The Medical Laboratory Technology program at Seminole State College had a near death experience due to local decisions connected to state budget cuts last spring, but a quickly arranged partnership with Gordon Cooper Technology Center resuscitated it.

Despite enjoying a 90 percent national certification pass rate and a 100 percent job placement rate, Seminole State decided to close the program as one way to respond to state budget cuts. Gordon Cooper Technology Center Superintendent Marty Lewis heard that the program faced closure and decided to reach out to SSC President Jim Utterback to seek a way to give the MLT program new life.

“Working together, our schools found a way to keep this important program alive for the benefit of the people in this region,” Gordon Cooper Technology Center Superintendent Marty Lewis said. “We just could not let a valuable program like this die.  It was far too important to the employers around the region and it was critically important as a vehicle to prosperity for many individuals we serve.  The Medical Laboratory Technology program will continue to prepare students for high-demand, high-wage jobs that help with the shortage of qualified lab scientists needed by local healthcare providers.”

As a part of the agreement, it was decided that the Seminole State Medical Laboratory Technology program would move to new facilities provided by Gordon Cooper Technology Center. The Seminole State/Gordon Cooper Tech Medical Laboratory Technology program is moving into its new facility at GCTC in preparation for classes to begin meeting in Shawnee starting in January 2017. Seminole State will continue to grant credit for the classes for students working toward an associate of applied science degree. Seminole State will share with Gordon Cooper Tech the majority of the tuition and fees associated with the MLT course work and in return Gordon Cooper will absorb most of the program expenses.

A classroom remodeled into a new 1,600 square foot Medical Laboratory Technology lab at the Gordon Cooper main campus features 42 customized workstations with laboratory-grade countertops built primarily by GCTC staff members. The lab features three sink areas, a safety wash area, refrigeration area, storage, two offices, Smart Board technology and substantial WiFi capabilities for the benefit of the students.  Some aspects of the new lab weren’t available in their previous space.   A separate classroom near the lab is available for lecture space.

Two or three enrollment slots are available for eligible students to begin course work in January of 2017, MLT Program Director Malinda Browning said.

“Medical laboratory scientists are medical detectives who help patients by identifying conditions so doctors can prescribe the right treatment,” she said. “Medical laboratory scientists save lives every day behind closed doors.”

The Medical Laboratory Technology program prepares students to work in a medical lab performing routine testing, assist in equipment monitoring and maintenance, and follow quality control procedures to assure testing accuracy and precision, Browning said.

Medical laboratory scientists find employment in a variety of settings ranging from hospital labs to blood banks, physician office labs, public health, veterinary offices and industry labs, she said.

Half of the current medical laboratory scientists in the workforce are reaching or nearing retirement age. At the same time, Baby Boomers are entering the healthcare system in increasing numbers. Because of this, the job and wage outlook is positive for years to come. The starting wage for MLT graduates is $18-20 per hour, she said.

During the past two years, 19 MLT students have been awarded scholarships from the American Society for Clinical Pathology and Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics. These prestigious scholarships are awarded as a means of addressing the nation’s shortage of qualified medical laboratory personnel, defraying education costs, and promoting the medical laboratory profession, Browning said.

Medical Laboratory Technology students learn to measure levels of chemical produced by glands and organ systems in illness and normal physiologic processes. Technologists analyze body fluids using techniques of chemical analysis such as enzymatic reactions, measurable color changes, and light scatter.

Students learn hematology to detect and classify different types of cells in blood. While studying immunohematology, students learn about testing, processing, and storing donated blood to ensure that each unit will benefit the patient who receives it. Blood banking personnel provide prenatal antibody testing, special coagulation factors, and blood products for patients with chronic illnesses and cancer.

Microbiology study involves working with patients’ specimens to discover organisms that cause infection or disease.

The Seminole State/Gordon Cooper Tech Medical Laboratory Technology program will provide students with in-depth classroom and clinical experience during their course of study. The MLT program has clinical affiliations with St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital, St. Anthony Physicians of Shawnee, Henryetta Medical Center, Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, Alliance Health of Seminole, Integris Southwest Medical Center, Integris Baptist Medical Center, and Diagnostic Laboratories of Oklahoma. MLT students spend 16 weeks completing 640 contact hours of clinical learning.

A student who is ready to start college can finish an associate of applied science degree in five semesters. Most students land a job before completing the program, Browning said. Enrollment is not limited to current Seminole State College students.  Some individuals who already possess a degree but are having trouble finding a career, might want to consider this program.  A few pre-requisite courses may be all a current degree holder needs to be accepted to the program.  

To learn more about prerequisites for the course and enrollment requirements contact MLT Program Director Malinda Browning at malindab@gctech.edu or m.browning@sscok.edu.