Creating the Next Generation of Histotechs: What Can I Do?

We have all heard about it: the impending retirement of our baby boomer Histotechs and the increasing need for a new generation of Histotechs to fill their shoes. Many of us have already felt the frustrations of Histotech shortages. But what can we do about it? How can we, on an individual level, help?

My answer? “Through simple acts, great things may be achieved.” It is a phrase I grew up hearing. A phrase that has helped me share my love of Histotechnology with literally hundreds of people over the last 11 years.

For me it started with simply offering to come give a presentation to my older brother’s Biology class. They were on a unit that was discussing cells and tissue, and I thought it would be fun for the students to see what I do – to bring their studies to “life”. So I put together a basic PowerPoint presentation and brought in a few H&E slides along with their corresponding FFPE blocks. Because the response was so positive, it led to me being invited to come to other Biology classes in other high schools where I interacted with more and more students each year.

I soon began taking polls at the beginning and end of each presentation. At the beginning, I would ask how many students knew what histotechnology was (to this day that number is still ZERO!), and I would end the presentation by asking how many students would be interested in Histotechnology as a career field (now that they knew what it was). When the polls showed a that 20 to 50 percent of students were interested in Histotechnology, it led me to opening a discussion with local colleges and universities about the possibility of starting a Histotechnology program here in Utah (which I’m happy to announce it slated for the 2018 school year!).

As I visited with one of several deans about my passion for histotechnology, I was invited to participate in an organization she was involved in called Expanding Your Horizons (EYH). This organization provides positive role models for hundreds of young girls (grades 6-10) interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) careers when they grow up. I put together a day of workshops in which the girls were able to look at whole organ specimens, fetal development specimens, microscopic slides of every tissue type imaginable, FFPE blocks; watch the H&E staining process; view Special Stains under the microscope, and more.

It started with a simple presentation to 25 students in a high school Biology class and led to multiple opportunities to share the unknown world of Histotechnology with countless more. It doesn’t have to be going to your local university with a program pitch. It could be simply sharing with your neighbor’s young son or daughter about what you do. Whatever you choose, you can make a difference…for “through simple acts, great things may be achieved.”

Sabra Powell, BS, HT (ASCP)

Anatomic Pathology Manager, Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc.