When Ellen Panetto started the medical laboratory science program, she had no idea that pathologists' assistant careers even existed.
It was during her first clinical rotation at Tufts Medical Center that her inquisitive mind got the better of her.
"During a bone marrow procedure, I was curious about what happens to the sample once it's tested, so I followed the technician to the anatomical pathology lab," says Panetto. "It was a light bulb moment for me. I learned that a pathologists' assistant performs all of the surgical and autopsy functions of a pathologist leading up to, but not including, the diagnosis."
Panetto–who sees the profession as a way to tap into her knowledge of disease pathways and her love of anatomy–was recently accepted into the pathologists' assistant program at Indiana School of Medicine. She expects to graduate in two years with a master of science in pathology, which will allow her to sit for the Pathology Assistant ASCP certification exam.
"I can't say enough good things about UMass Lowell and the medical laboratory science program," she says. "I received really good feedback from the schools that I interviewed with about my clinical rotation experience. I feel prepared for graduate school and ready to pursue a rewarding and interesting career."
Panetto was always interested in anatomy and how the body works, but as an undergraduate wasn't sure exactly what area she wanted to work in.
The medical laboratory science program offered her many hands-on opportunities to find her passion. She has worked in hematology at Tufts Medical Center, microbiology at Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford, urinalysis at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and the blood bank at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. Her final rotation at Lowell General Hospital will be in clinical chemistry.
"I've been able to see how labs are run in small and large hospitals," says Panetto. "These experiences gave me the ability to see what kind of environment I might want to work in and to learn from technicians in all stages of their careers."
All of this experience led to her decision to pursue a career as a pathologists' assistant.
"I found that I like work that's hands-on and requires a strong attention to detail and this is exactly what a pathologists' assistant career depends upon," she says.
"The medical laboratory science program is a great place for students who are interested in pursuing graduate degrees in the health sciences. It is a rigorous program and requires students to develop good study habits. The faculty are so supportive of all of their students and the small lab sizes let students and faculty really get to know each other."