Helping Behind the Scenes: 5 Advantages to Being a Medical Lab Professional

If you’re looking for a career in healthcare behind the scenes, being a medical lab professional could be a great option.

Physicians and other clinicians rely heavily on lab testing to help care for patients. That means the medical lab professionals who conduct those tests are vitally important. As the volume of testing grows and new types of testing emerge, medical lab professionals will continue to be in great demand.

If you’d like to play an active, hands-on role in the healthcare field but aren’t necessarily drawn to working directly with patients, becoming a medical lab professional could be a great fit for you.

Below, I’ll describe five advantages to being a medical lab professional. But first, let’s take a closer look at the professions I’m talking about.


Understanding the roles of medical lab professionals

There are two types of medical lab professionals who commonly perform testing. They vary in the education required and in the kinds of responsibilities they typically have.

1. Medical lab technicians

Medical lab technicians generally work in clinics and other healthcare facilities that provide lab services. They use specialized medical instruments and automated technology to conduct a variety of testing and analysis on specimens taken from patients.

Although they may occasionally have direct patient contact, most of their tasks are conducted within the lab.

A common path to becoming a medical lab technician involves completing a two-year associate degree program. Note that a medical lab technician can pursue further education to become a medical lab scientist (see directly below).

2. Medical lab scientists

Medical lab scientists commonly perform more advanced hands-on lab tests in hospitals and large clinics. These procedures often go beyond the more automated processes that a medical lab technician is likely to perform. In addition, medical lab scientists often take on lab leadership roles.

Working as a medical lab scientist requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Note that there are a number of options you can take to obtain that degree, including a bachelor’s degree completion program.

Let’s now turn to the advantages of a career as a medical lab professional.

1. Become a healthcare professional within a shorter amount of time

If you’re interested in a healthcare career but are concerned about the time and expense it can take to earn an advanced professional degree, pursuing a career as a medical lab professional could be an excellent option.

For example, you could be working full-time in a medical lab environment in as little as two years by earning the appropriate associate degree. In fact, if you have transferable credits, that time could be even shorter. (See How to Become a Medical Laboratory Technician for more information.)

And with approximately another two years of education, you can obtain a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science. This can open up additional opportunities for taking on leadership positions and conducting more advanced lab procedures. (See How to Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist for more information.)

2. Choose a profession with a bright future

Although there are no guarantees when it comes to obtaining employment, you should know the current — and expected — demand for medical lab professions is high.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “70% of today’s medical decisions depend on laboratory test results.” In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has served to underscore just how crucial medical lab professionals are.

Another encouraging indicator is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which projects a positive job growth rate for medical lab professionals over the next decade. (Note: The BLS uses the terms clinical laboratory technicians for medical lab technicians and clinical laboratory technologists for medical lab scientists.)

3. Channel a science background into a valued healthcare profession

If you obtain a medical lab degree, you’re going to have a specific healthcare profession to enter upon graduation. This isn’t necessarily the case if, for example, you major in a subject like biology.

In fact, people who are drawn to medical lab education programs may already have college science credits and even job experience. But what they lack are the credentials to establish a specific career in healthcare.

An associate degree in medical lab technology or a bachelor’s degree in medical lab science can change that.

4. Enjoy a schedule that fits with your lifestyle

Medical lab technicians are typically employed at clinics. That means they generally work steady weekday shifts, during regular daytime hours, with occasional weekend rotations. Also, medical laboratory technicians usually have plenty of opportunities for part-time positions.

Medical lab scientists, who often have positions at hospitals, may work daytime shifts as well as evenings, weekends, and holidays. Note that working non-daytime shifts often comes with additional pay on top of the base hourly wage.

In either case, as a medical lab professional you’ll likely be able to find a schedule that fits well with your lifestyle and your responsibilities outside of work.

5. Play a key role in helping care for patients

Although you may not have a lot of direct interaction with patients, as a medical lab professional you still play a vital part in caring for them. And that can be incredibly rewarding.

On a daily basis, you’ll be using specialized medical instruments and cutting-edge technology to conduct a variety of testing and analyses on specimens taken from patients.

The resulting information helps physicians and other healthcare providers make critical decisions in the prevention, diagnosis, monitoring, or treatment of illnesses and diseases.


