ASCLS Today Volume 33, Number 2

ASCLSToday Masthead 680

Volume 33, Number 2


Ally Storla, MLS(ASCP)CM

ASCLS volunteers at the USA Science and Engineering Festival
ASCLS volunteers at the USA Science and Engineering Festival
ASCLS members volunteer at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., in the ASCLS booth to introduce kids and adults to medical laboratory science.

Science festivals are events designed to spread the excitement and fun of science with children and adults in ways that are engaging, exciting, and approachable. I first became involved with science festivals in 2015 when the Atlanta Science Festival (ASF) was in the middle of its second year. There was a robotics event happening near me, and I volunteered for a demonstration of First Robotics Competition Team East Cobb Robotics’ Team UltraViolet, a team of middle school girls who build and compete in robotics competitions. I was blown away and immediately hooked.

Not only did I not know this festival existed, but the event was sold out and the members of the team were extremely knowledgeable and genuinely excited about the competition. I learned a lot during an hour of volunteering, plus I got to see something so cool that I was unaware existed. Volunteering was an immediately rewarding experience for me, and I know the organizers were grateful for my help distributing flyers, collecting tickets, and providing basic directions.

I was fortunate to be chosen to volunteer for the 2016 and 2017 ASF Launch Events. The 2016 Launch Event took place in the Fernbank Science Center Auditorium March 8, where five lucky classrooms were invited to participate based on a lesson plan contest. The event allowed students to speak with astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) through amateur radio communications. Students asked questions directly to an ISS astronaut as the space station passed overhead during the ISS Radio Contact Event.

I was tasked with sitting in a classroom and helping the teacher with the students at the event as well as in the museum after the event’s conclusion. Prior to contact with ISS we were told repeatedly, “this might not work,” but it did work! The organizers were able to establish contact, and the awe and amazement of the students and teachers was so profound. I was extremely grateful to be a part of the event.

The ASF 2017 Launch Event was led by astronaut Mark Kelly presenting to a sold-out auditorium on the Emory University campus. The most memorable part of his presentation was his encouragement to students to work hard. He said that achieving your goals isn’t just about being smart but about studying and doing the work to get where you want to go in life.

I’ve been involved in a few of the finale events for ASF—the enormous Exploration Expo with countless booths and displays, as well as smaller events like the Blue Bird Trail in Georgia where I met a master gardener who was single handedly responsible for rehabilitating the blue bird population in Georgia. I learned how essential blue birds are for ecosystems through their primary diet of insect consumption.

I’ve also attended many events, such as learning about the Science of Beer at the Sweetwater Brewery. I volunteered for Dragon Con’s Science Track, which is a part of a nearby Popular Culture/Science Fiction Convention. One of the events Science Track hosted was the Science Power Hour—a mini science festival with hands-on experiments for adults and kids. I helped @Scicurious run a booth where we (two biologists) taught children and adults how to create a paper circuit that would light up a light bulb! We were so proud to make the circuits work and help many children and adults also successfully create a paper circuit.

A lot of these events are perfect for volunteers of all personalities. I am not the most outgoing individual but being a part of these events, where science is supported by other scientists or science enthusiasts and presented to individuals and families excited to learn, has let me come out of my shell and talk about science and how awesome it is.

I am very fortunate to have the Atlanta Science Festival in my backyard, but these events are happening more and more frequently in many places. If there isn’t a science festival near you, I recommend you consider starting your own. The Science Festival Alliance has resources and contacts to help you get started, either through locating a nearby event or taking steps to begin your own.

ASCLS Pennsylvania has attended the Philadelphia Science Festival and demonstrated medical laboratory science to participants by organizing a booth. ASCLS lists numerous recruitment resources and activities. This is a great way to share our profession with our communities. Although it is challenging to present the field of medical laboratory science in a way that can be easily understood and not biohazardous, the benefits of letting our communities know who we are and what we do are crucial. You never know, you might help inspire the next generation of future medical laboratory scientists!

Ally Storla is a medical technologist II at WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center in Marietta, Georgia.


One Ascending Professional’s Experience with Mentors

Angela Zellner, C(ASCP)CM

Angela Zellner
Angela Zellner is participating in multiple mentoring programs, including the 2018-19 ASCLS Mentorship Program.

