Military to MLT

When the article focusing on military veterans who transitioned to a career in the clinical laboratory was published in May, we received responses from other individuals who made the same seamless transition that Wendell Jones made. Over the course of the next couple months, we will profile these individuals.

First, we spoke with Michael Yu, MBA, MLS (ASCP), RHIA, area lab manager at Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City, Calif. Michael’s military career started soon after high school, joining the Navy after spending a year in community college. He started in boot camp, went from there to corpsman “A” school and then on to medical laboratory technician (MLT) “C” school.

Michael’s Navy career had him stationed in Norfolk, Va., for the remainder of his enlistment after he finished his MLT training. During this period, he went to college part-time and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Lab Science from George Washington University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. Following his graduation, Michael separated from the Navy.

Busy Career Post-Navy

Michael’s post-Navy career first took him to the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, Calif., where he worked as a bench clinical laboratory scientist (CLS). Following this opportunity, he became a quality assurance coordinator at Hemacare in Van Nuys, Calif., and followed that up as a lab supervisor at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center before assuming his current post with Kaiser Permanante.

Michael continued to be a model of hard work and continuing education as during his career; he also worked as an adjunct lecturer at the UCLA School of Medicine Center for Prehospital Care for two years. During this time, Michael also completed his Masters of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration from Loma Linda University using the GI Bill. Not only that, he also earned a graduate certificate in Biomedical Informatics from Oregon Health and Science University.

Michael’s career in healthcare started with a simple question from a Navy recruiter: What rating do you want? Michael told the recruiter that he was interested in something related to biological science and the recruiter advised him to become a hospital corpsman. During corpsman “A” school, he was told that the MLT training program is open for anyone who took high school math and chemistry and who, of course, had interest in the field. He jumped at this opportunity.

Military MLT = More Responsibility

Just as Wendell Jones did in the prior article focusing on military veterans in the lab, Michael feels that the clinical lab is a good option for veterans. He advised that a military MLT carries much more responsibility that a MLT in the civilian sector would. For example, Michael stated that a newly graduated MLT might work in a trauma center blood bank performing molecular testing or work independently with minimal supervision overseas or on a battleship. He added that any veteran who completed military MLT training is already well prepared to work in any kind of lab.

Michael discussed some programs that are geared towards transitioning veterans into a medical lab career. He stated that with the exception of the Marines, enlisted personnel can apply for MLT training at the Tri-service Medical Education and Training Campus (METC). Training is one year in length and students attend class/rotation Monday through Friday for 8 hours a day. The graduate will be able to earn an Associate of Science degree either through the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) or George Washington University (for the Army, Navy, and the Coast Guard).

Because this training is only open to service members, Michael explained that students will receive full military active duty benefits while receiving their education. Graduates can also participate in taking the MLT(ASCP) exam, which is paid for by the military at the completion of the program. Michael also stated that those active duty personnel who want to get a 4-year (or more) degree have tuition assistance made available to them. The GI Bill is available for both active duty personnel and veterans. Enlisted personnel can apply to become commission officer with a 4-year degree.

Michael is just one of many military veterans that chose a career in the medical laboratory. Next month, we will profile Michael Mayer, who is director of laboratory operations at American Family Care in Birmingham, Ala., and a former corporal in the United States Army.

Steve Eichmann is a freelance writer in Glen Mills, PA.

Are you (or is someone you know) a laboratorian who started your career in the military? We’d love to profile you in an upcoming article. Contact: [email protected]

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