Can you please give us a short introduction of yourself?
“Hi. I’m David Lovato, and I am a Medical Laboratory Scientist. I’m from New York and graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Medical Laboratory Science two and a half years ago. Since then, I have been working as a Medical Laboratory Scientist (Medical Technologist) at a hospital laboratory.”
Why did you choose to study Medical Laboratory Science?
“I was not originally a Medical Lab Science major when starting college. To be honest, the first couple semesters, I was not sure what to major in. I just knew that I eventually wanted to go to medical school. Most of my close peers who were also pre-med were biology or biochem majors, so i was already considering myself by default a biology major.
In the middle of my second semester, one of the local allied health universities came and had a small informations booth in my campus. It was then when I was exposed to the possibility of studying medical laboratory science. I’ve always been aware of medical technologists (med techs), but never really considered studying to become one, let alone find out the schooling required.
The more I looked into the field, the more appealing it became. I was particularly attracted to this major because unlike other undergraduate degrees, medical laboratory science is an actual professional field where you can work as a nationally certified laboratory personnel (through the ASCP). Also, this study allows you to have an in depth study of the clinical sciences. All of these classes will definitely prove to be beneficial in my future desire to study medicine. Lastly, studying MLS will give me a comfortable exposure to the health care setting, again better preparing me for studying and practicing medicine.
It didn’t take long for it to click…I wanted to major in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS). More than anything, I decided to take this route because in my thought process, I thought it was an excellent stepping stone to medical school (I’m glad I chose MLS!)”
Where did you study Medical Laboratory Science?
“After completing my prerequisites, I transferred to the Medical Laboratory Science Program in Michigan. They have a 3 + 1.5 type program where you would complete about 3 years of prerequisite classes, before entering the actual MLS program. The MLS program consists of both the didactic (class) and practical (clinical) studies.”
How was your experience during the Medical Laboratory Science program?
“In one word, the program was INTENSE. It was by far the most challenging academic period I have been through. Prior to the program, I have taken very challenging upper division university science courses, but usually more than 2 or 3 at a time. During the program, you take nothing except for upper division clinical science classes: Hematology, Immunology, Microbiology, Immunohematology, and Chemistry.
Our program was divided into the didactic period (10 months) and clinicals at a hospital teaching laboratory (6 months). During the Didactic period, in addition to having a full load of classes, we had a full load of labs everyday. Our days in the classroom/lab would normally be from 8am to 5pm Monday-Thursday, and half days on Friday. This does not include the many hours needed to study, complete homework, and prepare for exams. INTENSE is an understatement.
The Practical Period is the time to apply everything that has been learned in the classroom to an actual clinical setting (40 hours, 5 days/week). You will working with actual patient specimens and calling/filing results (under supervision).”
Any suggestions or tips for how to succeed during the Medical Lab Science program?
“Take one day at a time. Don’t get too caught up on the amount of work that needs to be done. Instead, tackle down one assignment or study one concept at a time. Also, unlike other sciences where you may succeed by just memorizing facts, focus on understanding concepts. This will go a long ways in your success in the program. Last but certainly NOT least, make time to rest! There will ALWAYS be an assignment to do or a test to study for. Even so, find a way to set aside a small time to rest and relax. I personally take a break from all school work and studies on Saturday mornings and afternoons, and use the time to do something relaxing and rejuvenating.”
How did you study for the ASCP MLS exam?
“I purchased the study manual provided by the ASCP. I spent about one whole month to review all of the subjects in the manual. The sample questions were especially helpful in giving insight to how the test will be. My focus while studying were to recap all of the underline subjects, not spending too much time on each subject’s specifics.”
How is your current experience working as a MLS?
“Great! I am currently working as generalist at one of the major hospitals in Florida. I work the graveyard shift (11pm – 7am) and work through all of the departments. I realize that your colleagues and coworkers have alot to do with your overall work experience. I am blessed to be a part of a great team. Having cohesiveness as team is very important in our lab due to the amount of workload we get. There are many times where we have to rely on each other’s help to get through each shift.
I don’t think there is another undergraduate degree that while allow me to have the amount of job security and potential as Medical Lab Science. Although I plan to further my career in the medical field (Planning to start medical school this fall), I am grateful for the opportunity to work as a MLS for the last 2 1/2 years. I am very happy with the exposure to the medical field, the experience of starting a professional career, and a more than decent ‘newly-grad’ salary.”
What is your overall opinion about this field and profession overall?
“Truthfully, I don’t think Medical Laboratory Scientists (or Medical Technologists) have the respect and recognition they deserve. Considering the importance that the lab has in our present medical field, its amazing how many people don’t even know what Medical Technologists are! This maybe have to do with the fact that laboratories work ‘behind the scenes’ in most hospital settings, so patients and even health professionals often forget who works on the specimens after they are sent off.
I remember once while working blood bank and issuing out a unit of blood, the nurse asked how many weeks of “on the job” training it required to become a blood banker. I tried to maintain my cool when I informed her that Medical Laboratory Science is a professional field that requires at least a 4 year bachelors degree (many programs now are taking up on average 5 years to complete).
I think that our profession is heading in the right direction in terms of gaining public validity and recognition. I feel that the recent merger which created the National Board of Certification (American Society of Clinical Pathologists) has initiated a push for our profession in the forward direction. Ultimately though, I personally think that Medical Laboratory Professionals will need to eventually start their own sort of national association apart from the pathologists, like other health professions (of course i’m sure ASCP would not appreciate this…lol).
Aside from that, I think our profession is great! I feel that to be happy working in the lab, you have to be OK with working behind the scenes. If you can have a healthy sense of satisfaction, knowing that you are playing a significant role in treating many patients, without the actual patient encounter, you will do well! During very busy days, it can be very easy to get frustrated at the amount of tedious “lab” work. When this happens, it might help to take a short 5 minutes break and actually visit some of the patient rooms. Putting a face to the many specimens you are working with really changes your perspective on the work you do. The physician’s ability to efficiently and effectively treat patients is directly dependent on your lab results!”
Any suggestions to individuals who are interested in this field?
“One thing we all know for sure, there will ALWAYS be people who need medical treatment, which means there will ALWAYS be a need for medical laboratory professionals. Whether you are looking for a satisfying [secure] long term career, or a challenging yet fulfilling undergraduate degree to be a stepping stone to more advanced studies…I HIGHLY recommend the Medical Laboratory Science field. Going this route is definitely satisfying and will definitely open many more doors of opportunities. Best of luck!”
Thanks so much David for your time and willingness to share your input and experiences!