30 years later, one thing remains true – MLS grad says this degree will get you a job

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

It’s been 30 years, but Angela McCowan-Bailey, B.S. MT (ASCP), says one thing remains true: If you’re a Medical Laboratory Science major, when you graduate you will get a job.

McCowan-Bailey, who graduated in 1991, served as class president that year, and now works as a Transfusion Medicine and Tissue Bank Supervisor and Evening/Midnight Shift Supervisor in Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Service in the Lexington VA Health Care System. 

Last semester, she spoke at the MLS pinning ceremony, where she talked about her journey in the MLS Profession and the opportunities out there for new graduates. 

“You are guaranteed a job after graduation anywhere you want to work,” she said. “This is a great profession that allows you to make a good living. You have opportunities to work in different areas — Hematology, Chemistry, Micro, Blood Bank, Reference, Coagulation and Urinalysis and now Tissue Implants. You can see different things. This profession can also be a steppingstone if you want to further your education.”

Originally from Corbin, Ky., McCowan-Bailey now lives with her husband in Nicholasville, Ky. She said she chose the profession because she (along with her sister) followed in their mother’s footsteps.  

“Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the laboratory waiting for our mother to get off work,” she said. “The familiarity with the laboratory led to a legacy of medical laboratory scientists, which included my mother, my sister, and now my daughter Courtney, who is currently finishing up her last year in the MLS Program at Vanderbilt University.”

She took her opportunity to tell everyone her story — and how far her family of lab scientists have come since her 83-year-old mother started working. 

“Back in those days, gloves weren’t required, and believe it or not eating, drinking and smoking cigarettes in the lab was okay,” she said. “Look how far we’ve come.”

Her first job was on the graveyard shift in the lab. But it was a job.

“I worked in all section of the lab as a generalist and on weekends I worked by myself,” she said. “I was expected to set up all the instruments for day shift, print the phlebotomy AM collection lists, perform phlebotomy when needed and run all the testing on the samples.”  

She also worked:

  • As a second shift VAMC generalist
  • Day shift in the blood bank
  • As a blood bank supervisor
  • And she created a tissue bank for the VAMC in 2001

“I get to travel several times a year to different states to inspects hospitals blood and tissue banks,” she said. “I am currently the supervisor of our off tours at the VA, which means I get to know all our new employees.”

To the students, her message was simple.  

“You have already worked hard to get here … keep truckin’,” she said. “This degree has set you up with a guaranteed job. There are jobs waiting for you after you graduate. And if you don’t have one yet come see me,” she smiled. “Most facilities right now are offering a big sign-on bonus, and some are offering to pay off your student loans.”

And she assured them that they would be in demand.

“This profession needs young, hungry individuals like you who are eager to work hard and make a difference,” she said. “In this room there are future supervisors, managers, and directors. Continue to stay involved, go to educational seminars, support your MLS associations, continue to establish yourself as a professional and remember — your future is only as good as the work you put into it. In today’s world the sky is really the limit with this degree.”

She also thanked the program.

“I would like to thank all the UK MLS staff who have guided these students along this journey for success,” she continued. “Thank you for keeping this tradition of graduating excellent students and sending them out into this world ready to work hard in this profession.”

Throughout March for Women’s History Month, the College of Health Sciences will spotlight Women Making History. Whether students, faculty, staff or alumni, these women are leading their fields of research, crossing traditional academic boundaries and impacting Kentucky’s most pressing challenges.