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Medical Technologists crucial in war against bioterrorism

1/22/2002
January 22, 2002

The recent anthrax scare and the ongoing threat of germ warfare have sent the demand for medical technologists soaring.

"Medical technologists are one of three types of health care professionals properly trained to identify agents of bioterrorism," says Dr. James F. Thompson, director of the medical technology program at Austin Peay. "They are in short supply across the U.S., so if the public continues to be exposed to biological weapons, critically understaffed labs will have to expand their workforce."

Called upon to deter massive outbreaks of bacteria such as anthrax and viruses like smallpox and Ebola, medical technologists create germ sensors, diagnose outbreaks and develop immunizations.

Austin Peay's medical technology program prepares students for these functions through classroom training in chemistry, physiology, microbiology and hematology during the first three years of study. The last half of the fourth year (called the "professional year") is dedicated to advanced clinical analysis and practical training with local hospitals.

In addition to the bachelor of science degree awarded at the end of the program, medical technology students earn a certificate recognizing completion of the professional year.

"The degree and program certificate qualify graduates to take exams awarding national certification required by many states and employers," said Thompson.

"This ensures the public is served by professionals who meet or exceed national standards of expertise."

Students in APSU's medical technology program learn to provide patient care through complex lab procedures in blood banking, urinalysis and body fluids as well. This makes them critically important partners to physicians and other health care workers who rely on their knowledge and skill for valid test results.

"With more than 70 percent of the information used by doctors and nurses to make treatment decisions based on clinical lab work, the role of medical technologists is crucial to the success of the entire health care system," said Thompson.