A Closer Look: Medical Lab Science and Beyond
Name: Victoria Delote
First Year, Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Science
Interviewed by Rachel Arner
Where are you from?
Loma Linda, California.
Where did you go to college for your undergraduate degree?
I attended Southern Adventist University.
Why did you decide to study medical laboratory science (MLS)?
I was originally a biology major before I was MLS. I didn’t make the switch until my junior year, after I heard about it from one of my friends who was already in the program. At that time I was pre-medicine, and I decided to change my major because I wanted a more practical one. With MLS as a major, even if I didn’t get accepted the first time I applied to medical school, I would at least already have a job and a way to gain a year of experience in the healthcare field before applying for acceptance again. A major in biology, though, wouldn’t give me an automatic career in anything; even teaching would first require getting a teaching certificate.
What exactly is MLS?
When the doctor says they need to run some tests, we’re the ones who do those tests. Basically, whenever a sample is collected from a patient it goes to the lab. Lab scientists help physicians with the majority of what goes into forming a diagnosis; we’re a key component to diagnosing conditions, formulating treatment plans, selecting appropriate tests and helping processes like surgery go more smoothly.
What is it like being an MLS graduate student?
It definitely feels different to when I was in undergrad; it’s a little bit like that difference people first feel when they go from high school to college, only not as drastic. For one, the feeling of being completely new and thrown into the deep end is a lot stronger whenever we start a new class. For some of the classes, like International Management, the feeling is that because they're not science-based anymore, I feel like everyone else who isn't coming from an MLS/biology background already has a better grasp and knows more than I do. But the feeling's also compounded because of the demographic of classmates. Because I went straight into getting my Master’s rather than working first for a few years, I’m different from most of the people in my classes. Many of my classmates are a lot older than I am, already married, have kids and have worked for at least five years. Not only that, but I’ve taken classes with Andrews professors and deans. Having a professor as a classmate takes some getting used to. “Could I see your notes for class last week?” is already hard to ask a professor/classmate. And when the situation flips and they ask to see your notes, it definitely feels like you’ve reached some kind of hidden graduation level.
What is the MLS graduate program like?
The graduate program is laid-back in comparison to the undergraduate program. The classes are different in their pacing and structure. It definitely involves more self-monitoring, pacing and discipline because there aren't necessarily quizzes, tests or checkpoints every class period. Instead, there are more presentation and research paper assignments. Also, the approach to teaching some classes is no longer strictly, “I’m here to teach you,” but more of, “we’re all learning together.” Some of my classmates love the change, but I’ve found that the Asian in me doesn’t like discussion-based classes and prefers more structured lectures.
For those studying MLS and are about to go to graduate school, what advice would you give them?
Research the different Master’s concentrations that are available, and then plot your entire study path well. If you plan well, chances are that you may be able to graduate earlier than expected. For instance, you can see when all of the classes you need are offered, and if a lot of them are online, you could plan to take a full semester of online classes from home.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you started the graduate program?
Not really. I think that if you really research the different Master’s concentration options and where each one will take you, then you don’t really need to know much else. It's up to prayerful and informed decision-making from there.
What is your favorite thing about the MLS graduate program?
It might sound weird, but the non-science classes are my favorite thing. For MLS, your undergrad is almost entirely science classes aside from the required gen-ed’s and a few electives. So being able to be exposed to a lot of different disciplines, learning information that I have very little background on, that's what I enjoy about taking classes that aren't directly related to my field of study.
What are your future plans and where do you hope to go next?
The number one thing all new graduates hope for—I’d like to get a job. The intent is that working in the lab will give me the necessary experience so that I can apply for another job and fulfill my goal of teaching MLS. Where that is, I still don’t know. I’m open to teaching it anywhere, and will continue to pray about it until that happens.