MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Alejandra Meza and six other students in the West Virginia University School of Medicine Pathologists’ Assistant (PA) Program talked to Preston High School juniors and seniors Wednesday, Oct. 2, about professional opportunities in the lab sciences.

Meza is an American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Career Ambassador. Amanda Cottrill, Carla Cox, Colleen Dailey, Madison Peebles, Kristyne Schoonover and Jonathan Wunderlich volunteered to join Meza.

ASCP Career Ambassadors are lab science professionals selected to share their personal experiences to raise awareness of the laboratory professions among high school students. Meza was appointed in August for the program’s one-year tenure.

Meza gave a 30-minute presentation about the range of lab sciences professions, the education they require, salary expectations and schools in West Virginia that offer those degrees. Then the high school students broke into groups and rotated among seven stations, where PA students presented different facets of the lab sciences, several using real human organs.

Peebles’ station was particularly popular. “I had an actual cadaver brain,” she said. “The students seemed really excited about it. They were posing with it next to their heads and taking pictures.”

Meza demonstrated urinalysis, labeling fake urine samples with celebrity names and allowing students to perform testing.

Other stations showcased the spleen, lungs, gastrointestinal organs and testicles, as well as a microscoping area with histotechnology blocks showing the process of taking a tissue sample down to a slide.

The presenters were encouraged by the students’ responses. “Everyone was actually touching stuff,” Wunderlich said. “I expected more kids to be kind of grossed out.”

One Preston High student is already researching pathologist programs. Meza directed him to shadowing opportunities at WVU.

Cherie Germain, P.A., director of WVU’s PA Program, said, “I’m just so proud of them. They took the initiative to go out and do that and to promote the profession at such an early stage in their career.”

All of the presenters are first-year students. This was Meza’s first presentation as a Career Ambassador. She wants to focus on less-reached audiences, including youth correctional facilities.

Germain said that being selected as a Career Ambassadors is a prestigious honor, and Meza’s appointment while a student is particularly unique.

“That doesn’t usually happen,” she said. “Usually they wait until after the person is graduated and in their job.”

Meza was selected because of her medical lab science experience and her histology experience in the Army prior to coming to WVU.

She also received the ASCP Regional Member Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Germain nominated Meza for this honor because of Meza’s diligent promotion of the lab sciences, even prior to becoming a Career Ambassador.

Meza completed her B.S. in biology at the University of California, Davis in 2008 after leaving school briefly to join the Army’s laboratory technician training program in San Antonio. After graduating and obtaining her license in medical lab science, she worked at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, returned to the States in 2011 and worked in San Diego as a clinical lab scientist, then entered WVU’s PA program in the spring of 2013.

For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
sf: 10-09-13