What they're saying...
"The career of an MLS tech has endless possibilities. You can travel if you'd like, work for a biotech company, research, or in a hospital clinical setting. There are so many things you can do! We help identify the organisms causing infection or assist in diagnosing a new illness. You're affecting patients' lives every day without being in direct patient contact. Rosanne and Bruce are just the best and I cannot say enough how much they care about students. They really want you to do well, and they're always there to talk. I've still reached out to them for advice when I was considering a new position, and it was helpful to have their feedback. They truly want what is best for students. " - Megan Lagasse, 2015 Medical Laboratory Sciences graduate
A long-time fan of the TV show House, Megan was drawn to Medical Laboratory Sciences because solving the medical puzzle is so much of what a Medical Laboratory Scientist/Technologist does every day. "We help identify the organisms causing infection or assist in diagnosing a new illness. You're affecting patients' lives every day without being in direct patient contact." Megan currently works as a Medical Technologist at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., where she identifies pathogens from patient specimens and assists medical providers in treating them. "I do everything from plating specimens when they first arrive to reading cultures for growth and setting up samples for PCR," she explains. "I also set up susceptibility panels for the bacteria we identify as pathogens so that physicians know which antibiotics are best for treatment."
The MLS program prepared Megan for success in her career by providing real-world experiences, both in the lab and during clinical rotations. "You cannot find professors better than Rosanne and Bruce! How much knowledge they have together is amazing." All of this "great background theory and student lab experience" led her to success in her clinical rotation, which ultimately led to her being offered a job at her clinical site, making her transition from student to employee easier. "Clinical was a great way to get hands-on experience to help prepare me for my current position. It really helps you to see what the real world med tech life is like, what areas you fit into or don't. Do you like manual work or automated? Having that semester's worth of clinical is priceless!"
Megan appreciated the program's small class size, which allowed students to become close during their time together. "It was great to have each other for resources," she explains, "and to know you're not going to have lectures in classes of 120. You become really close to your classmates, and some are my lifelong friends!" She also values the relationships she formed with MLS faculty Rosanne Lipcius and Bruce Blanchard. "Rosanne and Bruce are just the best," Megan says, "and I cannot say enough how much they care about students. They really want you to do well, and they're always there to talk. I've still reached out to them for advice when I was considering a new position, and it was helpful to have their feedback. They truly want what is best for students."
She learned so many valuable skills through her participation in this program. Megan explains, "One of the most important is the skill of putting the patient's whole self into the picture, using symptoms and lab results to help the physicians better treat the whole patient. I use that every day in my job. Something else that has been very valuable is the understanding that laboratory technology is always changing and can vary from place to place. The MLS program taught me to be open to new experiences and procedures as lab instruments change or I move from one facility to another."
Would you recommend the MLS program to students interested in a laboratory science career? "I absolutely would. The career of an MLS tech has endless possibilities. You can travel if you'd like, work for a biotech company, research, or in a hospital clinical setting. There are so many things you can do!" Megan advises students considering the program, "It's great for people who would like to make a difference and work in healthcare without being in direct patient care. The UConn MLS program prepares you well for situations you'll see in the real world and can help even if you're looking to pursue a graduate degree as a PA, APRN, RN, etc."
"I find the work we do fascinating every day, and it is constantly being improved with new technologies that are saving patients' lives and changing the world of healthcare. My experience at UConn made me the tech I am and fostered a love for the profession that I try to exemplify at every opportunity. I get to do something that I enjoy, am proud of, and that helps to make a difference!" - Patrick Dzurilla, 2018 Medical Laboratory Sciences graduate
Patrick describes his road to becoming a Medical Laboratory Scientist as a long one. He started at UConn in the pre-pharmacy program and even worked as a pharmacy tech but soon discovered that he didn't see a future for himself in the world of pharmacy...and his grades suffered from his lack of enthusiasm. After not being accepted into the pharmacy program, he switched to biology and graduated in December 2014 with a degree in Biological Sciences. "Leading up to graduation," Patrick explained, "I began researching professions that I might pursue and became intrigued by what I read about medical technology/medical laboratory sciences. I had always been fascinated by my lab classes, and after having a couple of hospital stays, I had seen firsthand the value of lab work." Unfortunately, he had missed the deadline to apply to the MLS program and so spent a year as an insurance agent helping people understand the ins and outs of Medicare as they transitioned into retirement. "Although it was not my ideal profession, it taught me a lot about myself including how to schedule my time, value my time, build my work ethic, and communicate with others. Following that year, I was able to apply back to UConn and was accepted into the MLS program where I approached the coursework with much more passion and enthusiasm than I had previously. And I excelled as a result."
Starting a Career
In his final year of the MLS program, Patrick was hired at the West Haven VA Medical Center after participating in the VALOR program, a sort of internship for medical laboratory sciences students to be introduced to the profession and gain experience. He currently works as a medical technologist in the microbiology lab and the TB reference lab at the VA. "The TB lab is unique in that we get samples from all over the country to culture and ID different mycobacteria in a biosafety level 3 laboratory, one of the few in the state. Recently, I have also been cross-trained in hematology, so I am really utilizing all of the knowledge and skills gained from the program."
Internalizing Information & Connecting the Dots
Patrick appreciates the knowledge of MLS faculty and the ways they pack information into the courses they teach. "Rosanne and Bruce make things very digestible and memorable. My classes in the MLS program were some of the few in my college experience where I came away feeling I learned and internalized the information rather than just memorizing for tests." Even after graduating, he remains connected to his former professors, asking questions about things he sees in the lab and sharing articles or books he finds that may be useful in the classroom. He also serves as a member of the MLS Advisory Board, made up of representatives from area hospitals and former students. "I always want to give back to the program that has given me so much," Patrick explains. "The Advisory Board gives me a chance to provide ideas on program improvements and also network with my colleagues at other hospitals to see what they're doing and build upon my own experience."
Embracing Change & Saving Lives
One of the most valuable things Patrick learned from the program was adaptability. As he shares, "Because things change so frequently in healthcare and in the lab, you must be open to new experiences. People tend to get stuck in their ways and are afraid of change, but by embracing change you can grow both as a professional and as a person." He recommends that students interested in a medical laboratory sciences career visit a lab if they can to see what it looks like and to try to secure shadowing or internship opportunities if possible. "My internship was definitely an advantage as I got tot see what it was like to work in a lab before starting my classes. It made it much easier to relate the information from class to real-world situations."
"I find the work we do fascinating every day," Patrick concludes, "and it is constantly being improved upon with new technologies that are saving patients' lives and changing the world of healthcare. There is always more to learn, and I get to be in an environment where I am encouraged to learn and challenge myself. My experience at UConn made me the tech I am and fostered a love for the profession that I try to exemplify at every opportunity. I get to do something that I enjoy, am proud of, and that helps to make a difference."