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UTHSC grant to aid promising female minority students

MedtechDSC-600When you get a diagnosis as the result of a medical test, do you ever stop to consider who ran that test?

Probably not. Still, about 70 percent of medical diagnoses are made with information from the laboratory provided by medical laboratory scientists.

The demand for medical laboratory scientists is expected to rise by at least 13 percent through 2020, according to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. And salaries are also on the rise, with the median wage, based on location, estimated at $56,870. The unemployment rate of medical laboratory scientists is less than 2 percent, which is matched only by that of pharmacy technicians.

That's why the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the oldest Medical Laboratory Sciences program in continuous operation in the United States, is hoping to put a career in medical laboratory science within reach of promising female minority students.

The department recently received a $15,500 grant from the UT Alliance of Women Philanthropists to help make that happen. The Alliance is made up of female donors whose mission is to educate, empower and inspire women to be philanthropic leaders at the University of Tennessee. The organization's philanthropic goals involve using education to raise the quality of life for women and their families.

The grant will help provide necessary "catalyst" funding to purchase books and educational supplies for deserving female minority students for one year. Recipients will pass on their books and other permanent supplies to the next group of students in need.

"We have seen many students who are intellectually talented, but who have to work so many hours after school that they simply cannot succeed in earning their college degrees," Dr. Linda L. Williford Pifer, professor in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, and Kathy Kenwright, chair of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science, wrote in applying for the grant. "Vastly, too many students find they must choose between food and shelter or an education, and this is incredibly disheartening to see, year after year."

Pifer said the grant is helping 14 minority women on their "pathway to professionalism" to become medical laboratory scientists. "It will provide textbooks, appropriate laboratory apparel and will cover the cost of their national board examinations," she said. "Education has the power to break the cycle of poverty, and in doing so, we will staff our diagnostic laboratories with much-needed young B.S. professionals who can make their own way financially in a field whose unemployment rate is less than 2 percent."

Cordova resident Desiree Evans, 27, a second-year medical laboratory science student at UTHSC, said the grant money "will help out a whole lot" in her household. She had a baby boy in March and also works on campus as a student assistant.

"It's paying for my boards and textbooks, as well as scrubs, which saves a whole lot on my end, because money's tight," Evans said. Without the grant, she would have to work more, "which takes away time from me being at home with my husband and son."

Evans is excited about the employment prospects for students in the laboratory sciences program. "If you go online now and look for various hospitals, every one of them is looking for clinical laboratory scientists," she said. "It's a big boom for us right now."

(For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.)

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