WILSONVILLE, Ore. – This Saturday, 48 new Medical Lab Science graduates will enter the region’s workforce after graduating from a rigorous bachelor’s degree program at Oregon Institute of Technology, “Oregon Tech,” and OHSU. The MLS program has a stunning job placement rate of nearly 100 percent within three to six months of graduation. Approximately half of the graduates have jobs at graduation; many are offered immediate positions from their externship sites.
Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) is a health profession that provides laboratory information and services needed for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The 85-year-old nationally accredited MLS program was established by OHSU in 1933, and today is a joint Oregon Tech-OHSU program administered by Oregon Tech. It is the only four-year degree program of its kind in the state and the largest in the Pacific Northwest, with graduates earning starting salaries of $57,000 and in positions at virtually every medical lab in Oregon.
The MLS degree is a four-year Bachelor of Science program that prepares students with an intensive curriculum, strong in biology and chemistry emphases; labs that include analysis of human samples on the latest equipment; and a four-month, 40-hour-a-week externship at one of more than 50 medical facilities that partner with Oregon Tech, this year in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii.
Brian Alfonse, who will be graduating summa cum laude this weekend said: “Before starting the MLS program at Oregon Institute of Technology I had been working as a salmon biologist for 12 years. This long break from school made me a little hesitant whether I could still be successful in a rigorous academic program. The classes started off tough and the work load seemed to exponentially increase term after term. My fellow classmates quickly became essential to helping me through the challenges, similar to how a school of fish helps one another navigate a swift current in order to reach their final destination. Now nearing the end of my externship, and successful completing of the program, I feel confident in my skill and knowledge that I have gained over the past 15 months. These skills will be essential to my further success as I transition into my new career as an MLS at Clinical Labs of Hawaii.”
MLS is a highly competitive program, admitting only 50 students a year, with up to two times that number applying for the degree program. Located at Oregon Tech’s Portland-Metro campus in the city of Wilsonville, the program trains students in labs built to spec, so students are learning in the same environments in which they will eventually work. With a low student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1, students get the attention they need from the program’s faculty. Attrition rates in the program are less than 1 percent.
Graduate Paul Zaiger shared: "For a profession that doesn’t get a lot of notoriety, I was fortunate enough to find the MLS family at Oregon Tech. Throughout my tenure on campus, I’ve always hated the “choose one” mantra because I’m of the belief, why have just one when you can have it all! That’s why I chose Medical Lab Science, a multifaceted occupation encompassing a wide range of science disciplines, which has given even me, thankfully, more than enough toys to play with. More importantly though, I want to sincerely thank my family and the MLS faculty for all their support, for without it, I would not be graduating this winter. And no, the journey doesn’t end here, a career is just another path, one that we all must take."
Graduates of the MLS Class of 2018 are a diverse group. About 80 percent are women, ages range from 20 to 44, and the average GPA is an impressive 3.74. All MLS graduates must pass a comprehensive, nationally administered exam that tests students’ knowledge in a number of areas. Oregon Tech graduates have much higher average scores than are seen nationally, and have received the top scores in the nation a number of times. MLS graduates have a wide field of employment from which to choose and can be found working as medical laboratory generalists in hospitals, clinics or commercial laboratories; specialists in areas such as microbiology, hematology, molecular biology/DNA, immunology, stem cell/bone marrow labs; or quality management specialists in hospitals or industry operations such as pharmaceuticals. A number of students have already been offered jobs at employers such as Asante Health System, Legacy Health System, Providence Health & Services, OHSU, PeaceHealth, Salem Clinic, Samaritan Health Services, Sky Lakes Medical Center, Salem Hospital, Vancouver Clinic and Clinical Labs of Hawaii.
Single mom, Cecily Decker, is also set to graduate Saturday, “Life, bills and an accelerated medical education are not easy to balance,” she said. “The staff and students in this program are so devoted to providing quality patient care through education, it was too inspiring to not persevere the challenge. I knew applying to this program that the odds were stacked against me since I am also raising a little one on my own. Luckily I had the support of my family, teachers and classmates to keep me motivated every day. I know this spirit of teamwork will travel with us through graduation and into the workforce to inspire others to be amazing laboratorians.”
What: Oregon Tech/OHSU Medical Laboratory Science Commencement Ceremony
When: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at 10 a.m.
Where: OHSU Auditorium, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, Oregon 97239
Contact: Deb Disko, Program Representative, Division of Health Sciences, 503.821.1146; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press release provided from Oregon Institute of Technology.