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PCC Student Earns Top Med Lab Score in Nation
Photos and Story by Mark Evertz
For the third time in four years, a Portland Community College student has earned the highest score in the nation on the certification exam for medical laboratory technicians. Kari Gibson is a 1996 graduate of the two-year Medical Laboratory Technology program at PCC’s Cascade Campus and now works at St. Vincent Medical Center. The Multnomah resident received word this week that her score was the top one in the country.
"I was really good in English, math was not a strong point, and I was an average science student in high school," recalled Gibson. A 1989 Wilson High School graduate, Gibson went to work after high school as a secretary and receptionist, but several years later decided she wanted a career change. Research at the library helped narrow her choice to the medical field, and having brothers and sisters who had attended PCC aided her decision to enter PCC’s Medical Laboratory Technology program.
It was the right choice, she said. "I’m fascinated by how the human body works," she added, admitting that she was not strongly interested in anatomy or physiology in high school.
Her experience at PCC was "really positive. The instructors were very supportive. I liked the setting because the classes are smaller and the instructors are more accessible."
About her top score, Gibson said she was "very surprised. I was looking to pass, not getting the highest score," adding that her father is "busting his buttons" over her results.
The examination is given through the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) which offers national certification to clinical laboratory professionals through its Board of Registry. According to Terry Emmons, department chair of the program, the
examination and subsequent certification is acknowledged world-wide.
In addition to Gibson’s top score, the PCC program also earned strong marks, scoring in the top 5 percent in the country of 123 programs. PCC’s pass rate of 81
percent compared very favorably with the national pass rate of 62 percent. The mean score for the 1996 PCC class was 598; the national mean score was 442.
In 1995, Erin Marshall, a PCC program graduate, also earned the top score in the country. Marshall had a job offer the day she graduated and is now on her way to a bachelor’s degree at Oregon Health Sciences University while working full time at a Portland-area medical laboratory.
Other 1996 PCC graduates who scored in the top three percent of the country on the certification exam were Matthew Bettger of Gladstone, Jeff Josifek, a Beaverton resident, Michael Roush of Portland and Tressa Whitaker, who lives in Aloha. All are 1996 program graduates now working in laboratory settings.
Medical laboratory technicians perform routine clinical laboratory testing procedures to provide scientific information needed in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease. Graduates work in hospitals, independent laboratories, in research and in industry.