“Your career needs many mentors, not just one.” I recall reading this in an article by Dorie Clark in an online Harvard ManageMentor® course titled, Career Management, in 2018. At the time, I had zero formal mentors and maybe five informal mentors, who I referred to as my informal “Board of Mentors.” I was at a place in my career where I’d begun to question my “why.”

I worked third shift at a large teaching hospital with an amazing MLS program through our Center for Pathology Education (CPE). I’d worked for three different departments in six years and experienced the never-ending change that comes with the field I chose to work in; both highs and lows. I acquired ASCP certification in chemistry in 2016 via an internal categorical exam preparation program offered by CPE, joined ASCLS, and experienced the challenges that come with the rhythms of life as most others do for the next few years.

I started asking myself: What else can I do with what I have? Why am I doing what I’m doing in clinical biochemistry? What if I want to do more on the personal side and not analytical? Who is onboarding and mentoring new hires when they leave orientation? Who is fine tuning the new leaders?

My Search for Mentors
I had plenty of questions with no answers and journeyed to get them answered. I would pop into the CPE and bounce ideas and questions off the staff who would become my informal “Board of Mentors.” Over time, I needed a program that would formally guide my growth.

I am a member of an organization called Group of Aspiring Leaders, sponsored by my employer. I applied to their mentorship program and was accepted and paired with a human resources business partner to better my understanding of the personal aspect of development, organizational effectiveness, and myself.

In addition, ASCLS advertised the 2018-19 Mentorship Program that I applied for right away. I was a second-year member of ASCLS and felt that I was shooting for the moon by applying for the program. I had my doubts—What if I was asking for too much? What if my aspirations outside of the analytical aspect of laboratory were not seen as important? Surprise! In September 2018 I received the welcome letter from the ASCLS Mentorship Committee. I was beyond excited because now I could be mentored in two areas that were important for my development.

My Experience with the ASCLS Mentorship Program
My new mentor and I contacted one another via email when we received information for our pairing. I was extremely excited and thought I may be overwhelming my mentor. I’d sent her a five-page resume, since she didn’t know me and I wanted to show I was taking this seriously. I felt as if I’d been preparing for the mentorship relationship for the past year and half with the involvement and development I did on my own. I was ready for formal guidance and to get those burning questions answered!

The ASCLS Mentorship Committee provided a year-long guideline for us, if we chose to follow it. For our first interaction we had to be mindful of the time difference and I incorporated some of the material sent by the committee into our initial conversation. My mentor and I quickly realized by the end of 2018 that my inquisitiveness, leadership, and development aspirations were being fed immensely.

We were now communicating back and forth in between monthly phone calls; I’d run ideas by her, ask her how she would go about making certain decisions as a leader, and how to positively challenge ideas. I’d follow through with meetings I’d set with different directors and leaders both inside and outside of the foundation I work for to grasp their leadership mindset.

My mentor has been encouraging while I work through a civic leadership program and share with her the processes learned and how I am applying them or writing about them to those in management and leadership. I had begun reciprocity by becoming a peer sponsor/ambassador for all new departmental hires on third shift during their first six months.

Personally, this has been a great journey for me, and I have been paired with an awesome mentor—a serving leader in my eyes. The program was something I’ve been itching for: guidance, someone who will listen, and someone willing to build relationships and give feedback. I’ve been blessed with that. Things have been moving quickly in the areas of engagement, aspiring leadership, resume building, healthy teams, and transparent conversations.

During our last phone call of 2018, I was working at an event for the hospital entitled, “Caregivers Giving Gratitude,” and I was late for our phone call. My mentor and I had a fit of laughter over the phone with my profuse apologies and all the noise of the event in the background. I felt so guilty at my own scheduling slip up. She was understanding and still made time in her day to follow up from our November 2018 discussion.

The idea that others care about stretching us young professionals and coaching us, tapping into what makes us tick and in a healthy way growing that and encouraging the change is what I see happening. Thank you to my “informal board” of CPE Mentors and my personal ASCLS mentor, Debra Rodahl. They are putting time in and working to tease out the greatness in their mentee.

Mentees, remember, we have to step up and bring ourselves and even our shortcomings to the table so we can be even better. Don’t waste the time we’ve been given with this opportunity.

Angela Zellner works in clinical biochemistry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Applications for the 2019-20 ASCLS Mentorship Program will be accepted this summer.