Cindy Cambron MT (ASCP), CLS (MB)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in medical technology in 1977 and working as a generalist in a hospital in New Orleans for several years, I decided to focus my full attention on raising our 4 children. 25 years later, our youngest son left for college and I felt it was time to re-enter the work force. The field of medical technology had changed significantly over the years, so I enrolled in the Molecular Diagnostics program at the UT Health Science Center to expand my MT degree. In 2006, after completing one semester of classroom work along with a 7-month internship, I passed the NCA registry examination required for certification in molecular biology. Returning to school was indeed challenging, but the faculty and administration were very helpful and encouraging. The courses I took that year, notably hematology and immunology, have been extremely helpful in my new research and development position at SA Scientific in San Antonio. SA Scientific develops and produces immunochromatographic diagnostic assays for the clinical laboratory. The background knowledge I acquired as a medical technologist supplemented by the didactic work at the UT Health Science Center has proven to be invaluable. Actually, my medical technology training was a key factor in being considered for employment at SA Scientific.
The education I received at the UT Health Science Center helped renew my self-confidence and provided the necessary tools to successfully work at a job I truly enjoy. A degree in medical technology from the UT Health Science Center not only prepares you for employment in a clinical laboratory but also opens doors to many other professions in the medical and scientific field.
In December 1993, I received a Bachelor-joint degree in Clinical Laboratory Science from the UT Health Science Center and UTSA. That fall was the first class to graduate with a degree in Clinical Laboratory Science where previously the degree name was Medical Technology. This was a new step in the field of Clinical Pathology.
I began working full time in the field of Transfusion Medicine at Santa Rosa Hospital-Downtown as a Medical Technologist. Because of my interest and passion in this field, I decided to pursue my interest in SBB School (Specialist in Blood Banking) in Orlando, FL, which some describe as Stress Beyond Belief.
After completing my certificate in SBB, I had the opportunity to work as a QA-Manufacturer Manager at the presently known company, Ortho-Micro Typing System (MTS Gel Card) in Pompano Beach, Florida. The experience I gained in my role as QA Manager proved to be vital in preparing me for my future endeavors.
About a year later, I found myself back in Good-Ole SA as the supervisor of the Special Procedures Laboratory working for the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center (Now QualTex Laboratories). In the laboratory, we provide Immunohematology services to Dialysis Centers, hospitals throughout the state of Texas, and Plasma Centers throughout the country. We are also responsible for instructing MLT, MT, Residences and SBB students. In addition, we are genotyping (DNA technology) our Blood Donors for (31) RBC antigens, freezing aliquots of rare cells and will be performing HLA typing on our Apheresis donors platelets. With these and other upcoming projects I found myself celebrating 10 years of service at STBTC. Like they say, time flies when you're having fun.
The field of Clinical Laboratory Science has given me many opportunities that include traveling to Mexico city, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador; Boston, MA; Orlando and Pompano Beach, FL; San Jose, CA; and Phoenix, AR. I had the opportunity to contribute and become involved in the creation of the SBB website and SBB School. I studied and was accepted to be an AABB assessor; I am an Adjunct Professor for the UT Health Science Center. I have also populated tables in different transfusion LIS systems. I am a member of different professional societies to include: ASCP, ASQ, AABB, and ASCLS.
A CLS degree provides you with many opportunities and exciting avenues to take in your career path. It has provided me with numerous challenges that have led me to encounter new technologies and industry trends.
I began my career as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist in 1993 as a graduate from Southwest Texas State University, currently known as Texas State University. My first job came as the weekend technologist in Comanche, Texas taking 60 hours of call. I did it all—phlebotomy, hematology, clinical chemistry, and even blood bank!
After working in Comanche for about a year, I was hired as the night technologist at Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos. I was fortunate enough to work in this position for a year and a half as a generalist and then I was asked to be the Clinical Chemistry Supervisor. I was so happy to be offered this opportunity. I had finally worked my way up to be a day shift technologist ! While in this new role, I had the responsibility of not only evaluating and setting up new instruments, maintaining a budget, and training new employees as well as instructing Clinical Laboratory Science students.
After serving in the supervisory capacity for several years, I became interested in pursuing a master’s degree in toxicology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. I had no idea at the time what I was going to do with that degree, but I knew that I wanted it. Many people told me that I was foolish for giving up my good supervisory job and for driving to San Antonio every day for class.
Part of the toxicology program is a 5 week internship at the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Toxicology Laboratory. After my first day of training, I was captivated! I knew that this was exactly where I wanted to be. During my time as an intern, I was fortunate enough to become involved in a research project of the Chief Toxicologist that led to my thesis topic. In the spring of 2003, I successfully completed and defended my thesis, and graduated with a master’s degree in toxicology. Luckily, a position for a toxicology chemist opened up in the fall of 2003 at the Medical Examiner’s Office and I was hired. After working there for three years and gaining the necessary experience, I took and passed the American Board of Forensic Toxicology Specialist exam in February of 2007.
