Heidi Medford attended a university right out of high school and had some previous community college credits. “But I didn’t like that I hadn’t completed a degree,” she says. So when she came to Spokane in 2007, she set her sights on Washington State University’s program in exercise physiology and nutrition at the Spokane campus.

But first, she took all the credits she had accumulated to Spokane Community College. Within nine months, she had an associate’s degree and all the pre-requisite courses she needed for WSU.

“SCC was convenient, and they worked with me to get the credits I needed,” she says.

And along the way she developed a newfound love of research labs. “I was in a biology class when my group was the only one with the correct result,” she says. The instructor urged her to get into science.


It was Caleb’s choice to attend SFCC. “I wasn’t ready to jump into the four-year experience,” explains Caleb. “I thought there would be more time to find myself at a community college.”

His parents’ experience might have influenced him. “I like the personal attention you get at a community college, and you can find out what you excel at,” says Ryo. “Even after I finished school, I had a lot of personal attention from my instructors. I really enjoyed that.” He met his first boss, a fellow alumni of the biomedical equipment technology program, when he came to SCC to recruit. Ryo spent 25 years in the field.

“Both of us had jobs right out of our programs,” says Dawn.

Heidi - Innovator


When she got to WSU that fall, she looked for research lab opportunities. A part-time project led to part-time employment while completing her bachelor’s degree. She graduated in 2010 and became a certified clinical exercise specialist, accredited by the American College of Sports Medicine. That training included 600 hours of a clinical component.

“But I missed the lab the whole time. I knew it wasn’t my endpoint,” she says.

She started the doctoral program in pharmaceutical sciences. Her research looked at cardiac pathology and cell signaling. “By the time I finished my Ph.D., I realized I was interested in more than research. I wanted to be a part of drug development.”


Heidi now works in WSU’s Office of Commercialization helping faculty members who make new discoveries with obtaining patents, getting funding and growing their businesses. Usually they start with an idea—a new drug, device or research method—and she helps them figure out the next steps.

“I’m not a scientist, but I’m very much in science,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of people in this field with people skills, and there’s where I see myself coming in.”

She’s passionate about helping these fledgling ideas and companies stay in Spokane. “It’s really important to me that we increase opportunities to stay here. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I moved to Spokane. Everybody here is so supportive, it’s easy to find mentors. If you’re motivated, there are a lot of people ready to help boost you along.”

Heidi also wants people to know that you can get all the education you need here in Spokane. From SCC to post-doctoral research at WSU-Spokane, she has done it all right in town. “You don’t have to leave to become highly education and make a difference.”