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News Stories

Nursing alum’s successful career redirection started with SUNY Erie

Article by: Michael Farrell

When Lancaster native Sam Tripi was an English major at Canisius College nearly three decades ago, he wasn’t planning on additional education stops after earning his Bachelor of Arts. When he was working for pharmaceutical giant Astra-Zeneca in Chicago through the early 2000s, he couldn’t foresee the professional twists and turns his career would take. 

No one can see the future. But for Tripi, he never could’ve guessed the postscript to those two pursuits would be his decision to redirect his education and career pursuits at SUNY Erie Community College.

“When I was a kid going to Canisius, I frowned upon the community college education. Those were for the guys who couldn’t make it into the other universities,” said Tripi, who spoke with current SUNY Erie students at a recent Career Services event at City Campus. “After coming back as a non-traditional student, I know different. For what I paid for an education here and what I got out of it, there’s no better value in education”

After his career at Astra-Zeneca came to a close in 2004, Tripi returned to Buffalo, bounced around at a variety of jobs for a handful of years, then attended an Open House event at SUNY Erie City Campus, with interest in becoming a surgical tech and reentering the medical sales field. But after talking to faculty and staff from the College’s nationally lauded Nursing Program, Tripi was turned in a new direction. He enrolled in classes to complete his science prerequisites, then transitioned into Nursing shortly after. 

“I always hoped I could leverage my experience in the pharmaceutical industry and in business with my education as a nurse,” said Tripi, who now lives in South Buffalo with his family. “My goal was never to be a nurse for the next 20 years. I always wanted to get into the business side of things, but I knew that, as a nurse, I could get my foot in the door.”

That’s exactly what he did.  Whether through introduction to SUNY Erie alums in the field, clinical rotations through the Kaleida Health System—where he spent time at Buffalo General, Children’s and Sisters hospitals—and course-related exposure to these and other area facilities, he earned the familiarity necessary to hit the health care ground running once he finished the program in 2014.

“All the professors here have different experiences outside in the community,” said Tripi. “When we did clinical rotations, [the instructors] knew everybody over at ECMC or elsewhere, and those people could introduce you to others at the hospital. You could pick everybody’s brain. But it’s because of the relationships you have here that can open doors for you, whether in the nursing profession or other opportunities beyond nursing.”

Today, Tripi works with Buffalo’s McGuire Group as a unit coordinator, but the company is currently paying for Tripi to get his Masters in Health Care Administration from Utica College. In April, he’ll start as an administrator-in-training; and after one year of training, he’ll become a licensed home health care administrator, which will lead to yet another transition in a life already filled with twists. Once licensed, Tripi will move on to manage one of McGuire’s local Western New York facilities.

It all started with his decision to restart his education with SUNY Erie. Tripi now regularly returns to the College as a professional voice through its Career Services Department, or simply as a proud alum, always ready to boast the benefits of a SUNY Erie education. 

For the rising medical professional, that education was transformational.

“The training you receive here is so applicable to what you’ll need in the real world. Most everybody that comes to this program doesn’t have a lot of experience in health care, but if you graduate, you can almost be assured of getting a job in the field, especially in Western New York,” said Tripi. “I had no experience as a nurse, and here I am two years later, further in my career than I ever thought I’d be—all because of the base I got here.”

Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state’s SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC’s faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership. For more information, visit www.ecc.edu or call (716) 851-1ECC.