Get My Job: Spotlight on Medical Laboratory Sciences and Biotechnology

In honor of Health Professions Week, faculty members discuss their profession and offer advice to students.

In this Nexus series, Get My Job, we interview alumni and faculty from one of the University’s 160-plus undergraduate and graduate professional programs. In honor of Health Professions Week, the latest installment features four faculty members from Jefferson’s medical laboratory sciences and biotechnology department, which includes programs in biotechnology, cytotechnology and cell sciences, and medical laboratory science.

What you do here at Jefferson?
Sean Chadwick: I lecture with a specialty in molecular methods, research design and career-focused skills training. I’m working to build a quality management system to teach students about good laboratory practices and will be running next-generation sequencing research.

Dr. Tatiana Zorina is program director of cytotechnology and cell sciences.

Dr. Tatiana Zorina is program director of cytotechnology and cell sciences.

Kelly Lennen: I’ve been instructing the cytopathology laboratories for 16 years, working closely with our program director Dr. Tatiana Zorina. I now instruct the functional histology and pathology courses as well as three cytopathology laboratory courses. I teach students methods to evaluate cellular specimens and develop their skills to locate and interpret meaningful cellular changes that will directly contribute to the patient’s diagnosis and treatment.

How would you describe this career to someone?
Dr. Tatiana Zorina: Careers in the cytotechnology field are extremely variable. They include work at the hospital, university, large and small diagnostic laboratories, industry, national societies and professional governing offices. The motto of the American Society of Cytopathology is, “Saving lives one cell at the time.” There are many ways of fulfilling this mission.

Joshua Cannon: Medical laboratory scientists work behind the scenes to provide clinicians with the laboratory results needed to diagnose, treat and manage their patients’ conditions and diseases. We conduct screening and diagnostic testing for conditions like diabetes and heart disease, examine patient specimens for the presence of infectious microorganisms, type and crossmatch blood for transfusion, and detect specific blood cells to reveal leukemia. This is just a minuscule snapshot of our capabilities when it comes to clinical laboratory testing and the impact we have on patient care.

What’s one piece of advice you give your students?
Joshua Cannon: Get involved in a professional society like the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). ASCLS is a great way to keep up with the ever-changing field of medical laboratory science. It’s enormously rewarding being part of a society that’s constantly advocating for your profession and the people in it.

Kelly Lennen: I’d tell an incoming student to be prepared to manage your time effectively. This curriculum is as rigorous as a full-time job, and sleep isn’t something to deprioritize. I’d tell a graduating student to be prepared to be a life-long learner. Pathology is a rapidly evolving field, and I want my graduates to be at the forefront of advances in cytopathology practice.

Pathology is like riddle solving, and each case is its own mystery.
—Kelly Lennen

Can you describe an accomplishment that might inspire future students?
Dr. Tatiana Zorina: Our graduates are part of the medical community contributing to diagnosis of the malignant and non-malignant disorders, their management and treatment; detection of precancerous conditions to be treated before the onset of cancer; education of the new generation of the cytotechnologists; and are involved in research aimed at development of new diagnostic modalities and validation of new ancillary techniques and technologies, which allow optimal algorithms in utilization of the immuno- and molecular diagnostic panels to support the target-specific therapies.

Joshua Cannon: Along with a few colleagues, I developed a website as a resource for high school and college students who are interested—but know very little—about careers in the laboratory sciences. I see it as one of my biggest accomplishments because it has the potential to inspire medical laboratory professionals for years to come.

Joshua Cannon is an instructor and education coordinator at Jefferson.

Joshua Cannon is an instructor and education coordinator at Jefferson.

What do you think is important for aspiring students to know about this career path?
Sean Chadwick: Biotechnology is a field that will make you become a professional problem-solver. It can go slow at times, but it’s extremely rewarding when you have successes.

Kelly Lennen: The minimum required education for certification as a cytotechnologist will be elevated to a master’s level within the next three to five years. Given the current shortage of cytotechnologists and the upcoming elevation of entry-level education, I foresee cytotechnology to continue to be a rewarding and profitable career path.

What’s the best part of your job?
Dr. Tatiana Zorina: I love seeing the happy eyes and smiles of my students when they “get it” during a lecture and when they pass their board examinations and get desired jobs. It’s also priceless when I receive emails from alumni with updates on their career and personal life achievements.

Kelly Lennen: Pathology is like riddle solving, and each case is its own mystery. I love mind benders and riddles, and I think that’s why pathology keeps me so engaged.

Joshua Cannon: Educating and inspiring the next cohort of medical laboratory scientists. There’s an unbelievable shortage of medical laboratory professionals in the United States, so it’s incredibly rewarding to see my students walk across the stage at graduation prepared—and excited—to enter the workforce.

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