Take the next step and start exploring programs

Becoming a medical lab professional gives you the opportunity to join the exciting and ever-expanding field of healthcare — while also working behind the scenes without extensive patient interaction.

If that sounds appealing to you, I strongly suggest you take the next step and begin researching medical lab programs.


Jessica Hoernemann, MS, MLS(ASCP), is an assistant professor and the program chair for the Medical Laboratory Technology and Medical Laboratory Science programs at Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Large Number of Influencers on the “Health Care 50” are in Biopharma

Of the fifty most influential people innovating healthcare named by Time Magazine, those with ties to biopharma make up a large percentage.

Time Magazine released their inaugural list of the fifty most influential people in healthcare—dubbed the Health Care 50—and a solid portion of those recognized for transforming healthcare have ties to the biopharma space.

To select the fifty most influential people, among them physicians, scientists, and business and political leaders, Time Magazine’s health editors and reporters made nominations, which were then evaluated for their work on key factors, including originality, impact, and quality.

Notable honorees who are innovating healthcare through biopharma include:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates, Philanthropists and Founders of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo, Recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine
  • David Sinclair, Professor of Genetics in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School
  • Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe

To view the full list of influencers, please click here.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

New Guidances Issued to Promote Generic Drug Access and Drug Price Competition

The guidances issued today by the FDA are part of a larger initiative by the administration to increase patient access to high-quality generics.

By Lyndsay Meyer

“One of the key ways the FDA can increase patient access to high-quality generics is by providing guidance to encourage and foster development of these cost-saving medicines, especially when it comes to complex drugs that can be hard to copy,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “By explaining our current thinking and expectations on how to develop specific generic drug products that are therapeutically equivalent to the brand name drug products, we provide an efficient path for these products to receive regulatory approval to enter the market, especially when they don’t currently have any generic competition. Today, we’re releasing detailed guidance on recommendations regarding how to develop generic versions of 15 drugs that don’t currently face any generic competition. With this new batch of guidance documents, we’re not only providing recommendations for some new generic drugs, but the FDA is also modernizing some of its previously-issued guidance to make sure they reflect the most efficient path for developing generics.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a new set of product-specific guidances to support industry in identifying appropriate science-based methodologies and evidence for developing generic drugs. The batch contains 54 product-specific guidances, including 42 new guidances and 12 revised guidances that, when finalized, will describe the FDA’s current thinking and expectations on how to develop generic drugs that are therapeutically equivalent to their respective reference-listed drugs.

Of the guidances issued today, 12 are new draft guidances and six are revised guidances for complex drug products, including 14 products that, to date, do not have generic competition.

The FDA believes that increased transparency on product-specific guidances gives manufacturers seeking to develop generic copies of medicines, including complex drugs, a better opportunity to efficiently allocate drug development resources. The agency aims to make sure that its policies and regulations – and scientific standards – keep pace with the evolving science around developing generic versions of these complex products so that patients have access to affordable medicines.

Greater access to high quality generic drugs is one way the FDA is working to improve competition and promote access to important medicines and advance the public health.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

R&D Spend Hit Record High for Biopharma Companies in 2017

Biopharma companies invested a total of $71.4 billion in research and development in 2017, up from $65.5 billion in 2016 and a record high.

According to the 2018 Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America annual member survey, biopharma companies invested a total of $71.4 billion in research and development (R&D) in 2017, up from $65.5 billion in 2016 and the highest ever recorded level of R&D spend in the industry. Survey results also showed that nearly one out of every five dollars of revenue was devoted to R&D, and of the total R&D spend, Phase 3 testing accounted for nearly 30% of it, making it the most expensive part of the process.

Nearly one-sixth of total domestic R&D spending by American businesses is made up by U.S. biopharma companies. These investments have helped to pave the way for groundbreaking medical advances and essential therapies throughout the world, including the 56 novel medicines approved by the FDA in 2017, including the first cell and gene therapies, the first medicine for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), and the first treatment for sickle cell disease in 20 years.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

US Congressman/Former BioPharma Company Board Member Arrested

Chris Collins, the United States Representative for New York’s 27th congressional district, has been arrested by the FBI on charges of insider trading.

