From criminal trials to the recent cattle cloning, topics in today's media are increasingly focused on discussions of chromosomes and DNA. For Betty Dunn, MS, CLSp (CG), assistant professor of clinical laboratory sciences, the topic has been tops on her list of interests for several years.
Dunn is responsible for one of only five programs in North America approved by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) that trains cytogenetics technologists--persons who examine the structure and function of chromosomes at the cellular level. "One of the main things the students learn is to recognize the chromosomes' banding patterns," said Dunn. "For example, they have to know these patterns to give a precise diagnosis of cancer. The clinician can then determine an appropriate treatment." The patterns, including abnormal ones, are so numerous that students require 24 weeks of clinical training. Students also learn to prepare specimens for examination.
Upon successful completion of the School of Allied Health Sciences' year-long program, students may take the National Certification Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel (NCA) exam that certifies successful candidates to perform clinical work in a cytogenetics laboratory. "The regulations for cytogenetics technologists are really quite lenient right now--only the director and one technologist in each laboratory have to be certified," Dunn commented. "Further, there is no certification requirement fortechnologists who perform molecular work."
Dunn is among the educators working to change the situation. "The majority of laboratory workers receive on-the-job training--such a situation results in performance level variability," added Dunn. "We set our standards very high, and our curriculum prepares students for the NCA certification."
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