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Posted March 26, 2014

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TriCore Reference Labs Offer STEM Enhancement through Classroom Presentations

Sandia HS Anatomy and Physiology 11th and 12th graders in Stacey Greth’s class listened in rapt attention to TriCore Education Coordinator and Medical Laboratory Scientist Sharon Whetten speak about career opportunities and the importance of educational choices, as well as information about different departments within the organization.

Sandia HS Anatomy and Physiology teacher Stacey Greth, left, and Tricore Education Coordinator and Medical Laboratory Scientist Sharon Whetten talk to students during a recent presentation at the school.

Students were given a complete view of working in a laboratory setting.  Topics covered included blood bank, chemistry, microbiology, toxicology, immunology, hematology, and other specialized areas like cytogenetics, information technology (to build needed software) and molecular diagnostics.   Topics covered in the class curriculum such as the importance and function of platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells, the difference in bacteria and viruses, and how urine and blood are used to detect drugs, were reinforced.

The Education Coordinator emphasized several messages of interest and importance to young people – that there is a strong genetic disposition to alcoholism so be careful before taking that first drink; that your hair holds your drug history, sometimes for many months; that marijuana is considered a gateway to illegal drugs; and that the younger marijuana use begins, the more damage to the growing brain.   Being careful of what you put in your body was a recurring message during the class period. 

The partnership has been expanded to include any interested high school.  Options offered are providing career fair speakers, classroom presentations, job shadowing for students planning to go into the field, science fair judging, and tours and field trips to TriCore.  Interested teachers may contact Sharon at 505.938.8834 or sharon.whetten@tricore.org for more information or to schedule an activity.  Please request at least one month in advance.

Mrs. Whetten talked about career pathways in the area of medical technology and laboratory work and mentioned that many areas have grave shortages across the nation.  CNM offers a two year Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) and UNM offers a four year Medical Laboratory Scientist degree (MLS); both offer almost 100% job placement, depending on grades and skill level.  The most basic course is in Phlebotomy, the drawing of blood, and is a good place to start towards a medical career.   Students were able to draw “pretend blood from a pretend arm” at the end of the presentation. 

“The key to a better future is education in the right field,” Mrs. Whetten reiterated at the end of the class period.   That message seemed to resonate with the students, who asked a variety of questions about the medical technology field, appropriate classes to take, salary expectations with both a two year and four year degree, and opportunities other than Tri Core.  They learned that there are several labs in Albuquerque and they could work in a doctor’s office, a state lab, a DNA lab for crime scene testing, and even veterinarian offices.     

 

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