St. Louis University reaching into the Kansas City metro to help with lab scientist shortage

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:19 AM CST
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LENEXA, Ks. (KCTV) - Officials with Saint Louis University and Quest Diagnostics’ new partnership say course offerings in the Kansas City metro will help combat a dire shortage of medical laboratory scientists.

They are offering a 16-month hybrid program for new scientists in the field, which also gives current Quest employees a chance to go back to school while working. They said the partnership is critical now for the shortage of lab scientists who perform 14 billion diagnostic tests each year and detect diseases ranging from Covid-19 to cancer to diabetes and more. MLS professionals perform glucose tests also that lead to diagnosing diabetes that affects 37 million Americans.

The 16-month hybrid program combines online learning and hands-on learning in the lab in Lenexa.

Saint Louis University MLS Program Director Amanda Reed and assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Health Sciences at Saint Louis University’s Doisy College of Health Sciences said it will increase enrollment for the course and recruit the next generation to stay in the workforce. She enjoys being able to communicate the importance of the profession to her students, but also communicate there is a person behind that test.

“I kind of joke sometimes that if you want to be in health care but you don’t want to touch or talk to patients, but you still want to help people, medical laboratory science is a great profession to go into because you really do have a huge impact,” she said. “You may not get the glory, but you do make a difference.”

The MLS field is projected to grow 17% by 2030 which is about 12,600 job openings during that time according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are around 335,000 MLS professionals in the field right now and there are around 25,600 job openings in the profession each year according to the bureau of labor statistics. The current number of college grads nationwide will fill only about half of the current industry open positions.

About 70 percent of all medical decisions are made based on diagnostic test results for a variety of things from hospitals, blood banks, veterinaries, genetic, and other labs.

The silent heroes put on their masks, gloves, and protective gear, and get to work.

Doug Hamilton, Quest’s Midwest Region Vice President of Lab Operations said, “The medical laboratory scientists have a critical component that they play in healthcare. This has really been highlighted through the covid pandemic because the medical laboratory scientists have been performing the covid 19 testing that physicians and patients so desperately need.”

Hamilton said the partnership began this year in January when an employee forwarded him information about Saint Louis’ hybrid program.

Students will gain analytical skills and technical expertise in clinical chemistry, medical microbiology, immunohematology, hematology, and clinical immunology. After successfully completing the program, graduates will be eligible to take the national board of certification examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

The Lenexa program is geared towards those with at least 60 college credit hours or a bachelor’s degree in another field. There will be three start dates per year beginning in 2023.