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UW-Casper to Graduate First Medical Laboratory Sciences Students

May 9, 2017
two women standing beside a large microscope
Courtney Howsden, left, and Alina Sanchez are the first two graduates of UW-Casper’s medical laboratory sciences program, which began in fall 2015. Both earned their degrees while working for hospital laboratories as technicians. (UW Photo)

The first graduates of the University of Wyoming at Casper’s new medical laboratory sciences program will receive their bachelor’s degrees this week.

Courtney Howsden and Alina Sanchez will be among the 60 graduates participating in UW-Casper’s commencement ceremonies Thursday, May 11, at 4 p.m. at the Casper Events Center.

After completing their medical laboratory technician associate degrees through Casper College, both women began working in hospital labs: Howsden has worked at Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas for three years, and Sanchez at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper for nearly four years.

When UW-Casper opened the bachelor in medical laboratory sciences degree in fall 2015, they were two of the first students to enroll. Just two years later, they are the first two graduates of the program.

“I was always interested in the medical field and began the nursing program at Casper College,” Sanchez says. “But, I decided that the more in-depth study of diseases was so much more gratifying. We investigate samples to determine what is going on with patients, why they feel the way they feel, and work with doctors to resolve their problems. About 85 percent of treatment decisions are based on what is discovered in the medical laboratory.”

Howsden is excited for the greater opportunities that a bachelor’s degree will bring: “With a bachelor’s degree, there is more room to grow. You can get certified in different states and advance in the field.”

Both graduates agree that UW-Casper’s smaller class sizes and new facilities with high-grade equipment maximized their education. However, the instructors were the highlight of the program.

“All of the instructors were great,” the two wrote. “Jed Doxtater (assistant clinical faculty and program director of medical laboratory sciences at UW-Casper) did a great job putting it all together. Since we were in the first courses, he really listened to us on what was working and what could be improved as our classes progressed. He was super impressive.”

Doxtater says Howsden and Sanchez deserve the credit.

“It was a challenge for them. Courtney would get off work at 7 p.m. in Douglas and have to be in class by 8 p.m., and Alina worked nights and weekends,” he says. “At the beginning, they came to me wanting to give up, but they both made it through. I’m proud of them.”

Joining Howsden and Sanchez at UW-Casper’s commencement are 58 graduates representing five UW colleges.

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