Health Professions

MLS students win VA scholarships

MLS student Austin Ryden

By Kate Hunger

Master of Medical Laboratory Sciences students Mary K. Huerta and Austin Ryden have been awarded full scholarships from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA Health Professional Scholarship Program scholarships, cover tuition and fees and provide a stipend for living expenses, require recipients to work at a VA health care facility after graduation and  passing the national American Society for Clinical Pathology/ASCP Board of Certification examination. The period of service is two years for medical laboratory scientists, called medical technologists in the VA program.

“We are very proud and happy for them,” said Terri Murphy-Sanchez, MLS, CSMLS, ASCPCM, assistant professor and program director for the Division of Medical Laboratory Sciences.

Both Huerta and Ryden discovered the medical laboratory sciences profession after their earlier plans changed. Huerta had intended to go to veterinary school, but a two-year stint as a vet tech persuaded her to reconsider.

“I realized how much it was taking a toll on my body and mentally,” she said. “I was just drained every night. I came to the conclusion that was not going to be something I could keep doing long term. I took a step back and had to figure out what I wanted to do in life.”

What Huerta wanted was to earn a master’s degree. Her online research led her to UT Health San Antonio’s master of Medical Laboratory Sciences program, a great fit for her love of the laboratory. She has found the program to be both challenging and supportive.

“It has been stressful, but the professors are great and are really good at what they do,” she said. “They want to see you succeed and provide you with a lot of opportunities.”

The VA scholarship is a game changer, she said.

“Because I am pretty much paying for this on my own, I’ve tried to make to make a habit of applying to any scholarship I can get my hands on,” she said. “To my surprise, I was one of the recipients. I have never received a scholarship this big before.”

Ryden, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with the intention of going to medical school, has long wanted to work in a medical setting helping patients. While he may pursue medical school in the future, for now Ryden is excited about the role he will play as a medical laboratory scientist whose work will help physicians develop diagnoses and treatment plans.

“I’ve always been interested in all the different things that blood testing can show,” he said.

Working as a medical laboratory scientist is an excellent experience no matter which direction he takes his career, he added.

 “You’re a full-on scientist when you get out of this program,” he said. “We are fully accredited with a certification. Not only do we know how to perform the tests, we’re able to correctly interpret them.”

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