Happy National Med Lab Week – A Q&A with Shabnam Salehi-Rad, MLT

National Med Lab Week is  April 22 – April 25, LMP always takes part in National Medical Laboratory Week – the annual celebration of our medical laboratory professionals who play a critical role in every aspect of health care.

From Tuesday through Friday this week we’ll be profiling a few of the different types of laboratory professionals that make up the Laboratory Medicine Program team. We’ve already met Jennifer and Pow Lee, today we talk with Shabnam Salehi-Rad from cytogenetics.

Read about Shab’s role in the laboratory and the value she brings to patient care at UHN:

2015-04-14 13.27.23What is your position? I am a Cytogenetics Technologist working in the Cytogentics lab at TGH.

What do you do here? I look at karyotypes of patients to determine if there are any abnormalities within their chromosomes. Chromosomal abnormalities are consistently found in various types of cancers and I look to see if any abnormalities exist within these patients. I also score FISH (fluorescent in-situ hybridization) cases which is a test performed in the dark to determine if there are abnormalities within patient samples that could also mean the presence of cancer.  I am able to perform both the hands on laboratory work (wet lab) as well as the analytical part (dry lab) on the samples that come through our lab.

Why did you get into lab medicine? I was in research after I completed my university degree but I knew that was not for me.  I wanted to be in an environment where my findings made a direct impact on the treatment of a patient.  I also love working in a laboratory setting.  You are able to work as part of a team as well as have your own individual responsibilities.  In addition, my research background and interest was in genetics.  Therefore, with further training and education I was able to continue working in the genetics field but in a diagnostic setting.

How did you get started at UHN? I came to UHN about four years ago.  At the time I was living and working in Sudbury but wanted to find a job in Toronto, where I am originally from.  I applied for a job opening in the Cytogenetics Laboratory and was fortunate to get the position.

What is your favourite part of the job? My job allows me to take part in rotations within the lab. For example, for a couple of weeks I may be doing FISH scoring and then move on to FISH laboratory work or karyotyping. This gives me a chance to take part in most of the rotations within the lab and also provides me with variation in my job. In addition, I am and have been involved in a few projects that has allowed us to improve our laboratory workflow or introduce new tests.  This lets me take on new responsibilities and learn new things.

What is the most challenging part of the job? The most challenging part of the job is not to feel overwhelmed.  There are so many samples we deal with on a weekly basis for various different tests and we lack the manpower to take care of all of them immediately.  Therefore we have to prioritize cases, this sometimes causes backlogs and sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I want each patient to get a result as soon as possible.   However, I know that we are all working as hard as we can and we are doing our best to send out results as fast as possible.

What value would you say you add to patient care? Cytogenetics is a very specialized field and our results mean a great deal when it comes to patient care and treatment. There are times that our results will determine whether a patient will get a certain type of treatment or not and for this reason I as a cytogenetics technologist add value to patient care.

National Med Lab Week is all about promoting the work of laboratory professionals – what do you wish people knew about the work that goes on inside the lab? Most people don’t know much about the field of Cytogenetics.  I wish someone could give a short presentation on what kinds of tests we do and how that impacts a patient and the care they receive at UHN.

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