Medical Laboratory Professionals Week increases awareness of profession


Each year during the last full week of April, practitioners of clinical laboratory science around the country celebrate Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (MLPW).

This week provides an opportunity for the profession to increase appreciation and understanding of personnel in the field, according to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS).

At South Dakota State University, the Department of Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) and the MLS club have plans for the week of April 24 through 30.

“The MLS Club is doing a ‘Cookies and Canvas’ event,” said Patricia Tille, associate professor and program director of MLS. “Science paintings will be on display in the lobby of the Avera Health and Science Center during the week.”

About 100 students on campus major in MLS. The MLS program is a two-year professional program that culminates into a six-month clinical experience at an affiliated laboratory, Tille said.

Students in the major typically end up working in clinical diagnostic, genetic, research, veterinary or public health laboratories performing research and development of diagnostic tests. Others continue on to Ph.D. programs, medical school or physician assistant programs.

One great part about the field, according to MLS club president Emily Young, is the variety of opportunities available to its graduates. 

“After graduating, I hope to spend a few years gaining some experience in a hospital and then doing missionary work,” Young said. “The beautiful thing about this major is the wide variety of options we will have after we graduate.”

In the eighth grade, Young spent time volunteering hospital, which helped her realize that she wanted work in the medical field.

Though she started as a nursing major, she soon learned that MLS was a better fit for her.

“I discovered the lab and fell in love,” Young said. “The more research I did on my own, the more I wanted to be a part of it.”

SDSU’s MLS Club does various things on and off campus, Young said. Most recently, the club entered a video contest sponsored by the ASCLS and won. 

This summer, because of their success in the contest, Young and a few other club members will travel to Philadelphia for the ASCLS national meeting.  

But the club’s biggest event takes places in the fall. It is their Be the Match bone marrow donor drive.

“During the event, we help people join a worldwide registry of those who are willing to be a donor if and when the time comes,” Young said. “All they have to do is fill out the paperwork, let us swab their cheek and be willing to make the commitment.”

According to Tille, the MLS club, which has about 35 active members, has made a big difference in bringing recognition to the department. 

“We have many students who are involved in our state chapter and national chapter of the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science,” Tille said. “Students serve on state, regional and national committees that influence the laboratory diagnostic field in the United States.”

She said the clinical laboratory science profession is important because of decisions personnel help physicians make on a daily basis.

“Eighty percent of the diagnostic decisions made by physicians relies on the detailed and accurate information provided by the medical laboratory science professionals,” Tille said. “Without their work, patients would not receive quality medical care.”

Young had a similar opinion, saying the lab is an integral and vital part of any hospital. 

“In my opinion, this profession is important because without medical laboratory scientists, the healthcare system would not be where it is today,” Young said. “Patient diagnosis and treatment hinges on laboratory testing.”

MLPW, in its forty-first year, will continue to emphasize the importance of and bring awareness to the over 300,000 people in the profession.