These five male Mitchell Tech grads buck trend in female-dominated medical lab technician program
Five men graduating from program this Friday at the Corn Palace
MITCHELL — Lynne Smith has never had a medical lab technician graduating class that looks quite like this one.
“This is my 21st year at Mitchell Technical College, and this is the very first time I’ve ever had more than two guys graduate from the program,” said Smith, who serves as the director for the medical lab technical program at the two-year college.
This year the number of male graduates in the program outnumber the female graduates five to three. And come Friday, Brayden Carda, Jevon Freidel, Josh Cimpl, Joey Schumacher and Jake Schumacher will cross the stage at the Corn Palace to complete their coursework and head out into the world of health care as newly-crowned professionals.
Medical lab technicians are crucial to treating and tending to patients in a hospital-type setting. They are often the ones tasked with testing body fluids in order to give doctors results that can help diagnose a patient. Smith said lab technicians provide 70% of the up-front information that doctors use to treat patients.
“And most people don’t know who we are,” Smith said.
It’s been a busy road filled with classes and study, but it’s time to move on to the next phase of life, said Cimpl, a native of Wagner.
“I’m excited to finally be done with school for a little while and start working,” Cimpl told the Mitchell Republic in an interview.
The medical lab technician program has been a staple of the Mitchell Technical College curriculum since 1969, having been one of the original programs established by the school. For much of that time, women in the program have traditionally outnumbered the men.
While the split between men and women in the profession is closer to 50-50 nationwide, the Mitchell Tech program has seen fewer men involved, Smith said. That imbalance is reflective primarily of the demographics of South Dakota.
“In the profession, it tends to be probably half and half. But because South Dakota is more rural, we don’t always have the number of guys in the program as we do girls,” Smith said.
The men graduating this year are an exception to the rule, and all five are serving on externships at medical centers around South Dakota as they get ready for graduation. From there, some will start in new positions, while others will test the waters as they seek employment in the working world.
Cimpl, 24, is the oldest of the bunch and had tried his hand at a few different programs at Mitchell Tech. He has worked for some time at an emergency medical technician and became interested in the medical lab technician program when he wanted to see what the world of medicine looked like behind the scenes.
After that, Mitchell Tech seemed like a good choice.
“It was pretty much a no-brainer. I knew the faculty from the previous programs, and I didn’t even really consider anywhere else to go for medical lab technician,” Cimpl said.
Cimpl is attending Mitchell Tech on a Build Dakota Scholarship and externing at the Avera Wagner Community Memorial Hospital. As part of the scholarship, he will have a position waiting for him there upon graduation.
Like his fellow graduates, the fact that the program has traditionally been dominated by females wasn’t really apparent in his classwork since he saw mostly fellow men during much of his time at Mitchell Tech. But after working at the hospital in Wagner for a time, he has gotten to know a world with more women co-workers.
Carda found his way to the Mitchell Tech program by following advice from a trusted source: his mother. He didn’t have a clear picture of what he wanted to study, so his mother pointed in a direction.
It may not be the most traditional way to pick an area of study, but for Carda it worked. As someone who knew he didn’t want to attend a four-year school, Mitchell Tech fit the bill for him.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t even know what it was, but I ended up liking it a lot,” Carda said. “I knew I didn’t want to go to school for four years.”
Carda, originally from Lake Andes, is externing at Avera St. Benedict in Parkston, and he has a job lined up after graduation.
Freidel, 19, originally from Aberdeen, chose the program somewhat on a whim. He was interested in the medical field, and the idea of working behind the scenes instead of on a regular one-on-one basis with patients appealed to him.
“I decided I wanted to be in the health care field, and I liked being behind the scenes instead of out in front,” Freidel said.
As his time in the program winds down, Freidel has his eyes set on his future job, which is at St. Avera St. Luke’s in his hometown in Aberdeen. He said it’s been a fulfilling process working toward graduation, and it’s something other students may find their niche in if they stick with it.
“It’s a good program to get into. It’s fun to do but the schoolwork is hard, obviously. But if you can push through it the field is fun to work in,” Freidel said.
Joey and Jake Schumacher, two brothers from Iowa, will also be graduating on Friday.
At one point in time, Joey had his eyes set on becoming a nurse, but he also thought he’d enjoy working more behind the scenes than directly with patients. It was his brother Jake that turned him on to the medical lab technician idea.
“I realized I didn’t like one-on-one patient contact as much. Jake let me know about the program that he was going to go into and I wanted to try that, too,” Joey said.
Jake said the idea of going into the program spawned early in his school days. A middle school teacher had a project where students in the class would choose a profession that interested them and they would explore that career.
The teacher brought professionals to the classroom to share their experiences, and students eventually visited workplaces of their preferred career as a job shadowing experience.
“In middle school my language arts teacher set up a week where everyone picked a profession they might like and she found people to come in and give a presentation,” Jake said. “The next year we got to pick a profession to do an actual job shadow, and I picked medical lab technician for both of those.”
Joey is externing at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton and Jake is externing at the Huron Regional Medical Center in Huron. Both have their sights set firmly in the future.
With the five men graduating from the program Friday, Smith said she would like to see more diversity in the program. It’s a field that both men and women can find a career in if they like science and apply themselves.
Professionals in the field continue to be in-demand. Smith said any of the graduates from the program this year could find a job practically anywhere in South Dakota. There are jobs out there for students who want to put in the time and effort.
“These guys could have jobs anywhere in South Dakota right now. We are trying to find students for facilities right now. In my first-year class right now, we have 11 students, and eight of them are on Build Dakota Scholarships, so they already have a designated site and job,” Smith said. “That’s great for the people who have partnered with Build Dakota, but for facilities that didn’t and are looking, we don’t have a lot of options for them.”
As Cimpl prepares to wrap up his career at Mitchell Technical College, he looks back at his choice to enter the medical lab technician program and knows it was a good decision. He gained an education and has a job waiting for him come graduation.
He knows others could find the same satisfaction if they look into it.
“I would definitely recommend the program. At Mitchell Technical College you get a lot of one-on-one lab time and coursework. It’s just a no-brainer,” Cimpl said.
The Mitchell Technical College graduation ceremonies are set for Friday, May 5 at the Corn Palace. The ceremony for business and service industries and health sciences will be held at 11 a.m., the ceremony for agriculture and transportation technologies and construction and manufacturing technologies will be held at 2 p.m. and the ceremony for energy production and transmission and engineering technologies will be held at 5 p.m.
More information on graduation can be found at the Mitchell Technical College website, where a link to a livestream of the ceremonies will also be available.