Meet Our Alums – Sylvia Mejia – ''CLS Provides a Great Foundation of Knowledge''
Published June 8, 2022
UTEP College of Health Sciences
What sparked your interest in the Clinical Lab Sciences (CLS) Program at UTEP?
I wanted to be in a healthcare field, and I did not want to be involved with direct patient care. In high school, I was in a Certified Nursing Assistant program, and I realized that direct patient care was not for me. As a freshman in college, I was struggling to find a major other than biology or chemistry, since I did not know what the job outlook would be for those fields. In one of my classes, I met a girl that was very excited about the CLS Program, and that is how I learned about it. As soon as she said “laboratory,” I wanted to know more, and I researched the program and worked on meeting the requirements to apply.
Tell us about the most interesting experience you had as a CLS student.
I would say the most interesting experience was building long-lasting relationships. In the program, I met some amazing people who I still keep in touch with (11 years later). At first, we were strangers, but then we ended up getting together frequently during the week in study groups. We would study all night into the morning, just refilling on coffee. Aside from seeing for the first time what MLS/MLTs do, the most interesting experience was making long-lasting relationships.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree in healthcare administration? How did your CLS degree prepare you for that transition?
I carefully laid out a plan so that I could reach my goals. Early on in my career, I knew I wanted to be in a leadership position. My first job straight out of college was with Vitalant, the local blood supplier, and with this experience, I fell in love with blood banking. After working about 5 years at Vitalant, I pursued my Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) certification. After I passed the exam, I still did not feel I was prepared to take on a leadership role in my field. I decided the best way to prepare for that was to pursue a graduate degree in healthcare administration.
Tell us about your current work. What are some of the skills you learned as a CLS student that you use on a daily basis?
I use blood banking concepts every day. The immunohematology courses in the CLS Program established the foundation that I built upon further. If it wasn’t for the CLS Program, I would not have pursued my SBB. I am a Technical Specialist of Transfusion Services for HonorHealth in Phoenix. I work alongside two other technical specialists, and we have oversight of six hospitals – three of those are Level 1 Trauma Centers. Every day is different, with various tasks, from writing guidelines and ensuring compliance with those guidelines, to implementing new software, providing technical help to the blood bank technologists, and focusing on process improvement – the list is exciting and endless!
What would you tell a prospective student who is interested in clinical laboratory sciences?
Do you want to be in the healthcare field? Do you want to be part of lifesaving missions? Do you not want to be directly involved with patient care? If so, then the CLS Program is for you. Even for those thinking of going the premedical route, the CLS program provides such a great foundation of knowledge. The best part is that there is a demand for MLS/MLTs, and you are guaranteed a job after graduation. I was in a supervisory position for two years, and we had a lot of applicants with biology and chemistry degrees who were struggling to find jobs. After being on the job for a couple of months, most wanted to go back to college to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in CLS. I find it interesting (also from my own personal experience) that the CLS degree was not promoted like other degrees. I was just lucky enough to be told about it by someone early on in my college experience.
For more information about the CLS Program, visit: www.utep.edu/chs/cls .
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Mejia