My first laboratory job was at a large major medical center on the New Orleans metropolitan area; the same laboratory where I performed my clinical rotations. During clinical rotations I was taught by several fantastic laboratory scientists and I met my first mentor.
Shortly after I graduated and started working full-time this mentor took me under her wing and began teaching me everything there was to learn about the laboratory. She taught me how to work smarter and not harder in the laboratory. She brought me in to teach me about instrument acquisition and validation. She taught me about inventory control processes, laboratory budgeting, and ways to think outside of the box to improve the laboratory’s financial picture. She was instrumental in my promotion to weekend supervisor within 3 months of my graduation where she helped me learn managerial and supervisory skills. I would not be where I am today if she had not taken the time and effort to help me learn and cultivate my skills.
Unfortunately due to Hurricane Katrina the hospital closed temporarily and I had to relocate to the other side of the state. Since then this mentor has also moved on from that facility. If Renell ever has a chance to read this I would like to say to her: Thank you for everything. You are one of the primary reasons why I have been able to succeed in this profession. You saw something in me that others didn’t and from the bottom of my heart I thank you.
Over the years I have intended on “paying it forward” the kindness that she had given me. In this attempt through the years I have tried to mentor others to improve themselves within the laboratory. Whether it is the phlebotomist training to become a lab assistant, the lab assistant training to become an MLT, an MLT training to become an MLS, or an MLS working towards their master’s or potentially their doctorate, I hope that one day I will have touched at least one person in the way that she touched me. I hope that anyone who wants to learn to improve themselves, their laboratory, or their facility would take the extra step to do so.
This is the challenge that I pose to my fellow laboratory professionals. Take that step. Be that mentor. Take a new student or new staff member under your wing and teach them. Teach them everything that is not taught in school. Teach them about your interests. Share with them what brought you into the lab. Introduce them to state or national societies and show them how to get involved.
We must cultivate the next generation of laboratory professionals ourselves because no one is going to do it for us.