Community College of Philadelphia welcomed a very special guest to its 2016 Respiratory Care Technology Program Completion Ceremony last week, thanks in part to a unique relationship cultivated between a student and a politician, nurtured over frequently-served meals, heartfelt chats and words of encouragement.
Despite his hectic schedule, Mayor Jim Kenney found time to stop by the College and speak to the students and their families. He attended at the invitation of graduate Jamie Sliker, who first met the mayor when he was a city councilman and she was a server at a restaurant in Old City, where Kenney is a regular. The two have been on friendly terms ever since, but even Sliker wasn’t sure if he would accept her graduation invitation– so she didn’t invite him.
“He was kind of offended that I didn’t invite him,” said Sliker, who still works at the restaurant and, for now, serves the Mayor when he comes in. “When graduation came up, he said he was going to come and he was going to say something. I was like, ‘Okay.’”
The 21 graduates, who represented all ages and stages in their professional lives, listened as Kenney thanked them for their persistence and praised the College for establishing a program that has distinguished itself over time. Since 1963, the program has graduated 766 students and currently enjoys a 100 percent pass rate at the Certified Respiratory Therapist level, compared to a national pass rate of 73 percent. Students must pass all level Board exams offered through the National Board for Respiratory Care before obtaining a professional license to practice as a respiratory therapist in Pennsylvania.
Mayor Kenney’s praise was rooted in his deep appreciation for their skills, and stemmed from witnessing first-hand the power of respiratory professionals to save lives.
The mayor shared that his 81-year-old father, James, a retired firefighter, was recently hospitalized for what was thought to be a routine procedure, but wound up in intensive care because of fluid buildup in his lungs. “We thought we were going to lose him,” he said.
Mayor Kenney marveled at how the respiratory therapists, along with the doctors and nurses, assisted his father with his breathing exercises, and eventually got him out of ICU and out of the hospital. “He’s on oxygen, which he hates, “the mayor reported, “but the fact that he’s stubborn means he’s getting better.”
The mayor reiterated to the graduates the importance of choosing careers to improve their lives and the wellbeing of the city.
“The fact that you’re entering the profession is good for you because it’s a longstanding career that makes you good money,” he said, “but it’s critical that you’re part of our medical community because it’s what keeps our city’s economy strong.”