JULY 5, 2005 | Perched over her microscope, cytotechnologist Jennifer Odle works to identify cancerous or potentially cancerous cells lurking amid healthy cells on a slide in the cytopathology lab at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Odle, a 2004 graduate of the UAMS Cytotechnology Program and a board registered cytotechnologist, found a full-time job at UAMS in a health care field that’s not well known but in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 17 percent increase in job demand in the next three years for cytotechnologists, which sees starting annual salaries from $41,000 to $48,000 nationally. The UAMS program is the state’s only one, and according to director Don Simpson, M.P.H., has a near 100 percent job placement rate for graduates.
Cytotechnologists learn to recognize abnormalities in cell structures as they microscopically analyze body cell samples. It’s work that Odle compares to a puzzle.
“I had no idea there was a field like this,” said Odle of her entry into the cytotechnology program. “I loved science and knew I wanted to work in health care.
“Then I found out about the cytotechnology program. I enjoy the challenge because it’s like a puzzle, trying to find the abnormality in a sample.”
Cytotechnologists apply specific criteria to decide whether the cells in a sample are normal, inflamed, precancerous or malignant. As a result of the preliminary assessment by cytotechnologists, pathologists – physicians who examine body tissues – are often able to diagnose cancer before symptoms occur or before it is detected by other methods.
The role of cytotechnologists extends beyond detecting inflamed and cancerous cells. Their responsibilities also include quality improvement, laboratory management and administration, teaching, research and health education.
“The UAMS Cytotechnology Program is dedicated to preparing excellent practitioners of cytopathology with the necessary qualifications to work in a variety of health care settings including hospitals, clinics, universities, commercial laboratories and public health organizations,” said Simpson, also a board registered cytotechnologist. “After just one year of concentrated study, students are ready to enter the profession and make a difference in the lives of patients by detecting disease early when treatment is most effective.”
The UAMS Cytotechnology Program recently garnered recognition for its work on the anniversary of the birth of Dr. George Papanicolaou, widely acknowledged as the father of cytology and the originator of the Pap smear – said to be the most effective screening test in medicine and responsible for a significant reduction of incidence and mortality from cervical cancer. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee praised the UAMS program while declaring May 13 Cytotechnology Day in the state.
“It was great to get the recognition and raise awareness of our program and the profession,” Simpson said. “We’ve got one of just 48 cytotechnology programs in the
“Because of advances in technology, the cytotechnology field has changed more in the past 10 years than in the past 40 – leading to improvements in patient care and research that saves lives.”
The UAMS College of Health Related Professions’ program in cytotechnology, jointly sponsored by the Department of Pathology of the UAMS College of Medicine, offers a Bachelor of Science degree in cytotechnology. Students complete three years of required prerequisite course work from any regionally accredited college or university before beginning the one-year program at UAMS.
The program begins in the classroom with lectures and microscope work, progresses to proficiency in all aspects of the UAMS Department of Pathology’s Cytopathology Laboratory, and culminates with several full-time rotations through designated clinical labs.
Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the national registry examination offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Registry and become a registered cytotechnologist.
Odle is quite satisfied with her career choice, enjoying the challenges of lab work and knowing that her work is an integral part of patient care.
“It is a well-rounded profession, especially here at UAMS, where it’s not only clinical work but there are many opportunities to work with researchers on their projects,” Odle said.
Links on This Page
UAMS Cytotechnology Program: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/cyto/default.asp
UAMS Department of Pathology: http://www.uams.edu/pathology/default.asp
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