Vanderbilt Program of Medical Laboratory Science

Vanderbilt Program of Medical Laboratory Science

What Is Medical Laboratory Science?

Medical laboratory science is the area of healthcare that performs tests to help physicians diagnose, treat, and determine the prognosis of patients through computer- and instrument-driven technology as well as manual methods. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 65% of physicians' decisions in diagnosis, treatment, admission, and discharge of patients are based from the data provided by medical laboratory scientists. Medical laboratory scientists may specialize and only work in one department of the lab or become a generalist and work in multiple departments. In addition to hospitals and clinics, medical laboratory scientists may also work in physician offices, veterinary clinics, forensic laboratories, environmental health, sales, and government offices.

Areas of the Laboratory:

  • Hematology: Analyzes blood samples to determine if a patient has a/an anemia, infection, bleeding disorder, leukemia, or lymphoma or to monitor a known condition
  • Immunohematology (Transfusion Services): Tests patient blood to determine blood type and detect presence of antibodies in order to ensure that donated blood products are compatible
  • Coagulation: Detects clotting disorders in patient blood as well as monitors patient use of anticoagulants such as warfarin or heparin
  • Urinalysis: Analyzes urine samples to help monitor kidney function or determine if a patient has a genitourinary infection
  • Clinical Chemistry: Monitors a variety of organ systems through testing hormones, enzymes, proteins, and lipids found in blood and body fluids
  • Toxicology: Determines levels of therapeutic drugs to ensure that safe doses are maintained and tests for the presence and level of drugs of abuse
  • Immunology: Detects antigens and antibodies to infectious diseases as well as autoimmune diseases and analyzes patient immune system functions
  • Microbiology: Looks for the presence of microorganisms in a variety of sample sources to determine if a patient has an infection, identify the source of the infection, and determine dosages of antibiotics that are needed to treat the infection
  • Virology: Tests patient samples to determine if a patient has a viral infection
  • Parasitology: Detects the presence of parasites in patient samples
  • Molecular Diagnostics: Analyzes DNA and RNA to determine if a patient has an infection or if a patient has an increased risk of certain types of cancer

Program Overview

Vanderbilt University Hospital sponsors the Allied Health Program of Medical Laboratory Science, which operates within the Department of Pathology and the Diagnostic Laboratories. Medical laboratory scientists, or medical technologists, are trained in all major clinical pathology areas including Clinical Chemistry, Hematology, Hemostasis and Thrombosis, Immunopathology, Immunohematology, Microbiology, Urinalysis & Body Fluids, Molecular Diagnostics and Management/Supervisory skills. Training includes both didactic and practical experiences.

Program Description

Laboratory & classroom space is located in the School of Medicine and additional space is assigned throughout the Diagnostic Labs for student use. There is also space within the Vanderbilt Clinic that is designated as the Medical Laboratory Science office and library. The Program officials include a Medical Director, Program Director/Education Supervisor and faculty from each area of the laboratory who are experts in their respective fields.

Classes begin in early June and continue until the end of June the following year. Orientation is held during the first week of class and provides an opportunity  for students to become acquainted with fellow students and faculty members. Course work during this week consists of an introduction and review of basic laboratory operations and skills.

Students are required to be present on a full time basis throughout the year of training. Most classes in the first six months run from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday -Friday. Clinical rotation hours will vary according to the individual laboratory sections.

Upon satisfactory completion of the training program a certificate of completion is awarded to the student. The course of study during the clinical year may be credited towards a baccalaureate degree where an affiliation between the student's college or university and the Medical Center exists. In the situation where an affiliation does not exist, credit may be negotiated.

Students completing the year of training are eligible for the national certification by examination through agencies such as the American Society of Clinical Pathologist Board of Certification (BOC). Upon receipt of national certification, the graduate becomes eligible for state licensure by the Tennessee Department of Health and Environment.

Program Mission and Objectives

The Program of Medical Laboratory Science strives to maintain a quality education program in order to accomplish the following outcomes.
  • To provide well trained, competent employees for the VUMC laboratories.
  • To provide a stimulating atmosphere for the laboratory staff. 
  • To maintain a source of professionals who can constantly bring new knowledge into the laboratory system. 
  • To supply the region with medical laboratory scientists who possess advanced skills. 
  • To advance the profession of Medical Laboratory Science by training enterprising and adaptable individuals who will take the forefront in the changing environment of health care.
The Program of Medical Laboratory Science at Vanderbilt University Medical Center bases its educational program on those principles essential to the preparation of students to achieve the ideals of the Profession.
 The Program strives to instill in each student:
  • The knowledge, skills and professional attitude necessary to accurately and proficiently perform and evaluate clinical laboratory analyses.
  • The concern for others which carries with it the responsibility of good patient care and cooperation with fellow employees.
  • The desire to strive for new knowledge and progress and to accept changing trends in the profession.
  •  The capacity to accept leadership roles whether in management or education.
  •  Interest in the growth and development of medical laboratory science as a profession.

Accreditation / Licensure

The program of Medical Laboratory Science is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) which serves as a peer review committee. The program is also licensed by the State of Tennessee  as required by the Tennessee Laboratory Act and is approved to operate by the Tennessee Department of Health and Environment.

This page was last updated July 17, 2013 and is maintained by