MUNSTER | The Central Laboratory at Community Healthcare System wants to grow more than microbiology cultures.
The lab this summer will start its own training program for people interested in a career as a medical lab scientist.
"We are the Sherlock Holmes of a disease," said Ethel Urbi, regional director of the system's laboratories.
Lab scientists spend their days peering at blood specimens through microscopes, identifying pathogenic organisms that cause infections, preparing blood products for transfusions and more.
Scientists were integral in the recent local case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The first case in the United States was discovered in a patient at Community Hospital in Munster.
"It was the lab that did a lot of the leg work," Urbi said.
Along with Community Hospital, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart also rely on the Central Laboratory at Community Healthcare System.
Forecasting a number of retirements in the coming year, lab officials needed a way to replace staff.
"Finding lab scientists to replace has been difficult," said Mary Wallace, program director of the School of Medical Laboratory Science. "We need to grow our own source of lab scientists."
The 11-month, full-time program is geared toward people who hold at least a bachelor's degree in a science field, such as biology or microbiology. Having such a general degree may make it difficult to find a specific career.
"This additional year of training makes them very marketable," Wallace said.
The goal is to keep some of the program graduates within Community Healthcare System labs, which expects to have at least five openings in December.
Prospective students will complete an application and write a narrative, along with submitting a college transcript and references. Half of the course will be class time. The other half will be spent in a lab working alongside scientists, Wallace said.
At the end of the course, students will receive a certificate of completion.
The program is scheduled to begin July 7.
For an application packet, contact Wallace at (219) 392-7259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.