but I can help make clearer to them. Helping them to understand how things work in radiology, especially technical things, and how to interact with patients,” he said. “I like watching the students grow as professionals.”
Heblon often relies on the basics he gained through MCC’s Radiologic Technology Program when he was a student in the late 1990s.
“My instructor, Darlene Withers, was amazing. At least 99 percent of what I know and how I explain things, I learned from her,” he recalled. “Those fundamentals of what she taught me is why 20 years later I am able to explain to students ‘this is how this works’ or ‘this is why you do it this way.’”
Heblon, a resident of Starkville, earned two associate degrees from MCC.
After graduating from Meridian High School in 1992, he enrolled in MCC as a University Transfer Program student. While at the community college, he was a member of the men’s tennis team and served as president of the College Activities Board. He was an MCC ambassador and was chosen as a Circle of Excellence honoree.
He graduated from MCC in 1994 with an associate in arts degree in University Transfer, then continued his education in biological engineering at Mississippi State University in Starkville. Initially, he planned on becoming a doctor. Along the way, however, his dreams changed.
“I decided I did not want to become a doctor, and if I did not become a doctor, I did not want to continue studying biological engineering,” he said.
A best friend was currently working in medical X-ray imaging, and the good job market for radiologic technologists at the time piqued Heblon’s interest. “I wanted a field in health care that would give me a good-paying job in a short amount of time,” he laughed. “I have always loved medicine, and I have always loved photography, so I ended up in radiology.”
Heblon returned to MCC in 1997 and enrolled in the Radiologic Technology Program. He served as president of his class, was a member of the chorus, and was a Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) team member that won first place in state competition.
“Because we won first place, we got to compete in the national HOSA competition held in Orlando that year,” he remembered. “It was the first time I had ever been to Disney World. I had always wanted to go, but we never went when I was growing up. It is one of my favorite memories of MCC.”
Heblon graduated from the program in 1999, earning his second associate degree from MCC. For a year, he worked at Rush Hospital before going to work for Aureus Medical Group as a travel radiologic technologist.
As a travel health care worker, he served at various hospitals around the nation filling in for full-time employees who were on a leave of absence or deployed in the military.
Heblon first worked at a hospital in Kansas City, where he learned he was not a fan of frigid, snowy winters but preferred sunshine and warm temperatures. He then worked at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for nine months until the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. His travel agency returned him home to Rush Hospital, where he filled the position of an employee who was deployed. He later worked at a Brigham and Women’s Hospital clinic in Jamaica Plains, Mass., and again in California before returning to Mississippi.
“I loved working in travel health care. It was fun and interesting. I got to experience and see a lot of different things that I probably never would have if I had stayed in a small town in Mississippi. I also got to meet a lot of different people and make a lot of friends who I still keep in touch with today,” he said.
But, Heblon noted that other experiences are not so exciting, including excessively high rents and parking fees in larger cities and medical challenges. The SARS outbreak in the early 2000s sent a scare through the health care world the first time he worked in California and required him to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and strict work precautions, much like today with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Returning to his home state, Heblon went to work at OCH hospital in February 2004 as a night-time staff technologist. Since living in Starkville, he has become involved in the community. He serves on the boards of the Starkville Community Market, an open-air farmers market, and Starkville Pride, the local LGBQT pride organization.
After working at the hospital for more than a decade, Heblon moved to the day shift in 2014 and split his time between the hospital and its newly opened orthopedic clinic. Today, he serves as a daytime radiologic technologist at the hospital and as the clinical instructor on-site for the ICC radiologic technology students for the past four years.
He credits the MCC program with giving him a good foundation in radiologic technology, which has led to his success in the field.
“When I graduated from the MCC program, I felt like I could go anywhere in the world and perform X-rays because of all of the things I learned in school at MCC,” he said. “I did not have any doubts about my ability to do my job when I got out of school.”
Photo: Matt Heblon, a radiologic technologist at Starkville’s OCH Regional Medical Center, relies on the foundation he gained from MCC.