Rachael Buchanan '18: Dreams of bringing healthcare to developing nations

After gaining clinical experience, Rachael Buchanan '18 is focusing on the healthcare side of lab medicine.

student in the lab
  • Year: Class of 2018
  • Major: Medical Laboratory Science
  • Hometown: Plymouth, MA
  • Leadership: Admissions Ambassador, Circle Camps for Grieving Girls

Clinical laboratory science

When I was first applying to schools, I planned to major in forensic science. However, after coming for a UMassD tour, I sat with the medical laboratory science (MLS) program's first-year advisor. He explained to me that I could still become a forensic scientist if I majored in MLS, and, if anything, I could break into the field quicker with a degree in clinical lab science.

The clinical option in MLS is a broader area of study to major in, and it allows me to hone my skills in all sections of the laboratory. I have more options for a career path if I'm certified as a clinical scientist.

This particular certification allows me to work anywhere in the lab, as well as in a biotech or cytotech facility. Because I wasn't quite certain which part of the lab I wanted to  work in, the clinical option was very attractive to me.

Next steps

I'm graduating this spring with a bachelor's of science in medical laboratory science. After completing my clinicals at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, I was offered a position to work full-time in their blood bank full-time.

My time at UMassD has definitely over-prepared me for my position in the medical field, and I'm very excited to be pursuing a field relevant to my degree.

I will eventually continue my education by attending a physician's assistant school in the coming years.

Plans to join Doctors Without Borders

After I graduate, I plan to work in a hospital laboratory, and after a few years of experience, I plan to go into medical relief work for an organization such as Doctors Without Borders or the Peace Corps. I've always been passionate about helping others, and with my degree I can bring healthcare to developing nations.

I've also entertained the idea of going to graduate school to study forensic science. With my lab training, I would be a good candidate to help people in the criminal justice field through the techniques I've learned at UMassD. However, after two years of lab experience, I shifted my focus to the healthcare side of lab medicine, which is what inspired me to research career options in Doctors without Borders and similar programs. 

UMass Dartmouth: quality education

I chose UMass Dartmouth because of the quality of the education. In many departments, not only do you have the chance to work with award-winning faculty, but you also have the chance to use state-of-the-art equipment that helps prepare you for a real career.

Not many degrees can prepare you for a career with your first job out of college. A lot of times you have to work your way up the corporate ladder or go through a series of entry-level positions before you find your career. With the high-quality technical training and skills I received at UMassD, I’ll be prepared to begin working right after I graduate.

Admissions ambassador

My two weeks of training for the position of admissions ambassador completely transformed my previous knowledge of UMass Dartmouth. We learned about every college, area of interest, and program that we offer our students. I was astonished by the multitude of opportunities that are available to students.

As I started giving tours, I learned how to clearly express my thoughts through public speaking and how to collaborate with all kinds of new people. If I can share an experience that my tour group can relate to, or if we can find common ground, it becomes so much easier for strangers to converse.

I feel more accomplished if I can answer their questions, ease their mind about the college admissions process, or give them a perspective about student life. College is about new opportunities. I encourage future students to seek an interest outside their comfort zone and get involved as much as possible.

Opportunities to lead

I was elected to the Board of Directors at the non-profit I volunteer for, Circle Camps for Grieving Girls. 

On campus I have worked as the events lead for Admissions Open Houses and Experience Days. It was challenging at first, being the youngest and least experienced ambassador when I arrived as a freshman. But with the opportunities I've been granted, I've been able to become a lead ambassador, an effective communicator, and reliable tour guide.

I'm so grateful that my supervisors saw the potential in me, because I know I wouldn't have been as successful in my college career without the ambassador program.

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