At 24, newly-married John Der-Ghazarian already has an excellent grasp on life. The second eldest of nine children, he developed a maturity far beyond his years, due in part to helping out with his siblings and being homeschooled in his youth.
“It kind of pushes you to try to learn yourself, before you get into an academic setting,” notes Der-Ghazarian. “We had to be self-motivated through that.”
Der-Ghazarian’s parents were also instrumental in his development into the person he is today. His mother stayed at home with her children, overseeing their schoolwork and taking them to medical appointments, while his father, a mechanical director and a “work with your hands sort of guy,” brought financial stability to the family.
“Every day was a hard day for him,” adds Der-Ghazarian. “Just sort of seeing mom and dad with their work ethic was inspiring for me.”
After high school, Der Ghazarian came to Macomb, uncertain as to the exact path he wanted to follow. “That was something I found here at Macomb, was what I wanted to do. And that kind of guided everything I’ve done up until this point.”
It was through a psychology course taught by Katherine Lorenzo that Der-Ghazarian came to the realization, “Wow! I want to use my life to help somebody else. I want to make somebody’s life a little better.”
Soon thereafter, Der-Ghazarian spoke with an advisor, who set him up with an action plan. He took his prerequisites at Macomb with the goal of transferring to Rochester College at Macomb’s University Center to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. He would go on to receive the honor “Most Distinguished Graduate” at Macomb’s 95th commencement ceremony.
“I could never have dreamed of standing up there and saying a speech,” gushes Der-Ghazarian. “And that’s a credit to the professors. It’s a credit to my classmates. It’s a credit to the selection committee, who all took the time to help me become who I was at that moment.”
Following Der-Ghazarian’s graduation from Rochester College, he set his sights on the priesthood. But after he was accepted to the seminary, he began to question whether he was being called to help others in another manner.
“It didn’t feel like [this] personally lined up with where I would be going,” ruminates Der-Ghazarian. “I prayed about it, thought about it, talked about it. And I finally said, ‘I’m going to hold off for now.’”
That turned out to be a sound decision, because, soon after, he met his future wife, Michelle (pictured above with Der-Ghazarian). They share a great deal in common. Both were homeschooled. Both work in the medical field. Michelle is a nurse, while Der-Ghazarian is currently employed as a clinical manager for HealthQuest Physical Therapy.
“After I said no to the seminary, I sort of readjusted toward a new helping profession, and one that I’m ecstatic about,” tells Der-Ghazarian, whose background in psychology has helped him greatly in his career. He says that it’s important to understand people and work with them to ensure they’re approaching physical therapy with the correct mindset.
“If you go in and think, ‘I just need surgery,’ the chances are you’re going to need surgery,” relates Der-Ghazarian. “If you come in there with, ‘I’m going to do these exercises. I’m going to get better,’ there’s a good chance you could get better.”
Der-Ghazarian plans on going back to school for a master of science degree, and would like to work toward becoming a physician assistant. He is confident in knowing that the terminology and concepts he learned at Macomb will continue to help him advance in his education and career. “Almost all of what I do now goes back to what I learned here at Macomb, whether that be anatomy and physiology, psychology or even philosophy,” says Der-Ghazarian. “I would tell [anybody] coming out of high school, or any person that’s looking to better themselves and they don’t know how, go to Macomb. It’s going to allow you to find what your passion is.”