BMCC Respiratory Therapy Students Graduate Early to Help COVID-19 Patients

May 4, 2020

In a time of crisis, many individuals are called to the front lines, but others race to get there. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 18 students from the Respiratory Therapy Program at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) accelerated their academic schedules in an effort to graduate early and enter the workforce to aid health care workers in New York City and beyond.

BMCC’s Respiratory Therapy Program (RTT) provides students with the necessary skills and experience to become competent respiratory therapists. Students receive specialized training in the clinical care of patients with cardio-respiratory problems. Upon completing the requirements, graduates receive the Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree and are eligible to take the Certification and Registry Examinations given by the National Board for Respiratory Care, Inc.

Maily Mesina, respiratory therapy graduate
Maily Mesina, respiratory therapy graduate

On April 29, approval was granted with guidance provided by New York State Education Department (NYSED) for early graduation of the RTT students to combat the needs of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everett Flannery, chair and professor of Allied Health Sciences, says, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a big demand for respiratory therapists in the New York City metropolitan area and BMCC’s early graduates will be able to fill the need.

“The BMCC faculty are confident that most if not all of them (RTT graduates) will be offered positions in hospitals immediately upon graduation,” Flannery said. “These are good paying jobs with secure futures and excellent benefits. Since most hospitals are on a three-day workweek, the graduates would then be afforded the opportunity to continue their education and obtain an advanced degree.”

Flannery said, every hospital respiratory therapy department is working at maximum capacity and handling 3 to 5 times the normal patient ventilator workload. Because of this, he said BMCC’s early graduates “will gain valuable clinical experiences in managing critically ill patients on ventilators. Also, they will greatly benefit from working alongside successful and experienced respiratory therapists, physicians and nurses.”

There are 18 RTT students who are graduating early, including Aniah S. Augustin, Fatima Donzo, Imrat Jahan, Siji John, Zakaria A. Sr. Kader, Jean R. Leroy, Marian M. Maqar, Medhat F. Matta, Maily Mesina, Marquise J. Mion, Anthony R. Parker, Joenel Pemberton, Jason Raybe, Shante V. Sarauw, Akram Shahzaman, Phyo P. Thu, Freddy A. Vicioso, and Asomiddin Yuldashev.

Mailey Mesina, who was born in the Philippines and currently living on Staten Island, admits that BMCC was not her first choice; however, she says BMCC has provided the support she needed to successfully complete the RTT Program and start her career in respiratory therapy.

“Since day one of applying to BMCC and speaking to the staff and faculty, it was the most help I’ve ever received from any other school I visited,” Mesina said. “They pointed me to this program and I felt like it suited me. It was one of the best decision I’ve made.”

Fellow graduate Phyo Thu, from Queens, said he chose to attend BMCC because of the strong reputation of the RTT program.

Phyo Thu, respiratory therapy graduate
Phyo Thu, respiratory therapy graduate

“I heard through family and friends about the RTT program and many hospitals I visited spoke highly about it as well,” Thu said. “I became interested in this program because I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare and to work with my dad who is also a respiratory therapist about to retire.”

“BMCC has all the resources needed for a respiratory student to succeed such as simulation labs and equipment which you can practice your skills on,” Thu said. “I am grateful for the hands-on experience I had in the school before applying it in my clinical rotations.”

Mesina and Thu represent the thousands of other health care students who applied for early graduation so they could help COVID-19 patients.

“This is the time to take advantage of this crisis and help,” Mesina said. “Our country needs us. It’s time to put all our training to use. We can be useful and save lives.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown not just the healthcare field, but the world, who respiratory therapists are and why they are needed in the front lines,” Thu said. “I want to be one of the individuals who are helping during this pandemic as soon as I can. I would still need to take my licensing exam.”

Both Mesina and Thu have had friends and family members who were directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has only fueled their passion to help people.

Phyo Thu, respiratory therapy graduate“Sadly I do know people who have been infected by COVID-19,” Mesina said. “Just hearing about what people are going through in the hospitals, both patients and professionals, makes me want to jump in a help out in any way that I can.”

“Unfortunately, I have family and friends who have been infected by COVID-19 and have passed away,” Thu said. “Their passing has definitely motivated me to learn more about respiratory and how it can help overcome this pandemic.”

Mesina and Thu hope to find out where they will be working in the next few weeks. Both hope to stay in New York City.

Flannery said BMCC faculty hope that the RTT graduates will continue to learn from the patients they treat and become successful members of the health care team.

“We expect that as they gain more clinical experiences they will acquire more advanced knowledge and skills necessary to become better respiratory therapists,” he said. “We hope that the graduates realize that they are now members of a caring and compassionate profession and that the program has provided them with the knowledge, skills and values to practice as safe and competent respiratory care specialists who will continue to learn as the field advances.”


  • On April 29, approval was granted by New York State Education Department (NYSED) for early graduation of the Respiratory Therapy (RTT) students
  • Eighteen BMCC students have graduated early, to enter the field of respiratory therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • According to Everett Flannery, chair of Allied Health Sciences, hospital respiratory therapy departments are handling three to five times the normal patient ventilator workload

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