“An accurate diagnosis is the first step to receiving effective treatment.” – Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
By Kimberly Burgos Villar, MS; PhD Candidate in the Pathology – Cell Biology of Disease Program
I first began my journey in laboratory science when I was hired at Strong Memorial Hospital as a specimen receiving technician. I was quickly exposed to countless in vitro diagnostics and was amazed at the vast depth of capabilities the lab had. While I loved my position, I decided to pursue graduate school to better understand the human pathologies I was exposed to. A few years into graduate school, I learned that I wouldn’t have to relinquish my love for clinical science; directors of those clinical labs I had worked in were PhD-trained scientists with additional certifications. Little did I know, I had already started my path of working back to clinical laboratory science.
Through identifying this career path and conducting informational interviews with professionals in the field, I learned that many had the opportunity to intern in the clinical labs. I identified clinical chemistry, the laboratory responsible for biochemical analysis of human analytes, as my department of interest. I then contacted the associate director of the clinical chemistry department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Dr. Liu, to see if I would be able to set up an internship or shadowing experience. After discussing my interests with Dr. Liu and Eric Vaugh at URBEST, we developed a custom internship experience perfect for my interests.
My main goals for the internship period were to evaluate the interference of hemolysis on common chemistry analytes and to gain experience in the clinical lab environment. Every week, I would go to the clinical labs to look for patient samples that fit our criteria, aliquot them, and artificially hemolyze them for testing purposes. Through working on the research goals of my first aim, I naturally was exposed to and developed my understanding of how a clinical lab is run. I was exposed to medical terminology and testing procedures on a regular basis. I learned about sample processing, automation, standardization, and troubleshooting and how they all relate to the standard of care that patients experience.
While my experience was unique because I didn’t have licensure (as normally required by lab technicians: therefore, I couldn’t run any of the analysis machines) and the lab was juggling COVID procedures and staffing shortages, I still gained lots of valuable experience from my time in clinical chemistry. I have learned of other training materials and organizations to take advantage of, and I’ve even been able to apply the clinical science I’ve learned to my academic research project which has helped us develop a new assay. I have identified nuances in potential fellowship programs (and even future career sectors related to clinical chemistry) that I wasn’t aware I had preferences in, which will help prepare me for the best path forward to reaching my goals. Overall, I appreciate the time I’ve been able to spend in clinical chemistry because it has helped shape my future career aspirations.
Katherine Bognanno |