Four days after Thanksgiving in 2016, Dr. Herminia Kishida was in a car wreck on her way to work.
"I had broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a lacerated liver," said Dr. Kishida, who suffered brain trauma as well. Hospital staff called her survival a miracle, given the nature of the accident and the extent of her injuries.
Hidden in the tribulation was a blessing for Dr. Kishida. Her doctors encouraged her to return to college to retrain her brain.
Less than five years after that fateful day, she graduated from the online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Innovation – Administration program at St. Thomas University (STU).
"I wanted to learn and improve my brain," she said. "I needed real learning from a real school. I paid for my first two courses and thought if I made it through the first one, I would continue. I set a standard. I made it through the first course with an 'A.'"
Then, Dr. Kishida had another health issue that called for heart surgery.
"I was taking a course in the Ed.D. program when I had my procedure. It was so painful," she said. "If finishing the program wasn't for me, I could accept it.
"I did cardiac rehab for six months and continued working toward the degree. Looking at the computer, doing reading and research helped me emotionally. It helped my brain, too. It's a miracle."
Dr. Kishida was born in the Philippines capital of Manila and moved to the United States from Japan to continue her teaching career in 2007. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting in her homeland before changing course.
"My sister, Dorothy Barcenilla, was a special education teacher in Dallas," she said. "I taught on a reservation in Arizona for five years. Everything was set for me to come there and live with her and teach. I had a lot of support, but I didn't get there."
Dr. Kishida moved to Maryland to teach special education at Prince George's County Public Schools after adding a master's degree in special education from Arkansas State University in 2012. Unfortunately, she missed three years of work because of the car wreck.
"I wanted to return," she said. "I still had trouble seeing and had cramps in my legs. I could not go back to work because they didn't clear me. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
"It took another two months before the doctor cleared me to go back in February 2019. I told a friend that if something happened to me again, I would be ready. "
Dr. Kishida methodically put the pieces of her life back together from the accident while earning a doctoral degree online.
"I feel like somebody is guiding me with what I am doing now," she said. "It's falling into place."
Earning a research-based degree was ideal for Dr. Kishida's situation. The faculty at St. Thomas University made sure she kept the program's end goal fresh in her mind.
"I learned new things in every course," she said. "In my first course, the professor told me, 'When you get into this program, quitting isn't an option. Even if it's hard, continue.' It was very encouraging."
A Higher Purpose
Dr. Kishida put the finishing touches on earning a doctoral degree by walking in the commencement ceremony on May 14, 2021.
"My family and friends are excited for me," she said. "My husband, Yutaka, was there cheering for me. It was my first time in Florida. It was all a good experience."
With the Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation in Administration under her belt, Dr. Kishida plans to teach, complete administrative certification and work on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She feels well-equipped to lead a purpose-driven life.
"I do my part to be relevant and useful to my family and my community," she said.
After coming back from a near-death experience to earn a doctoral degree, Dr. Kishida counts her blessings and savors life.
"You have to accept things and have an open mind," she said. "You have to adapt to the changes.
"I am very grateful. I ask God to share the blessings and grace that he gave me with every person I have met. It's powerful. I am not a religious person, but you have to rely on your faith. I hope my story will inspire people to not give up."Learn more about St. Thomas University's online Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation – Administration program.
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