Student gains medical school experience before graduation

Ashley Dubinskas spends three years in Roanoke classrooms and one in a hospital medical program

Reaching for a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology, Ashley Dubinskas '07 has taken on the challenge of spending the first three years completing the necessary college credits and finishing her senior year studying, working and performing clinical rotations in the medical field.

"I am learning so much so fast," says Dubinskas. "Every day is something different."

Applying to medical schools is stressful for college graduates, but the stress came early for Dubinskas. Starting during her junior year, Dubinskas began applying to medical technology hospital programs throughout Virginia. She felt pressure completing the selection process, as she was not only finishing her last year of college courses, but was busy finalizing her applications and collecting letters of recommendation.

Once Dubinskas thought the stress was over, she realized it hadn't been anything like interviewing in front of a panel of physicians and program directors.

Dubinskas began her last year of college in the Medical Technology Program at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. The MTP provides her with similar education requirements that students normally learn in graduate school.

"My classroom experience at Roanoke really has prepared me with the background knowledge that I need in order to be successful in this program," Dubinskas says.

The program consists of completing laboratory rotations in each lab department. They include: microbiology, donor center, blood bank, coagulation, chemistry, urinalysis, hematology, a nationwide reference laboratory that does specialized testing known as quest. Each department offers its own unique learning experience.

Whether it's having the opportunity to identify various bacterial and viral infections or learning which treatments should be recommended to patients, Dubinskas feels like she is doing it all.

"I even get to work in the operating and emergency rooms," Dubinskas says. In addition, she is studying hospital patients, DNA to help diagnose diseases while monitoring therapy.

Within each rotation, students are paired with a teaching technician, who demonstrates and explains the technical requirements of that particular lab.

"Right now I have already learned how to receive and run rapid strep A and B, RSV, flu, HIV and occult blood test as well as many other tests," Dubinskas says.

Students spend every morning working in the lab, while their lectures are held throughout the afternoon. Dubinskas says she gets up as early as 5:30 a.m. every Wednesday to do lab rotations with a phlebotomist.

"I never mind getting up this early because this is when I get the chance to have patient contact," she says. "Seeing the patients is always a reminder for me as to why I am working in the lab-because I know I am here to help save their lives."

Dubinskas says she feels pressure, but in a positive light. Every time she works in the lab, she likes to remember that there is someone depending on her to give correct results that will best determine their care.

Students are tested weekly and perform lab practices to demonstrate their competency. The program lasts a full year starting in August, but Dubinskas will take a break in May to come back and receive her degree from Roanoke College.

Dubinskas knows firsthand that science and pre-med courses are demanding, so she has tried to help her fellow students. At Roanoke's Allegany Hall, she created theme housing for students like her. That residence hall now has what's known as the Health and Wellness Floor, where students with similar scientific interests can live together and find support.

"I thought it would be a nice way to get students together with a common interest in medicine and science," she says.

It sounds like a good prescription, but what else would you expect from a student with so much experience in real-life labs?