By Kate Hunger
When Alana Rubio was growing up in Uvalde, Texas, she knew she wanted to find a career she could pursue with passion.
She took a wide range of classes at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, hoping to find the field that would inspire her and give her the direction she craved. That spark came in her chemistry class, taught by a professor whose enthusiasm for the subject was contagious.
That moment was when Rubio realized she wanted to find a profession she loved.
With her interest in science piqued, Rubio discovered the medical laboratory science (MLS) profession with the help of her microbiology instructor, an alumna of the MLS program in the School of Health Professions. Rubio quizzed her instructor about her work in MLS and learned about the UT Health San Antonio program — the only one to which Rubio applied.
Now a first-year student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in this field, Rubio is fascinated by her future profession.
“It’s just a fun ride of information that amazes you every single day,” she said. “It’s such a mystery and an art all in itself, which I love. There are so many laboratory tests and so many ways to reach a decision.”
She considers medical laboratory scientists to be critical members of the health care team whose work is often under the radar.
“We’re that hidden gem in your health care setting that is going to help you so much,” she said. “It’s exciting to know I can contribute to the patient and to the science world and to the community in a way that I love.”
Rubio’s parents emphasized the importance of education.
“My mom is a teacher,” she said. “Everything was a lesson and there was always information to be learned. I always knew knowledge is power and education allows you to get to the point you want to be.
Rubio said her father, who emigrated from Mexico, did not have the educational opportunities that he and her mother taught her to value.
“He didn’t have that option,” she said. “It’s important to me to learn and to grow and to read and to talk to other people and just absorb as much as I can and do my best.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened Rubio’s commitment and respect for the profession.
“Some people don’t know this is an option,” she said of an MLS career.
“When they draw your blood and send it to the lab and run your blood test, some people don’t think twice about who performs the testing,” she said. “Hopefully the pandemic has shed some light on the MLS career.”
Rubio has impressed the faculty with her passion for biology, her focus, her excitement for learning, and her attention to detail in the laboratory.
“She exudes a quiet strength and determination and will be a valuable asset to any laboratory,” said Terri Murphy-Sanchez, MLS, CSMLS, ASCP, assistant professor and interim program director of the Department of Health Sciences, Division of Medical Laboratory Sciences.
Rubio, who said she graduated high school without being exposed to a wide range of educational and career opportunities, hopes sharing her story will inspire younger students to discover — and follow — their dreams.
“I think it’s important for the students in school right now to understand that there are no boundaries,” she said.