Medical laboratory science program director to retire after 20 years

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Program Director of Medical Laboratory science Heidi Mannion working with some of her students in the medical laboratory. After 20 years in UAA’s School of Allied Health Mannion will be retiring at the end of the 2018 spring semester. Photo courtesy of Heidi Mannion

Heidi Mannion, program director of medical laboratory science at UAA, has dedicated the last 20 years to the School of Allied Heath. Mannion will be retiring after the 2018 spring semester, leaving behind a positive impact on her students, fellow faculty members and the medical laboratory technology program.

When Mannion first started working at UAA, she was an adjunct professor working on her master’s in biology. However, financial struggles and early retirement of a medical laboratory science professor created uncertainty within the program.

Mannion, with the help of adjunct professor David Pierce, decided to revise and update the curriculum to keep the medical laboratory technology program alive through creation of a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science and a certificate in phlebotomy.

“We really wanted to see the program succeed, we knew that there was a shortage in our field,” Mannion said. “We helped it get through accreditation and at that time it was only an associate’s degree in medical laboratory technology, so once we got it reaccredited, they decided that they would keep the program going.”

Through an initiative program created by Mark Hamilton, former UA president, the School of Allied Health acquired funding for the new degree and certificate programs.

“Gloria Tomich and I worked on the curriculum for the bachelor’s program and now we have what is called an articulated program,” Mannion said. “All the courses needed for the associate’s degree is also needed for the bachelor’s degree, so students can start in the associate’s then come back to finish the bachelor’s.”

The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation took interest in the developing program, which would allow for new trainees in phlebotomy who could perform basic lab tests.

“We created both the phlebotomy program and the clinical assistant program to help them have trained people,” Mannion said.

Mannion’s former student, Angela Craft, is now the phlebotomy program director at UAA and believes that the medical laboratory technology program has benefited greatly from Mannion’s contributions.

“I think that the program is not what it would be today without Heidi. She is always looking for ways to improve our program for the students and has built a strong program based on continuously looking for ways to make things better,” Craft said.

The Medical Laboratory Technology Program started as a 12 student per cohort associate’s degree program, and now offers both degrees with 24 students per cohort.

Mannion has worked closely with professional organizations such as Clinical Laboratory Scientists of Alaska and the state’s clinical facilities, which has helped in creating more opportunities for students through donations of supplies and equipment they can no longer use, which reduces laboratory fees for the students. They also provide clinical training sites required for students to become certified as laboratory professionals.

“Our students are able to do almost every task they do out in the work force before they ever leave the student lab, so they are doing it in a safe environment where they can make mistakes and it’s not going to harm a patient, and they can learn from that,” Mannion said. “That relationship has been so important and being able to make those connections and develop that relationship has been my biggest accomplishment because this program wouldn’t be here without the community.”

Mannion not only played an important role in building relationships within the medical community, but as a mentor to fellow faculty members.

“I consider Heidi a mentor, prior to this position I was an in instructor in the radiology program, so a lot of the questions I had being new to academia, Heidi was my go-to person,” Robert McClung, director of School of Allied Health at UAA, said. “I think she helped mentor quite a few of us in academia and getting me to where I am today, I have a lot of respect for Heidi.”

Teaching comes with many benefits, but for Mannion, the most fulfilling part of teaching was talking with graduates about their achievements.

“The graduates always come back and tell us about their accomplishments and it’s really rewarding that we have been able to help them accomplish a bunch of the things they do,” Mannion said. “They’re so willing to tell you what they’ve accomplished and they feel connected to the program.”