Chris Collins, the United States Representative for New York’s 27th congressional district, has been arrested by the FBI on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

It is alleged Collins, 68, used his position with an Australian biopharma firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics, to help his family and friends make illegal stock trades, and to avoid massive losses of more than $768,000. Collins served as a board member for Innate Immunotherapeutics, a small North Melbourne-based pharmaceutical company, for three years, until 2017, and he currently owns 17% of their stock, making him one of the company’s biggest shareholders.

The charges allege that Collins received an email from Innate’s CEO, Mondher Mahjoubi, in June of last year, warning him that the company’s only drug, the multiple sclerosis treatment MIS416, had failed in its latest trials. It is alleged that Collins and his collaborators managed to avoid losses of more than $768,000 by disposing of 1.39 million shares as the result of this tipoff.

On Wednesday, August 8, 2018, Collins called the charges “meritless,” and went on to say, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am proud of my affiliation with Innate.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also announced Wednesday that it has filed securities fraud charges against Collins, after they began investigating his stock dealings in January of 2017.

Collins has pled not guilty to the charges and has been released on a $500,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for October 11, 2018.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Biopharma Seeks Balance

Biopharma companies can balance competing demands from patients, investors, and regulators by keeping their focus on the science.

from BioPharm International

A biopharma company answers to multiple masters: the patient who depends on effective drug products for health or survival; regulatory authorities that monitor quality; and investors that demand financial performance. Maintaining a balance of multiple, sometimes conflicting priorities is no easy task for companies at any development stage.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Fund Cancer Detection, Not a “Cure”

Your best weapon to defeat the beast known as cancer is early detection. So, why is funding so focused on finding a “cure,” instead of screening?

by Jason Blackson

There is an inherent misnomer about cancer prevalent in the world that needs to be corrected. Cancer is a disease of the body’s own cells developing a molecular flaw and then replicating out of control. For this, there is no cure. Not in the preventative sense that has led numerous foundations, organizations, and charities to generate billions of dollars over the years under the guise of finding ‘the cure’. An individual’s cancer can be cured, yes, but there will never be a drug or vaccine that could be administered to prevent cancer. Diseases, like the chicken pox or the flu, are foreign entities that enter the body and can be fought off, either by vaccine or the use and aid of medications. Other diseases can be fought off by the immune system, such as bacterial infections. Cancer is not an invasive substance. Cancer is our own cells gone rogue and then convincing our bodies that it belongs there. Because the immune system does not recognize cancerous cells as anything foreign, it will do little, if anything, to fight back. There is no cure to prevent this from happening. That isn’t to say there is no hope. Rather there needs to be a shift in focus, taken away from ‘finding the cure’ and placed on developing more efficient diagnostic testing. Pouring money into research to hit the bullseye at an ever-changing target isn’t the answer. The answer lies in finding these rogue cells, before the race against time begins.

The development of better treatment options has grown, evolved, and advanced in the most remarkable and unforeseeable ways, over the last several decades. While some routes of treatment are still borderline-barbaric, for lack of a better option, new developments, especially immunotherapy, have provided hope for patients with even the most egregious forms of cancer. Their diagnosis isn’t necessarily a death sentence. The problem here being that funding for this type of research is inconsistent. Studies have shown that over the last decade, while public support and research progress remain strong, funding has not increased to compensate for the demands of a pricier financial landscape. The federal government has provided tremendous monetary support for research, but has yet to meet the same level of funding it provided before the last recession. Grants have helped to offset expenditures for many organizations, but the overall tight financial constraints have created challenges in sustaining clinical trials and retaining talented researchers. Additionally, the horrifying and fascinating reality is cancer cells have routinely found ways to evolve and survive many of the implemented therapies. This is because each type of cancer has a unique combination of genetic changes. As the cancer grows, these genetic changes will continue, making each subsequent cell different from its parent cell. Cells within the same tumor have even shown to have different genetic changes. This is one reason why cancers become more difficult to treat over time and also why one therapy regime that works for one patient may not necessarily work for another patient with the same diagnosis. This, of course, is spoken in broad stroke generalizations. There are numerous studies proving the success and survival rates of any combination of therapies, and new research is showing new treatment options to be even more promising. But why is the focus of defeating cancer on the backend, after it has already wreaked havoc on the life of the patient and the lives of the people around the patient? Why is research less focused on the frontend of the disease process and preventing it from developing beyond a few cells?

