April 11, 2002 – Medical laboratory technicians are unsung heroes of the health field, according to Maxwell George, acting laboratory director at Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
But George said they'll be getting some recognition next week, when the hospital on St. Thomas and its satellite Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John observe National Medical Laboratory Week.
The territory's hospitals and health centers employ 87 lab technicians, George said, and others work in the private sector. There is a chronic shortage of these skilled technicians, he said, and one purpose of the week is to introduce high school students to prospective careers in the field. During the week, students will be able to take guided tours of the Schneider lab facilities, he said.
George said Juan F. Luis Hospital also is planning to observe the week, but no one could be reached at the St. Croix facility for information.
The territory has no lab technician training program, George said, but he is hoping to get one started at the University of the Virgin Islands. "It's just on the ground floor," he said.
Nationwide, there are more than 280,000 medical laboratory jobs. The technicians help prevent disease by identifying health problems and by aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of existing conditions. Laboratory tests often detect the presence of a disease in its early stages, when the possibility of a cure is greatest and when treatment is less expensive.
The field includes people who carry out laboratory work in chemistry, serology (serums), hematology (blood), cytology (cells), microbiology, immunology, histology (tissues), urinalysis, molecular biology and local blood banks.
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