Meet a Graduate: Jason E. Merzlak
In 1999, Jason Merzlak was 13 years old and dreaming of entering the culinary field when his childhood in Pittsburgh took a drastic turn. His then 8-year-old brother Michael was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor.
“During this time, my family and I spent countless days, weeks, and months in various hospitals and medical facilities, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) near Washington, D.C.,” recalls Merzlak, a ’17 BS in Business Administration graduate. “Though Michael passed away not long after these visits, the experience had a profound impact on every decision I would make thereafter.”
While his family sought treatment for his brother, Merzlak encountered sympathetic professionals along the way who provided outstanding patient care. “I watched everything they did and realized I wanted to help people like they helped us,” he says. “Healthcare has always been extremely rewarding and challenging for me, and I want those around me to feel that same level of reward to the strongest extent possible.”
After he graduated high school, Merzlak moved to Florida where he obtained his license as a radiologic technician as well as his credentials to be a registered medical assistant (RMA) from the American Medical Technologists. He began working at a local hospital, where he quickly started managing other RMAs, and then moved to the largest concierge pediatric medical group in Florida.
“I pursued my bachelor’s degree because I knew this was the best way I could advance in my profession and earn more money while doing what I loved,” he says of his decision to earn his BS in Business Administration with a specialization in Healthcare Management. “My husband, Matt, has been my greatest support, and he urged me to contact a friend who was earning his doctoral degree at Walden. I liked the online program because it was a perfect fit for my schedule. I had just decided to enter urgent care, where I only worked 3 days a week, and it allowed me to dedicate time to completing the program.”
Family support, says Merzlak, is what has helped him on his journey. “I buckled down and dedicated my life for 2 years to school and work. I FaceTimed and called my family in Pittsburgh who, along with Matt, helped build my confidence and cheered me on even in the most trying times.”
During his program, Merzlak was one of many Walden students studying online when Hurricane Irma hit Florida. “We live just a quarter mile from the beach, but I got my laptop and headed to a friend’s house where I still managed to do my schoolwork,” he recalls. “It was during my capstone. I had come so far; I needed to stick with it, so I stayed in contact with my professors, who were very understanding, and I participated in calls with classmates in other parts of the country not affected by the storm.”
As Merzlak heads to Tampa, Florida, with his family for Walden’s 59th Commencement Ceremony, he has much to celebrate. “As a direct result of my bachelor’s degree, I’m returning to Holy Cross Hospital starting a new job as the office coordinator of a cardiology unit, with plans to bump me up to regional manager. And because of my 4.0 GPA at Walden, I will be pursuing my MBA at Florida Atlantic University,” he says. “It’s been an amazing journey that I will never forget.”
“My parents are really proud of me,” says Merzlak. “Graduating means the world to me. It’s an incredible way to honor my brother.”