JULY 20, 2006 | Sharon Edwards Gibbert graduated from the medical technology program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in 1971 but died of leukemia before ever working in the profession. Family and friends kept alive her desire to help others through a scholarship that has since helped more than 40 medical technology students.
Like Gibbert, it was the chance to help individual patients while working in a laboratory that drew this year’s scholarship recipient, Alicia Sutterfield, to the field of medical technology.
The Sharon Edwards Gibbert Memorial Scholarship is helping Sutterfield, a senior in the College of Health Related Professions (CHRP) at UAMS, complete her medical technology degree. The $500 scholarship is given annually to the student or students with the highest grade point average after the first year in the medical technology program.
“It could not have come at a better time,” said Sutterfield, who had borrowed the maximum in education loans but needed more financial aid in order to continue in school and maintain her excellent grades. “I had heard about Sharon Edwards Gibbert and I am touched to be helped by her family.”
Gibbert’s family established the scholarship in memory of the medical technology student who died in 1971, shortly after graduation. Her mother, Dorothy Edwards of Magnolia, said it was some of her daughter’s UAMS classmates who suggested starting a scholarship.
“You have no idea how good it makes me feel to be able to help,” Edwards said. “I think my greatest achievement in life is having two daughters who chose to go into professions where they could help others. This scholarship allows that spirit to live on.”
Sharon’s sister Carolyn Clerico of Texas, a speech pathologist, said her sister, who had experienced problems with feeling exhausted all the time, used her health care background to diagnose herself even before a blood test confirmed she had leukemia. She insisted on continuing in the medical technology program, even after the diagnosis.
“It was her dream to be a medical technologist,” Clerico said. “She studied hard. I can remember her getting mad at herself when she fell asleep one night while studying for a test.
“But she never sought sympathy and never felt sorry for herself about being sick.”
Sharon died on December 5, 1971, just seven months after graduating.
Sutterfield, the granddaughter of a chemist, chose medical technology as a career because it combines laboratory work or laboratory testing and clinical care. “I’ll be helping in the process of diagnosing a patient, so it’s important that I do a good job,” she says.
Medical technologists use laboratory techniques to analyze blood and other body fluids. These health care professionals are in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1998 to 2008 the demand for lab tests will jump 17 percent, and approximately 10,000 more laboratory science professionals will be needed in hospitals each year to perform those tests.
Sutterfield, of Jacksonville, will start a clinical internship at Arkansas Children’s Hospital this fall. She recently sent Edwards a note thanking her for supporting the scholarship.
“It was the nicest note and I appreciated it,” said Edwards, a former school guidance counselor. “I have enjoyed receiving the notes and hearing about the scholarship recipients, what they are doing and what they want to do in their careers.”
Links on This Page
Here’s To Your Health: Leukemia: http://www.uams.edu/htyh/2005/5-2/leukemia.asp
UAMS College of Health Related Professions: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/default.asp
UAMS Medical Technology Program: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/medtech/