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Homegrown talent draws line from Boise State classrooms to Idaho’s health care

Jake Nancolas and his daughter
Jake Nancolas and his daughter

Jake Nancolas takes the idea of homegrown talent about as far as it’s possible to imagine. He has spent his entire healthcare career not only close to home, but exactly where he was born: at West Valley Medical Center.

Nancolas, Bronco classes of 2009 and 2010 with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in radiologic sciences (he also has a bachelor’s in biology), is the hospital’s director of diagnostic imaging. He started working at West Valley during his Boise State days as the result of his first clinical rotation; he hasn’t left.

Moreover, he supervises dozens of other College of Health Sciences graduates in jobs and careers. He estimates that of the nearly 50 employees he manages in everything from front-office positions to the clinical specialty areas of X-ray, MRI, mammography, nuclear medicine, CT and ultrasound, more than half are COHS grads.

He draws a straight line from COHS classrooms to the area’s health care — not just West Valley, and largely successful, he believes, because of the rigor and relationships that center around the Boise State programs.

“When Boise State doesn’t succeed, then we fail,” he said. “When they have success, we have success, because they graduate topnotch technologists.

”We all rely on Boise State,” Nancolas said, adding that the competition in the valley is fierce for COHS grads.

“If Boise State doesn’t put out enough, there’s just not enough to go around,” he said, adding that the clinical experience that COHS provides in collaboration with the region’s health providers is a significant benefit. “Rotations are key to bringing them on and having them succeed. We use Boise State as a launching pad.”

But there’s more. Nancolas thinks it has to do with the assumption of achievement.

“There is an expectation within the Boise State program, a high level of expectation of success,” he said, recalling his own days in the classroom and serious consideration of the type of education Boise State was capable of delivering.

“It was, ‘Could we compete, and did we have the same outcomes as other radiologic science programs throughout the country?’” he said. “It was that way when I was at Boise State, and we still hold students to that same level, that expectation.”

And there is the historically tight relationship of the professional fields to the college, particularly in the form of adjunct faculty members who work in the professions and instruct for the COHS. When he graduated, Nancolas, too, was one of those adjuncts.

“Being able to work at a hospital and knowing what was expected, and teaching that, it was pretty eye-opening, and it helps,” he said.

Jake Nancolas and his family
Jake Nancolas and his family

Those relationships, for Nancolas and so many associated with the college, are ongoing. He makes a special point to shout out Leslie Kendrick, director of the imaging sciences program.

“Since my program days, she has had her hand in the mix at Boise State. Knowing that and having that pulse is really important, for sure,” Nancolas said. “I think the relationships I’m able to keep with the faculty at Boise State, especially with Leslie, have been helpful, and they are vital to the success we see at West Valley.”

The collaboration is mutual, he said.

“We own it on our side, and they own it on their side, and it’s fantastic.”