Under the Microscope: Two Laboratory Technicians, Two Career Paths

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The mission statement of the Clinical Laboratory Technology at Southern Regional Technical College begins, “The purpose of the Clinical Laboratory Technology, Associate of Applied Science Degree program is to teach students how to perform clinical laboratory procedures under the supervision of a qualified pathologist and/or clinical laboratory scientist.” For two recent SRTC CLT program alumni, however, the CLT program has also served as a catalyst for ambitions above and beyond their expertise as laboratory technicians.

In explaining the program’s mission, SRTC’s CLT Program Director, Vickie Smith, commented, “Clinical Laboratory Technicians (CLT) play an important role in the prevention and diagnosis of diseases. During the course of the program students learn to perform clinical laboratory procedures. Classroom training is integrated with clinical experiences under the medical direction of cooperating hospitals. Upon graduating and receipt of their Associate of Applied Science Degree these students will be able to work in hospitals and doctor’s offices. When working in a hospital setting the technician may work in various departments such as Microbiology, Hematology, Blood Bank, Immunology and Clinical Chemistry. The technicians perform tests that assist the doctors in verifying the causes of an illness, making medical decisions and determining treatment choices.”

woman standing in laboratoryMeloney East-Garrett had already been working in a medical laboratory setting for 10 years when she decided that she was ready to further her career at Capital Regional Medical Center. After climbing the rungs of phlebotomist and clinical laboratory assistant, she saw that education was her next step. “I knew I could not move further up the ladder until I continued my education, so I decided to start with CLT classes at Southern Regional. Meloney found balance through her strong foundation of family, church, friends, and her instructors and fellow students at SRTC. “I like reflecting back on how my instructor, Ms. Vickie Smith, just would not allow us to think negatively or give up. She always encouraged us to perform at our best. I enjoyed that small classroom setting, the up-close directness of the instructor, and the helpful and caring connections that I formed with my classmates.”

Mrs. East-Garrett excelled in SRTC’s Clinical Laboratory program, and stepped up to her current role as Lead Medical Laboratory Technician. Her successes in the classroom and the encouragement of administrators at Capital Regional Medical Center helped her to realize that she wasn’t done ascending yet. “The Clinical Laboratory Program at Southern Regional Technical College prepared womaon in laboratory using computerme well. I know much will be required of me, but I feel good and I know there will be a place for me wherever I go. The encouraging words that were spoken during my SRTC experience really keep me moving on toward success and striving to excel,” she said.

Meloney is currently enrolled at Thomas University, where she will soon complete her bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science. In the Spring of 2019, she will begin work on her Masters of Science program in Biomedical Science at Florida State University. As the first person in her family to reach these academic heights, she takes her role as “chain breaker” very seriously. “My husband and I are now graduation chasers! We want to lift up and celebrate all of our family members who are working hard and graduating.” She has also counseled and mentored her sister and her co-workers to follow in her footsteps. “Kind words helped me get to where I am, so I am honored to be that voice of encouragement to other people,” she says of her devotion to leading. “If you want to grow and blossom, you first have to dig deep.”

woman sitting posing on stepsWhen Jodi Wilson began at Southern Regional Technical College, she did not start with an abundance of assurance. Most of the people in her life hadn’t gone to college, she didn’t have a lot of academic confidence, and she didn’t have a clear image of her future job path. “College sounded like a good idea, but it just did not seem like something that I could do.” What she did know was that she felt most fulfilled when she was helping others. When she began taking her core class, she quickly discovered another passion. “As soon as I started learning about science and the human body, I knew that I had to have science in my life, also. Once I learned about the Clinical Lab Technology program, it seemed like the perfect fit. Science and helping people; the best of both worlds. I was in love! I could not believe I was actually growing bacteria, looking at cells under the microscope and learning to identify them, performing blood typing and antibody identification, and so much more. I could help people, learn about the body, understand and learn how medical laboratory tests work, and even correlate those results to symptoms and diseases! It was awesome!”

As Jodi continued working on her CLT, she made another profound discovery that would change the course of her life. “I realized that I am actually really good at this school thing. I love it. And then I understood. I can be anything I want.” The CLT program includes instruction on Microbiology, Hematology, Urinalysis, Serology, Chemistry, and Immunohematology. At SRTC, Jodi received the hands-woman using microscopeon, practical experience of working in the laboratory. Her laboratory time became the bedrock of her career goal: to become Jodi Wilson, MD. Jodi’s new trajectory was supported by her family, her new husband, and SRTC’s faculty, who nurtured her dream. “My program director, Ms. Smith, was and still is one of my biggest cheerleaders! She believed in me. She made me feel like I could actually become a doctor one day.”

As soon as Mrs. Wilson completed the CLT program at SRTC, she continued on to Thomas University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science. One week after her MLS graduation, she became a pre-med student at Florida State University. “Becoming a doctor seems like the only logical thing for me now,” Wilson says. That assurance is a long way away from the girl who wasn’t sure whether she could do well in college when she started at SRTC in 2014. “I did not think that I could actually be successful. Turns out I was wrong! I am a huge advocate for education, and especially for SRTC. It doesn’t matter your age or background; Southern Regional Technical College will show you the way to a successful future. It did for me.”