Jacob Athamni ’22: Medical detective plans to work in infectious disease control

Medical Laboratory Science major will work at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center after graduation

Medical Laboratory Science

Medical Laboratory Science major Jacob Athamni '22 will graduate with a position in the microbiology and molecular lab at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. He also plans to begin a master's degree program in public health at Southeastern New Hampshire University. He hopes to apply his laboratory skills in microbiology as an infectious disease specialist.

Why did you choose to attend UMass D?

I chose the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth because it was the closest public university to Cape Cod. My experience at UMassD has been helpful and rewarding as I took a lot of courses that were in and out of my main program major. If I go on to further my career, certain prerequisite courses have been met. I enjoyed taking the university requirement courses since these are necessary to make a student a more well-rounded citizen in society.

What drew you to this field? Why did you choose this major?

My first intention was to find a program that involves microbiology centered around human health so that later, I would be able to obtain a master’s in public health for infectious diseases. My biggest draw to the program is that it offers diverse laboratory skills from hematology, blood banking, clinical chemistry, and microbiology, which was important for me to be able to correlate pathological diseases.

Where was your clinical experience?

I did my 13-week clinical rotation at Cape Cod Hospital, where I worked as a laboratory support technician. The rotation included hematology, blood banking, chemistry, coagulation, urinalysis, and microbiology. The goal of the rotation was for the student to shadow a laboratory professional and participate in laboratory procedures handling patient samples.

I was able to apply all I learned from the MLS program at Cape Cod Hospital. I was more than prepared for the laboratory rotations. The MLS program at UMass Dartmouth prepares the student very well when they go into their clinical rotations at the hospitals. Many laboratory professionals like how UMass Dartmouth students are prepared for work.

Do you feel well prepared for a career based on your education here?

I feel very well prepared. As a student going into my clinical rotation at Cape Cod Hospital, the laboratory staff commented that I showed outstanding performance and was very knowledgeable in all laboratory departments.

After obtaining the laboratory skills, theory, and medical academics from the MLS program, new doors of opportunity will open after completing the degree. Graduate school, research, and continuation onto medical school are possible, as the medical laboratory science program focuses on the human ecology of how pathological diseases are detected based on signs, symptoms, and laboratory data. With a medical laboratory science degree, you can work in hospital laboratories and state health labs and even instrumentation companies.

Did you conduct any research during your studies?

A senior capstone research project was required as a completion of the medical laboratory science program. My case study was on a patient who experienced a hemolytic transfusion reaction from a transfused platelet product.

Do you have a favorite professor at UMassD?

Professor Elizabeth Hart challenged me to excel and not to give up. She taught me to not be afraid and to have confidence which is important. Professor Nathan Rubien taught me health skills in the laboratory and at home. He taught the microbiology courses in the medical laboratory science program, which involved some public health information that was helpful for me as I was looking for a graduate degree in this field.

Taking microbiology courses with Professor Frank Scarano was enjoyable for me as I liked those classes the most. Professor Scarano was the first person who guided me through the enrollment process for the program, making it easy and less stressful. He also helped me to build skills for my resume by encouraging me to participate in an open house event for the medical laboratory science program.

What are your post-graduation plans?

Since the MLS program at UMass Dartmouth is centered around human health, public health topics I learned within the program influenced me to further my science career in infectious disease control. I would like to apply my experiences in laboratory medicine in a hospital laboratory first and then advance into infectious disease, which is a discipline of public health that deals with microbial and infectious products that might cause harm to human health.

I was hired to work in the microbiology and molecular lab at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where I will test patient samples and report results to physicians.

I also will be attending a master’s program online for public health at Southeastern New Hampshire University. Understanding the disease process, origin, prevalence, and incidence of a disease outbreak will be necessary skills that I hope to gain in my master’s program. After completing my master’s degree in public health, I hope to apply my laboratory skills in microbiology and become an infectious diseases detective working for the state health lab, the Centers for Disease Control, or the National Institutes of Health.

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