Ultimately, I am very happy that I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree from the Health Science Center. I enjoy my job very much and find satisfaction in being a Clinical Laboratory Scientist as well as supervising the new students who rotate through our laboratory. I would highly encourage other students to pursue a career in this field.
After several years of working as a blood bank clinical laboratory scientist, I decided to further my education. I chose the Masters program in Clinical Laboratory Science at the UT Health Science Center because it was the only Masters offered in Texas that related to my current profession. I also researched the faculty involved with the program and found very knowledgeable, experienced and active professionals. I felt not only would I receive a great education but also make lifelong network connections. Little did I know how true this statement would be in just a few short years.
After graduating, I returned to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Transfusion Services to continue my professional growth. I was instrumental in setting up the Nucleic Acid Testing Laboratory in the Transfusion Services. This task involved designing, validating, and testing all blood components in a one-month time frame. The skills I learned from the UT Health Science Center program were critical to the development of the skills I needed for this assignment. Shortly afterwards, I accepted the position as Education Coordinator of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program. I currently run the day to day operations of the program including but not limited to teaching clinical chemistry and immunohematology didactic courses and student laboratories, scheduling lectures, and overseeing clinical rotations. I now train future CLS professionals as do my UT Health Science Center mentors.
As noted before the networking connections played and still play a critical role in my current and future professional life. I am currently the President-Elect for the Texas Association for Clinical Laboratory Science. In this position, as well, as my previous board position, I have had the great opportunity to work with Dr. Smith and Dr. McKenzie on a professional level to get the word out about the CLS profession. Not only were they great professors but excellent mentors in helping me grow professionally.
My initial interest in the laboratory field stemmed from experiences as a Medical Service Specialistin the Air Force and soon after as a staff nurse (LVN) forKaiserPermanente HMO in California. I realized early on that the laboratory professionals were a unique and a highly trained group of individuals. Iwanted tobe one of "them" from the very beginning. I vividly remember hurrying with my normal tasks so that Icould be in the laboratory. The lure of the instrumentation and technology was overwhelming for me. I wanted to be "Keystone" or "Pivotal" to the patient diagnosis/care.
The UT Health Science Center CLS Program prepared me to be an Officer in the US Air Force and a laboratory professional. We were taught not only to be a Clinical Laboratory Scientist who specializes in pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical processes of laboratory testing, but how to solve problems in a team environment and more importantly, how to think! Most of the lectures, assignments, and case studies involved real world scenarios and incorporated past learned lessons. The exams tested our ability to apply what we've learned to the current situation or scenario.
When I graduated and started working, the identical lessons/scenarios/problem sets started appearing one by one. It is impossible to remember or memorize the solutions to every problem, but what isn't forgotten is how the professors taught to solve the problem.
Many of my former classmates, senior and junior to me, are also Biomedical Laboratory Officers in the Armed Services. We find ourselves continuously comparing notes to what military awards we've won, what assignments we've been hand-picked to man, the fellowships we plan to be selected for and are already enrolled in, etc.
We come from different parts of the US, but the common bond we share is the foundation of our knowledge built at the UT Health Science Center. Once I was commissioned into the AF and sent outside of San Antonio, I quickly realized that all clinical laboratory professionals do not receive the same intense, broad-spectrum education that we received at the HSC. I find many colleagues who are able to articulate medical conditions and testing required (as if read out of a book or memorized), but not able to understand nor solve problems, nor apply proper testing when they arise. This is clearly the most defining part of my education. I've also figured out that I've been taught better than the average generalist and just as capable as the specialist in Chemistry, Hematology, Immunology, Blood Banking or Microbiology because of the level of training I received at the HSC.
My professors are famous and well respected in their specialties. My former co-workers and current colleagues often use/refer to textbooks that were authored, edited, or chapters co-written by my former professors or guest lecturers themselves. Every time one of their sources are cited in a Standard Operation Procedure or Operating Instruction or cited in professional conversation, I can say that I personally know and currently keep in touch with that author/source! What an honor!
Listed here are my past and current assignments in the military:
I graduated from UT Health Science Center at San Antonio in December of 1994. In January 1995, I accepted a generalist CLS position at Federal Medical Center, Carswell, a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Fort Worth, Texas. FMC, Carswell is a federal correctional institution for female offenders. It is the only federal medical center for female offenders in the United States. Any woman convicted of a federal crime who has been diagnosed with cancer, cardiac problems, immunocompromised, hepatitis, psychiatric problems, needs surgery, etc. is sent to Carswell for treatment and follow- up. Our housing capacity is 1300 inmates, however, about 300 patients need daily medical care.
