Saint Louis University and Quest Diagnostics will launch an accelerated bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory science. The 16-month program will combine online academic courses with intensive hands-on learning and clinical experiences in Quest’s Lenexa laboratory. 

“Medical laboratory scientists are the hidden heroes who help save lives every day,” says Amanda Reed, Medical Laboratory Science Program director and assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Health Sciences at Saint Louis University’s Doisy College of Health Sciences. 

Medical Detectives

Medical laboratory scientists detect diseases ranging from COVID-19 to cancer. 

Using sophisticated equipment and advanced technologies, an estimated 335,000 medical laboratory scientists across the United States perform 14 billion diagnostic tests each year to inform patients’ diagnoses and treatment. This includes identifying pathogens that cause infections and abnormal blood cells that could be signs of cancer or other diseases. MLS professionals also perform glucose tests that lead to the diagnosis of diabetes, which affects an estimated 37 million Americans.

“We’re excited to team up with SLU, a leader in educating the next generation of lab leaders,” says Doug Hamilton, vice president, Laboratory Operations for Quest’s Midwest Region. “The number of people currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science will satisfy only half of the demand for these workers during the next 10 years. 

 noted Doug Hamilton, vice president, Laboratory Operations for Quest’s Midwest Region. 

A Growing Need, dwindling Medical Laboratory Science Programs  

Despite performing lifesaving work and receiving great pay and benefits – the average annual salary for medical laboratory science graduates in the United States is $66,547, according to Burning Glass Technologies – these professionals are in short supply.

The field is projected to grow 17% by 2030, with about 12,600 openings for medical laboratory scientists during the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, there are not enough colleges and universities investing in MLS education, Hamilton said. 

A History of Medical Laboratory Science Education

SLU’s partnership with Quest is designed to fill these gaps with a rigorous program that exposes students to the inner workings of a busy laboratory. 

SLU has a long history of educating medical laboratory scientists. The university’s ground-campus medical laboratory science program in St. Louis was among the first in the nation and has achieved more than 85 years of continuous accreditation. There is a 100% job placement rate for students within 6 months of earning their bachelor’s degree, and the program has a near-perfect pass rate on the national MLS board certification exam.

In Lenexa, 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).

While most patients will never see a medical laboratory scientist, Reed said these professionals’  impact on patient care is profound. “We impress upon our students that behind every blood draw and nasal swab is a person,” she says.

The Lenexa program is geared to those with at least 60 college credit hours or a bachelor’s degree in another field. There will be 3 start dates per year – spring, summer, and fall – beginning in 2023.

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