When Cindy Le Coq ran away from her hometown of Poland in the rustbelt of Ohio in the early 1970’s, at the ripe age of 20, she had no idea she’d develop a life-long fascination with human anatomy.
A gripping moment in the emergency room at Denver General Hospital (today it’s called Denver Health) changed everything.
At the time, Cindy was a student at the Community College of Denver (CCD). She was studying with the goal of becoming an X-Ray technologist. She was on her second day at the teaching hospital as part of her coursework. An emergency room doctor spotted her interest in a patient.
So Cindy found her way into the ER as the doctors tried to save a life.
“I know I’ve been shot,” said the man being treated. He was in his early 20’s. Cindy told him to hold his breath.
And the next minute, the man died.
The doctor looked at Cindy and said, “Do you want to glove up?”
Within minutes, Cindy was inflating the lungs of the dead man and following the path of the bullet to the lung entry and then the exit point. She massaged the heart, too.
“I thought I would faint,” recalls Cindy. “My personality was very shy and withdrawn (but) it was the most exciting time of my life, and these doctors could, I guess, see it.”
Cindy Le Coq had arrived in Denver without a job. She was following a boyfriend but that’s not the main point here. Suffice to say she had an “itch” (her word) and a free spirit. Six months later, her career path looked clear, thanks to the drama in the ER.
Initially, Cindy wanted to be a nurse. But the waitlist for spots in nursing programs was too long. So she signed up for the 24-month radiology program at CCD. It was 1973.
At the time, becoming an X-ray technologist required doing mathematical calculations and making fraction-to-decimal conversions in your head, too. Later, six months after graduation, Cindy became the first, total-body CT technologist in Colorado. (“CT” stands for computerized tomography.)
As a CT expert, she was asked to give guest lectures and that soon led to a career in teaching at her alma mater, CCD.
Cindy taught for 24 years, keeping up with all the changes in medical technology, before becoming the health science education program director for the entire Colorado Community College Systems.
To learn more about how health science was being taught at the high school level (an area she didn’t really know), Cindy arranged for a professional development for high school science teachers. Too many high school health science teachers come from the health care workforce, Cindy explains, and aren’t trained as teachers.
Since part of her job was to expose teachers to available resources, she discovered the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System. Cindy says she soon realized she was watching a “pure” form of hands-on teaching.
Anatomy in Clay® Learning System, she says, “gives that relationship of the connection of the human body and how all of its parts work together. You have to realize, in X-ray you only learn about the bones. You don’t learn about the muscles that attach to those, and so the Anatomy in Clay made the connection of what makes the human body function.”
Cindy continues, “It was like the final connection. It’s hard for me to express. It made that final connection of the relationship of the bones to the muscles to the nerves to the function of the human body. You always have an ‘a-ha’ moment, and I had many ‘a-ha’ moments. It was just like, ‘oh, my God, I get it.’”
Building a model in clay, she adds, is a form of pure self-reflection and self-discovery.
Today, Cindy is retired. She is the recent past chair of the National Consortium for Health Science Educators, a major national organization that recently held its national conference in Denver (September 2018). Some 28 health science teachers signed up for a pre-conference workshop at the non-profit Anatomy in Clay® Centers and spent the day studying anatomy and fashioning muscles out of clay.
Cindy was there to observe and think, a bit, about how far she’s come since that critical day in the ER. Had she been exposed to the Manikin® models in high school, she thinks, she might have set her sights on becoming a doctor—because she would have understood all the anatomical relationships at a deeper level.
But no time for regrets. She has plenty of reasons to be proud. She has trained (no doubt) thousands of students who are serving patients today with high-quality care. She’s come so far from the 20-year-old who left home at a young age with no idea of what she would become.
Or what a difference she would make.
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