Katrina Willis Receives a Medical Administrative
Professional Degree at Madison College
Making the Right Career Change
For the next 10 years she persistently fought for her son’s health and education. She wanted him to have a better quality of life and to be more independent.
Time for a change
Willis had worked in management, accounting, finance and real estate, but wanted work that would fulfill her desire to help people. “Many of the organizations I
worked for were more profit-driven than customer service-driven,” she said.
In August 2016, she enrolled full-time in Madison College’s Medical Administrative Professional program. This spring she completed the requirements and received
Opportunities to build relationships
Willis was very active on the Truax Campus. Her list of involvements and accomplishments includes chapter president of Business Professionals Association, past
vice president of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, treasurer of Women LEAD, Student Senate, student representative to the college’s Facilities Planning and
Investment Council and Employee Relations and Professional Development Council, Skills USA past state president and Scholars of Promise mentor.
Through all her activities, she formed relationships at all levels of the college and found ways to continue to advocate for others. As a non-traditional student and
mother of a child who faced challenges in school.
From Madison College
Madison College graduate changes career course to health care
Willis hones her advocacy abilities while gaining medical administrative skills
MADISON, Wis. – While pursuing her Medical Administrative Professional degree at Madison College, Katrina V. Willis
received a letter that changed her career goal.
One day, Willis received a letter from her health care provider about scheduling a series of oncology appointments. This
was a shock and caused her mind to jump into fear mode. When she called to ask about the letter, Willis learned it was
sent by mistake. The need for accuracy in medical records became personal to her.
“I didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with that situation,” she said. Willis had learned about medical coding while
taking a class in specialized insurance. Now she realized it would be a good field for her to be able to help others and
keep them from going through a similar experience.
Always an advocate
Over the years, Willis has advocated for different family members with health problems including her mother, a four-year
breast cancer survivor. One relative had Hepatitis C that lead to liver cancer and several have suffered from
“I knew I had a passion for health care, but I fought it,” she said. Since she also loved “crunching numbers” Willis earned
a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a real estate broker’s license. She moved to Madison in 2003 to
pursue a master’s degree in finance. However, her son’s health issues became her priority when they began interfering
in his education.
Willis wants to represent others like herself, to be their voice.
“Katrina is always approachable and open to others. She helps make
sure everyone’s concerns are addressed and extends the
communication so that the student voice is heard,” said Penny Johnson,
business technology instructor and co-chair of the Facilities and
I often see other students confiding in Katrina,” Johnson added. “They
know she will listen and be supportive. This is critically important as
students benefit from relying on someone who has walked in their shoes
and knows their struggles.”
She also believes the best way to show your knowledge and skills is to
teach someone else. Working as a paid lab assistant in the Madison
College Business Open Lab fulfilled her longing to help people and
provided needed income. When Willis “dangled on the edge financially”
scholarships helped cover tuition costs, but there were some lean times.
As a member of the Student Senate, she received a stipend. To gain
experience in the medical field and another paycheck, Willis worked in
the University of Wisconsin Cardiovascular Medicine Department as a
Keith Cornille, Madison College executive vice president and chief
Student Services Officer, interacted with Willis in her capacity as a
member of the Student Senate and through her involvement with Shared
Governance at the college. He saw her as a role model and mentor for
“Katrina has a keen ability to know when she can offer advice and
guidance in an appropriate way,” Cornille said.
A beginning, not an ending
For Willis, graduation is a moment to exhale and take a break. She
knows all her hard work paid off and sees it as a new beginning. Her
mission in life is to educate people about preventable early death due to
conditions that can be treated an managed by appropriate health care
Willis is proud to be a graduate of “an institution that is recognized as
prestigious throughout the area and the nation.” She loves school,
Madison College in particular, and will return in the fall for the Medical
Coding Specialist technical diploma.
Her story is just one example of students who find new direction and
opportunities to gain skills both inside and outside of the classroom at