It took four years and stacks of documentation, but Michigan Tech's Medical Laboratory Science program has earned first-time accreditation by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
Chandrashekhar Joshi, chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences— which houses the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program—said the effort was “enormous. We are extremely excited to see all this hard work, under the leadership of program director Karyn Fay, come to fruition.”
The need for medical laboratory scientists is enormous, particularly in rural areas. Fay called the situation “a crisis. If we can’t graduate qualified people, hospitals are going to start hiring less-qualified people,” she warned.
Michigan Tech has taught medical laboratory science since 1941, originally as medical technology. It has evolved over the years to medical lab science, which is the major diagnostic arm of medicine. The question about accreditation arose when more and more hospitals—where MLS students must do a six to nine-month practicum after they earn their Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science—stopped supporting and started closing their accredited education programs. There are now only three hospitals in Michigan accredited to offer the MLS practicum, required before graduates can take national boards and get certified, Fay explained.
The five-year accreditation—the longest initial accreditation offered by NAACLS—enables the University to affiliate with hospitals throughout the Upper Peninsula, elsewhere in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and across the country. Already, Michigan Tech has affiliated with 11 new hospitals where MLS graduates can do their practicum.
“This allows us to grow our program,” Fay said. Tech’s MLS program now has about 80 students who are spending three or four years in classes and labs on campus plus completing a practicum. There is such a demand for medical laboratory scientists that every graduate of the Michigan Tech program gets three or four job offers, often before they have even graduated, said Fay. They usually earn a starting salary of around $50,000, and wages are going up as the need for qualified lab scientists increases. “There is such a shortage of workers that hospitals are eager to affiliate with us,” Fay said.
“We are lucky to have such amazing medical laboratory scientists and teachers running this program,” Joshi said.
Q: What does this award mean to you?
A: It is very heartwarming to get this recognition from the students; I think that it's like, yeah, those students actually seem to like me! When you teach and look out into the class, I often see the students have a good laugh each session for the first couple of weeks. And then, during the following weeks of the semester, it is harder to see the students enjoying the class because they wear out a bit and get very busy. You sometimes feel like you lost them. Or maybe I lost some steam, too. And then you find a letter in your mailbox that you are nominated for the teaching award. Thinking about the long winters here, I would call teaching a powerful antidepressant. I get an adrenaline kick when I go to class and interact with the students. That's definitely the highlight of my day.
Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: Relaxed. German. Well, maybe relaxed and German don't go together. It's very organized. I make good slides and post them before the semester begins. The slides are beautiful with not too much text; put the text in the right size, have nice pictures. Good storytelling is key, and I try not to ramble or squish things in. Sixteen to 20 slides per class session are just about right. I teach immunology, genomics, genetics, and a genetic techniques lab. I tell about my own research when it fits and make it fun and lighthearted. I make it a goal that the students should have a good laugh at least once per class session, although it gets more difficult to accomplish the later it gets into the semester. I really enjoy and value teaching both within the classroom setting and in my research lab. One of my greatest points of pride is that during my nine years at Michigan Tech, I have mentored 103 undergraduate and five graduate students in my lab.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I leave for Singapore soon for a one-year sabbatical studying butterfly genetics. As a child, I started collecting butterflies when I was 10 years old, and that's why I became a biologist. I got tenure last year and though I'm not going to change my lab into studying butterflies right now, I really wanted to visit a lab where everything is set up for butterfly genetics. Antonia Monteiro at the National University of Singapore studies the color patterns of butterflies. She is figuring out the genetic pathways sculpturing butterfly pigmentation. I am going to visit her and work on this.
Dr. David Frendewey is Executive Director of Discovery and Screening at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, New York. Dave earned his BS in Biological Sciences at Michigan Tech in 1976. He completed his PhD in Biochemistry in 1980 at the University of Wyoming. Following postdoctoral training at Yale University and at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Dave took faculty positions at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island the New York University School of Medicine. He joined Regeneron in 1998.
Dr. Frendewey’s academic research concerned the synthesis and function of RNA, DNA’s chemical cousin. Some highlights include the discovery of the spliceosome, the macromolecular complex that edits cellular information as it flows from DNA through RNA to protein, and the identification and characterization of the Dicer enzyme family, central players in the biological process of RNA interference.
At Regeneron, Dave has worked on developing new technologies for the manipulation of genes. Between 2006 and 2011 Dave ran Regeneron’s production efforts for the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Knockout Mouse Project. He also participated in the development of Regeneron’s novel VelocImmune mouse for the natural production of human therapeutic antibodies, the engine of Regeneron’s drug development pipeline. Dave has recently taken on the supervision of research groups investigating neurodegenerative diseases and hearing loss.
Dr. Frendewey has over 80 publications in the scientific and patent literature, including articles in Science, Cell, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and 32 granted U.S. patents. He resides in Manhattan with his wife and fellow scientist Dr. Pamela Cowin, Professor of Cell Biology at the NYU School of Medicine.
Karl and Christine (Blood) LaPeer were selected by the Alumni Board of Directors as recipients of a 2019 Humanitarian Award. They are 1985 Michigan Tech graduates, Karl with a Mechanical Engineering degree, and Christine with a Medical Technology degree. During his time at Tech, Karl vividly remembers the second day of classes as his most memorable, saying “I met my future bride (now wife of 32 years) on the second day of classes in a calculus class, I would have to say that was the best thing that ever happened to me at MTU.”
Between 2013 and 2014, the LaPeers and their children, working through the Angel House initiative, funded the building of three Angel House Orphanages (25 children each) and two freshwater wells in India. In May 2013 Karl, Chris, and their daughter Elayna dedicated an orphanage; in December 2013 an orphanage and village well was dedicated by their daughter Heather; and in December of 2014 and orphanage and village well were dedicated by their son Nate.
The LaPeers served as part of the 1Nation1Day (1N1D) 2015 mission outreach in the Dominican Republic as part of a team of over 2,000 foreign aid workers providing pairs of shoes to children, distributing meals, training business leaders, and providing clean water. During this time Chris also worked in medical clinics around the country, while Karl and their daughter Elayna led the campaign’s University Forum program where 5,600 university students were empowered in 38 forums led by 33 business leaders from around the world.
In Nicaragua in 2017 (1N1D) Karl and Chris were part of a team of 2,800 foreign aid workers in which 8,941 people were treated for free at eight medical clinics, 270,000 meals were distributed, 438 small homes were built, 1,220 business leaders were trained, 16,000 people were provided with clean water, over 100,000 primary school students were given hope in school assemblies, 6,111 women were empowered at conferences, and 3,600 attended pastor conferences. Karl and Chris also headed the 1Nation1Day team in the department (state) of Boaco.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.