Academic Excellence Award

Blending compassion and career

Academic Excellence Award — Michael McGaffey, Radiologic Technology

At Dunwoody, starting a career in Radiologic Technology involves extensive classroom, lab, and on-site clinical training. As an integral part of a medical team, technologists must be prepared to safely operate highly specialized equipment, perform medical diagnostic procedures, and understand human anatomy.

Michael McGaffey, the 2023 Academic Excellence Award winner for Health Sciences & Technology, has proven to have a solid grasp on the technical skills needed to succeed in the program. But his intrinsic concern for the well-being of his patients is at the root of his passion.  

“Personally, I watched Michael grow in his knowledge of radiology over the past two years,” said Craig Regan, Clinical Instructor of Radiologic Technology. “He is a focused, self-starting individual, a true team-player who demonstrates leadership and compassion. If I or one of my family members needed medical attention, I would not hesitate to place them in Michael’s care.“

Dr. Thomas Finnegan, Director of Math and Science and one of McGaffey’s instructors, was pleased that McGaffey won the award this year.

“Michael’s demeanor and personality are remarkably genuine. He is an excellent ambassador of Dunwoody and the Rad Tech program,” Finnegan said.

A 2018 graduate of Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minnesota, McGaffey studied kinesiology for two years prior to coming to Dunwoody. Interested in the health care field, but unsure of what path to follow, he took a year off from college to consider his options.

His father was a 1989 graduate of Dunwoody’s Architectural Drafting & Estimating Technology program and spoke highly of the College. Learning that Dunwoody had a Radiologic Technology program caught his attention.

“It matched my interests, and I had confidence that attending Dunwoody would prepare me for my career,” McGaffey said. “I believed that my background in anatomy would transfer well to medical imaging.”

Instructors in the Radiologic Technology program are professionals who have worked in the field, and students are quickly immersed in clinical, on-site training through Dunwoody’s partnership with hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities. McGaffey believes this hands-on approach offered invaluable learning experiences with equipment, procedures, and in understanding patient care.

“Gaining insight from people who have years of experience as X-ray techs has been very valuable,” McGaffey said. “In this field, we may be working with patients who are in great amounts of pain or simply not in a good mood, which is understandable. Learning how to handle moments like this is very important, and Dunwoody offered the opportunity to experience real situations.”

Working under pressure is part of the job, and the training.

“The aspect of clinical training I’ve enjoyed the most is learning how to work the X-ray machines in the operating room,” McGaffey said. “It was a challenge for me to get used to working with surgical teams, but I think that is what makes it satisfying.”

Another one of the perks of clinical training is moving around. “I just feel good when I’m active. Working in radiology departments has been surprisingly physical,” McGaffey said.

A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either — and it helps build camaraderie and relieve stress.

“Aside from the valuable experience we get at multiple clinic sites, I’ve really enjoyed being around my classmates and instructors,” McGaffey said. “Everyone takes their education seriously, but it feels like there’s not a class that goes by that I don’t laugh at least once.”

“Michael is a great guy, super quiet until you get to know him and then he’s very funny,” said Austin Sunde, a classmate in the program. “He’s actually a very good artist and sometimes during class I’ll see a piece of paper slide into my field of view and it’s usually a really well-drawn character from SpongeBob. He is a very funny guy and well-liked by everyone.”

Outside of class, McGaffey enjoys country music, working out, and fishing, when he has time. He credits his parents and siblings for being supportive and inspiring him to do his best. “My faith in Jesus is also an inspiration,” he said. “I want my behavior to reflect my beliefs.”

Currently employed at ACR Homes, McGaffey works in a home with people who have disabilities. He plans to continue working there until finding a position in X-Ray.

For McGaffey, the end goal is about helping people.

“I hope to have a positive impact in my future workplace among the patients I see, and my coworkers. While making a decent living for myself, I want to do my job well.”