Saying Kyleigh Ellis is a self-starter is like saying the sky is blue. Duh.
Ellis had dual enrollment at LSU of Alexandria as a senior at Oak Hill High School in Elmer, Louisiana. Now working toward a Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science in the online program, Ellis holds a seat on the national forum of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.
"It's what I did and the initiative I took," Ellis said. "You get out of this program what you put into it. I wanted to be in the medical field, but patient interaction wasn't something that appealed to me. The bottom line is, whether I'm a doctor or not, I wanted to be in a lab coat every day."
Ellis, who recently completed an associate degree, is working toward a December 2020 graduation date. Staying close to home was a high priority for her, making LSUA the right fit.
"I'm very close to my family," she said. "They're my outlet. LSUA was close and tuition was doable. Once I figured out what I was doing with medical lab science, I fell in love with it. There's a huge purpose we have working behind doctors that people don't know about.
"I can tell people what I do now and they have no idea. I have to explain it to them every time. We carry a big part in the patient healthcare process. I always say we touch them without touching them."
In addition to completing requirements for the online degree program, Ellis is gaining valuable experience working full time as a clinical laboratory technologist at Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria.
"That's what the bachelor's degree program is intended to do," she said. "All of the hospitals will hire you as a medical technician so you can learn full time. The online bachelor's program fits into your schedule. They make all of your classes where a full-time student can handle the load, still learn and work. I love it. I'm living the dream.
"How many people in the middle of college can say they have a full-time job and are working in their career already? There are so many routes you can take after you graduate."
Along with the scheduling flexibility of the online format, Ellis believes the faculty members following suit in the flexibility department is a key to success for students.
"I'm not going to lie -- taking Organic Chemistry online isn't easy, but I have not met a professor that isn't willing to say, 'Okay, you had a power outage at the hospital and you stayed and worked a 16-hour shift. We'll give you an extension on your test.'
"If you need extra resources, they say, 'What do you need?' I tell people, 'You'll love it and they'll work with you.' LSUA has gone above and beyond for me. I've had so many opportunities because of what they've done."
One of her favorite instructors in the program, so far, is Elizabeth Duck.
"Aside from being a fantastic person, she made everything so applicable," Ellis said. "When the professors start relating things to what you can see in the world, everything starts to click. She did a fantastic job of doing that. Everything came full circle."
Ellis believes the faculty is well-equipped to provide students with the right insight to be successful in their careers.
"If these teachers don't work in the field now, they did for a very long time," she said. "They teach you exactly what you need to know, along with enough extra information for you to pass your national certification."
Working with the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science for one year has already opened several doors for Ellis. She represented Region 7, which includes Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma, at a national meeting in Chicago in 2018.
"They paid for my trip," she said. "I heard several speakers. I got to meet techs from all over the country -- students, new professionals, old professionals. I got so much insight. They asked me to run for vice-chair of the Ascending Professionals Forum, which I did. It's a three-year term -- vice-chair, chair and board liaison with the national board of directors."
She and her colleagues also travel to Washington, D.C., each year to lobby legislatures.
"Our purpose is to get people involved, keep people involved and tell them why they should have this passion for their career and make sure everybody knows about it. When you're stuck back in a lab, nobody hears what we have to say. This organization makes sure we have a voice."
Up and Up
Ellis says the degree opens up many additional educational routes and helps meet the high demand for workers in medical laboratory science.
"The field is growing and we have a shortage all around the nation," she said. "We have travel techs assigned to different hospitals in different states -- you can do that with your bachelor's degree. You get paid to see the country and work in other hospitals. I think that's a fantastic life. You're exposed to all of this instrumentation and lab protocol all over the country. That's such a good tool to have."
Becoming a doctor isn't totally out of the question, either. Provided, of course, that Ellis can still wear her lab coat to work every day.
"Medical schools are realizing we make better doctors," she said. "We know what test to order and how that test is done. We kind of have to play doctor in the lab. We see the diagnosis and need to know is this test necessary? Do we really need this? Why did they order this test? That's useful to have, too."
No matter which direction Ellis takes, she will clearly have an eye-popping resume by the time she strides across the graduation stage with her friends and family cheering her on. But the LSUA online degree program is already paying dividends.
"It is a lot of hard work," she said. "Just because LSUA is a small school right here at home doesn't mean you can't take every chance you get and make it a huge opportunity. It will open so many doors if you go about it the right way."
The sky is the limit.
Learn more about the LSUA online Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science program.
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