They may be one of the smallest graduating classes in Northwest Indiana with just seven students, but they are ready to make a big difference in the lives of patients at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System. Kelli Lynn Belcher (East Detroit, Michigan), Rachel M. Kometz (Whiting), Joseph Anthony Lucente (Chicago), Monica Jasmin Mendoza (Merrillville), Marisha Lynn Miskus (Dyer), Brenda Rayburn (Gary) and Shantelle Williams (Sauk Village, Illinois) are ready to go to work and have accepted jobs at the hospitals.
The accredited School of Medical Laboratory Science that serves the labs of Community Hospital, Munster; St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart is aiming to meet the present and future demand for staffing in the clinical laboratory industry.
Groundbreaking medical advances over the past century - antibiotics, heart bypass surgeries and chemotherapy for cancer to name a few - have also increased the need for the next generation of quality-trained healthcare workers, especially in the laboratory setting, explained Brenda Eriksen, MD, medical director of Community Healthcare System laboratories.
“Healthcare is growing and evolving and you all will be a part of that great change,” she said addressing the new graduates. “You can look forward to a lifetime of growth on the job. I will look back in my later years and remember that I was a part of your beginning. Welcome to the healthcare fold. You are just getting started…don’t ever stop.”
That growing need for future Medical Laboratory Science staff is what impelled administrators at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System to establish the school and pursue accreditation, according to Ethel Urbi, Dean of the School of Medical Laboratory Science.
“A 2009 report indicated that within the next 10 years, at least 20 percent of the existing lab staff in the United States would be retirement age,” she said. “To help us grow the program in 2013, Community Healthcare System started their own school to replenish staff. After rigorous review and evaluation, we became accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 2016-2021.”
Medical Laboratory Scientists are highly trained, highly skilled professionals whose contribution to diagnosis and treatment of disease is invaluable. A career in Medical Laboratory Science involves testing of blood and body fluid specimens using complex chemistry analyzers to diagnose heart, liver disease, or cancer, microscopic examination of blood cells for anemia or leukemia; identification of pathogenic organisms causing infection, immunological evaluations and preparation of blood products for life-saving transfusions.
Belcher graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology. She will be working at Community Hospital in Munster. Kometz graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has accepted a position at Community Hospital. Lucente graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He will be working at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago. Mendoza graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has accepted a position at Community Hospital. Miskus graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience, and will be working at St. Catherine Hospital. Rayburn graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She has accepted a position at Community Hospital. Williams graduated from Governor’s State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and will be working at Community Hospital.
The 11-month program is intended for baccalaureate graduates in sciences such as Biological Sciences, Microbiology, Molecular Biology or Pre-professional. The course includes 22 weeks of classroom instruction in clinical laboratory sciences, hands-on student laboratory activities and intensive 24 weeks on-the-job clinical training.
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