CBCs, biopsies, colonoscopies, pap tests, and other tests are routinely used in conjunction with known statistics and demographics in screening patients for cancer. Current screening tests are predominantly accurate in the detection of tumors or blood- or bone marrow-based cancers but typically those cells number in the millions before being detected. The human body has trillions of cells and, of those cells, cancer starts in just one. Understanding the nature of that one cancer cell, how it operates, and how it operates differently from normal cells, could help doctors not only detect the cancer earlier, but also help them refine their treatment to be the most efficient. For example, cells from tumors are known to release minute amounts of mutated DNA and abnormal proteins into the blood stream, not unlike normal cells. Researchers in Australia have used this information to develop a test that can detect one mutated fragment of DNA among 10,000 normal DNA fragments. Research from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, has supported these findings by developing a technique that detects specific mutated DNA sequences. Additionally, a study out of China has identified cancer cells carry sugar molecules on their surfaces that are not found on the surfaces of normal cells. These are characteristics of all tumor cells that, with additional research and test development, can be used to create a screening tool that will detect cancer even before symptoms arise. Not only will this be crucial in increasing the overall survival rate of many types of cancer, a blood analysis test in far less invasive and inherently less expensive than many of the currently used screening tests.

The next step, as with any research study, is proven accuracy with redundancy and time. Much of this early detection research has been reported in the last twelve to eighteen months. Even with the promising accuracy of these tests on subjects within the study, the incidence of cancer developing in the test subjects, in comparison to the control groups, will have to be monitored over the next several years. Meaning, the research and the researchers will need to be funded to conclude their current studies, in addition to refining and improving their work. While no detection test for any malady can guarantee 100% accuracy, there is no reason to believe a cancer screening test could not be close to it. Ideally, equal amounts of money, time and effort could be used for treatment development and early detection test development, but it is realistically implausible. Cancer cells are known to replicate out of control without stopping and will, most likely, go undetected until the patient exhibits symptoms. There needs to be a test to identify these cells before they cause harm, before they create a physical manifestation that will lead to costly, unpleasant, and oftentimes painful treatments to eradicate them. Funding efforts and public perception need to be shifted away from finding a cure to the more feasible prospect of detecting cancer earlier and stopping it from developing into a life-changing beast.

Jason Blackson is a Clinical Laboratory Specialist, who lives in Washington, D.C., and has worked in Cytogenetics for nearly two decades. When he is not busy in the lab, he enjoys traveling the world, especially for concerts, staying fit, and telling what some would consider to be “dad jokes.”

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Retooled Vaccine Raises Hopes As A Lower-Cost Treatment For Type 1 Diabetes

The increasing cost of Type 1 diabetes, one of the most common serious chronic diseases, has created heavy financial burdens for families, with insulin prices more than doubling in the past decade.

By Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, Kaiser Health News

For Hodalis Gaytan, 20, living with Type 1 diabetes means depending on an assortment of expensive medicines and devices to stay healthy. Test strips. Needles. A glucose meter. Insulin.

The increasing cost of Type 1 diabetes, one of the most common serious chronic diseases, has created heavy financial burdens for families and generated controversy, with insulin prices more than doubling in the past decade.

Without her parent’s insurance, “I would not be alive,” said Gaytan, a student at the University of Maryland.

The burden of treatment is why a small study that shows promise for a simpler, cheaper alternative treatment to Type 1 diabetes is being met with hope — but also with caution and skepticism.

The research, published June 21 in the journal Nature Partner Journal Vaccines, showed that an older generic vaccine may help lower the blood sugar level of patients with Type 1 diabetes, decreasing their need for insulin. The vaccine, BCG, is used in a number of countries to prevent tuberculosis and has long been known to stimulate the immune system as well. That vaccine is relatively cheap, costing about $157 per dose in the United States, according to the health care technology company Connecture.

In the study, participants with long-standing Type 1 diabetes were injected with two doses of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin tuberculosis vaccine — known as BCG — four weeks apart. Three of the patients were observed for eight years. Nine participants were followed for five years.

The blood sugar levels — known as A1c — of those followed for eight years dropped by more than 10 percent three years after the injection and were sustained for five more years.

