From Biology to Piano Performance, UK Alum Finds His Way to Become Medical Lab Scientist

His advice: ‘Broaden your horizons’

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

How did Stephen Daming make it from Biology major to Piano Performance major to — finally, a medical scientist?

Daming, a 33-year-old who works at Good Samaritan Hospital, graduated from UK in December 2017 with a Medical Laboratory Science degree. His interests were varied, but ultimately, he wanted a degree that could give him endless employment opportunities.

He got it. And he learned something along the way.

“Broaden your horizons,” Daming said, “because you don’t necessarily have to work in a clinical lab at a hospital.”

Now, for Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, we catch up with Daming to get a little more information on his journey.

Here’s 5 questions with … medical scientist Stephen Daming.

1. What got you interested in your program?

To be honest, I didn’t know the profession of a Medical Laboratory Scientist existed until 2015. During that time, I was attending Marshall University in West Virginia obtaining a master's degree in Piano Performance. The piano student who had their lesson before mine with my piano professor was in the Medical Laboratory Science program at Marshall University. He told me about it.

Since I already had a science background, Medical Laboratory Science seemed intriguing. Also, I had a bachelor's degree in biology, so all my prerequisites were taken care of. I could obtain a bachelor's degree in Medical Laboratory Science at UK in only a year and a half and work after graduating right away.  

2. How did your CHS degree prepare you for your future?

A Medical Laboratory Science degree opens the door to many possibilities. My degree allowed me to work as an MLS at a hospital right away. Because I had a bachelor's degree already, I was able to work as an MLS a few weeks before graduating!

Everything a student learns in the MLS program is directly used in the laboratory. The classroom classes set the foundation for basic clinical knowledge. And the five or so months of clinical experience at the end of the program allows you to gain valuable clinical skills, as well as being an audition of sorts for getting a job. Many students receive job offers at the end of their clinical rotations at the site. 

3. Being that we’re celebrating MLS folks this week, can you tell us what the job entails on a regular basis? 

In general, Medical Laboratory Scientists spend all their time working in a clinical laboratory running tests on specimens either through advanced automated instrumentation or manually. Because medical records are electronic, laboratory personnel must also be adept at working with software and interfacing instrumentation with the software so that clinicians can see the results in a timely manner. They are also responsible for the daily quality control and maintenance of the laboratory instruments. We also regularly contact nurses, physicians, and other clinicians for results or orders. 

I work only in the blood bank. Blood bank is responsible for the storage and distribution of blood products to patients in the hospital. What I like about blood bank is that much of the testing is manual. Typical testing such as a type and screen is routinely done through automated means, but confirmation of blood types and other specialized testing are done manually.

I personally oversee the quality control of reagents we use daily as well as the quality control and maintenance of our analyzer used for automated testing. I keep an eye on the inventory of reagents and blood products as well as checking temperatures and alarms for the freezers and refrigerators. I am also responsible for the reserving (crossmatching) and issuing of blood products usually to nurses. Frankly, I spend most of my time in front of a computer with time spent walking around getting/checking blood products and doing various quality control and maintenance duties. 

4. Would you like to thank anyone in CHS?

I would like to thank two professors in the MLS program, Dr. Steve Schwarze and Dr. Christopher Swartz. Dr. Schwarze was my favorite professor in the program and is the primary reason why I was able to get my first position as an MLS. He and Dr. Swartz also later hired me on as a TA for the Clinical Chemistry lab course. Dr. Swartz was my study partner while I was in the MLS program and has helped me in many ways throughout my career as an MLS. He’s also a good friend. 

5. Lastly, what would you say to a prospective student who is thinking of going down a similar road?

The MLS program provides you with many opportunities in the future. You can work for various private reference labs, labs at many private companies that make laboratory instruments and reagents, and research labs. You can work as a field service engineer to install and repair instruments. You can work as a sales representative. There's a lot of possibilities. 

On a more personal level, I enjoyed my time as an MLS student at UK because of the small class size. Each class attends the same classes in the program at the same time. Because of the small class size, students tend to become close-knit. I still keep in touch with many of my classmates from the MLS program.