The medical center was activated in November 1994. When I started to work, I was a phlebotomist only. We sent everything out to the referral laboratory. As our laboratory services expanded, I gained hands on experience setting up a laboratory; writing procedures; performing correlation studies; adhering to CLIA ' 88 regulations and undergoing inspection; researching instruments for testing and; preparing the laboratory for College of American Pathologist(CAP) inspection. The laboratory has been CAP accredited since November 1998. Currently we perform hematology, coagulation, clinical chemistry, urinalysis, special chemistry, and microbiology testing. We report approximately 110,000 tests per year.
I was promoted to the Laboratory Technical Supervisor position in January 1997. As the technical supervisor, I am responsible for reviewing patient reports, quality control and preventative maintenance records, correlation studies for new tests or instruments, maintaining and ensuring compliance with CAP/JCAHO accreditation standards. I am also the waived testing coordinator, and the referral laboratories liaison.
I chose this position because the pay was better than other places, there was potential for upward mobility, and the position was closer to my family. My education at the UT Health Science Center was instrumental preparing me for this unorthodox position. The courses provided the principles of testing, which is very important when trying to understand the different instruments available and what kind of testing we want to offer our health care providers. Understanding the disease states and associating them with the different analytes is crucial. We work closely with our physicians so they order the correct test. My education from UT Health Science Center allowed me to gain the physician's respect when they realized I have the knowledge and can assist them when needed. Thanks to the UT Health Science Center, I am proud of that relationship.
I began working at the Fungus Testing Laboratory at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio shortly after I graduated with my Clinical Laboratory Sciences degree. The FTL is an international reference laboratory for the study of fungi that cause human and animal disease. I entered the laboratory as a beginninglevel bench technologist and over the past few years, progressed to Supervisor and am now currently the Technical Director.
The FTL provides clinical testing of patient isolates to give identification of the isolate, susceptibility testing to determine the most active antifungal agent, and antifungal drug level monitoring once a patient is receiving therapy. In addition to the clinical function of the laboratory, we serve as a research center for testing of potential new agents and procedures.
Mycology is a specialized field where medical knowledge is limited. I have had the opportunity to learn at the cutting edge of discovery and have subsequently had the opportunity to travel across 4 continents teaching others about the clinically significant fungi. I have also had the opportunity to interface with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry acting as a consultant as they sort through a vast assortment of potential new antifungal agents in an attempt to determine which compounds show the greatest promise of actually making it to the pharmacy shelf for treatment of infections.
Each and every day holds new opportunities and challenges. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful job that is as much fun as any leisure time activity. I would never have had the opportunity to obtain such a position without the CLS degree.
I have had several different, challenging job opportunities in CLS since I graduated from the UT Health Science Center Clinical Laboratory Science Program in 1985. Immediately after graduation, I worked in a large hospital hematology department. After two years, Iwas promoted to senior technologist. I then began to perform specialcoagulation workups, instruct CLS students and develop new procedures. In 1988, I became laboratory manager at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio. This was a small laboratory that expanded significantly over the years. I not only performed the tests but also maintained inventory, prepared budgets, collaborated with other departments to provide laboratory services, and maintained CAP and CLIA accreditations. In 1990, I took the specialist in hematology exam and became certified as a SH(ASCP). I went back to school for my master's degree in health care management in 1994 and graduated with honors in 1997 from Our Lady of the Lake University. My current position is Director of Laboratory Services for South Texas Oncology and Hematology. In this position, I manage four hematology laboratories around San Antonio.
I really enjoy this profession and I encourage students to pursue their interest in this field, even if they plan to eventually pursue further professional training, for example as a physician. There are many career opportunities in this area.
Tony Benetti, M.S. MPA CLS, MT(ASCP)
I have held several positions related to clinical laboratory science since I graduated from the UT Health Science Center. I started my profession in the manufacturing industry with a company that created tests and reagents for medical laboratories. My job was to approve the end products and provide technical assistance to end users. I had over 100 employees to train and educate. I was able to exceed my employer’s expectations because of the quality of education I received while in the program.
I moved from manufacturing to the clinical sector and became a lab manager for a large not-for-profit organization. I managed 16 labs and collection stations with 22 employees. This was very challenging the first year because within 3 months of my starting date our labs were inspected by COLA and JAHCO. Nevertheless, our grade was 95 for both inspections. Once again, I was able to hit the ground running in my new position on the foundations of the CLS program and the quality of the professors.
Currently, I am working for a software firm. My title is Product Manager. My functions are to help hospital labs (200 beds to 800 beds) minimize their manual processes by using software. I am working on a LIS prototype being developed in India. Other functions of my current job are to travel inside and outside of the US, performing product demonstrations at hospitals and conferences. Some of the exciting places I traveled to in the last year are Orlando, Miami, Key West, New York, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Montana, Ontario, Nassau, and Puerto Rico. I was even given the opportunity to work from my home in Puerto Rico for 3 months. Once again, I was qualified for this job because of my education in CLS, my experience and my willingness to learn. There are many positions for CLS professionals, and with the training the UT Health Science Center offers, you will be prepared not to do just bench work, but also other great and exciting jobs.