By Kate Hunger
It turns out if you’ve seen one blood cell, you haven’t seen them all.
Students from 77 medical laboratory sciences and medical laboratory technology programs from around the country recently competed to test their speed at identifying 30 normal and abnormal blood cells. The School of Health Professions’ team of 20 first- and second-year bachelor’s and master’s students went up against 32 other teams in the competition’s MidWest region. The team fell out of competition in the fourth week’s elimination round, placing third in the region at 36.76 seconds — just .12 seconds behind the second-place team.
Some of the reference points first-year master’s student and team member Beverly Nystrom uses to identify blood cells are color, shape and the proportion of nucleus and cytoplasm to the cell.
“It’s definitely tricky at first,” Nystrom said. “There are very subtle differences in some cells. You have to build almost a muscle memory of knowing what you are looking for so that you can get that quick response time.”
This was the cell bowl’s first year, said Assistant Professor Terri Murphy-Sanchez, MLS, CSMLS, ASCP, interim program director for the Division of Medical Laboratory Sciences.
“This is an important skill to learn because in hematology we must learn to correctly identify both normal and abnormal (malignant) cells when doing a manual cell differentiation on a peripheral blood smear to aid in a clinician’s diagnosis,” Murphy-Sanchez said.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology and YouTube personality Medical Lab Lady Gill sponsored the event, which began Oct. 11 and was conducted remotely through the use of a free cellular identification app by CellaVision. Students competed to identify 30 blood cells as fast as possible, with each team submitting its top weekly score. The School of Health Professions team placed in the top 10 scores for three weeks, placing first in week 2 by identifying all 30 blood cells in 31.38 seconds and second in week 3, at 30.6 seconds, Murphy-Sanchez said.
Murphy-Sanchez was so impressed with the students’ efforts that she continued the competition in-house and awarded prizes to the top finishers, including Nystrom, who finished first.
“All students showed progress each week with a higher number of correctly identified cells, all while getting faster at identifying,” Murphy-Sanchez said.