While the trial involved a tiny number of patients, the researchers — led by Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the Immunobiology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital — are conducting a much larger Phase 2 trial of BCG to treat diabetes to see if the results hold up.

JDRF, a leading nonprofit organization that provides funding for research on Type 1 diabetes, and the American Diabetes Association issued a joint statement shortly after the new study was released, cautioning against misinterpreting the findings and stating that they “do not provide enough clinical evidence to support any recommended change in therapy at this time.” Both groups have partnered with drug manufacturers and device makers in the industry.

Still, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the findings, noting the “incredibly high price tag” for patients with diabetes. But he warned against generating “too much hype” among families before the treatment is proven to be effective.

Dr. Joseph Bellanti, professor emeritus of pediatrics and microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., was also encouraged by the studies’ findings. While he acknowledged the skepticism surrounding Faustman’s research, scrutiny is a necessary part of the scientific process, he said.

“We’re seeking the truth, and we want to make sure that the results and the interpretations are correct, Bellanti said, “and that requires healthy debate.”

Faustman said her findings are important because they suggest that the vaccine could have positive effects in the treatment of diabetes, similar to what has been seen in previous research on other autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis, that involve an immune system reaction against normal tissue.

“It also opens up a host of new possible treatment avenues,” Faustman said, adding that it could help in developing interventions for other groups suffering from chronic illnesses.

Type 1 diabetes, which typically is diagnosed in childhood, occurs when the immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin. People with Type 2 diabetes produce normal levels of this vital hormone, but their bodies don’t respond appropriately.

These findings surface as the country grapples with soaring insulin prices — a rise so significant it has prompted attorneys general in several states and at least one federal prosecutor to launch investigations targeting insulin makers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and pharmacy benefit managers.

The United States already pays a steep price for its diabetes burden. According to the American Diabetes Association, the 24.7 million Americans living with the diagnosis last year spent $237 billion in direct medical costs.

For patients like Gaytan, the prospect of new medications to simplify and reduce the costs of her treatment is tantalizing. She injects herself with insulin and checks her blood sugar level about five times a day. And she attends therapy to help deal with the burden of living with a chronic condition, and worries about how she’ll afford it in the future.

“I know diabetics [whose] families pay for everything,” she said, adding they “just can’t afford it.”

According to Connecture, the list price for Apidra SoloStar — an injectable insulin product that Gaytan uses several times per day — increased from $33.24 per pen in early 2009 to $104.28 per pen in early 2018.

Faustman said her research has documented the mechanism by which the old vaccine reduces blood sugar levels. In the Phase 2 trial, she will attempt to replicate her findings by following 150 participants with the disease for five years. It will be at least another four years until results are published.

Ultimately, if BCG works to treat Type 1 diabetes, its current cheap price could rise, said Gerard Anderson, professor of health policy and management and medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who, like Kaiser Health News, receives money from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Though BCG is generic, pharmaceutical companies can raise the price by altering the drug and issuing a new patent.

Drugmakers are expert at retooling old drugs to treat new conditions, he said, adding: “It could result in no cost savings at all — and, in fact, a higher price.”

KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Fifteen Years of Progress: Biopharmaceutical Industry Survey Results

Take a look at highlights from 15 years of changes in biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

from BioPharm International

Since 2003, BioPlan Associates, Inc. has published an extensive annual survey of bioprocessing professionals. Since the first survey, which was started in collaboration with the American Society for Microbiology, critical bioprocessing issues have grown. The annual report has expanded to include 60 questions with nearly 500 pages of analysis and data. Manufacturing capacity issues have always been at the core of the annual survey, but as the industry has matured, the factors impacting capacity have become more complex.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters

All 10 regions ranked have significant assets that make them attractive to biopharma researchers, executives, and investors.

from GEN

It’s no surprise that Boston/Cambridge, MA, and the San Francisco Bay Area again top this year’s GEN List of the nation’s top 10 biopharma clusters, as they did last year and in 2015. Yet that’s not to say the other eight clusters rounding out the list are the proverbial chopped liver; they too have significant assets that make them attractive to biopharma researchers, executives, and investors, often drawing upon heritages that include the presence of big pharmas or home-grown biotech giants.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.