The primary mission of the Division of Clinical Laboratory Science is to prepare competent clinical laboratory scientists with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are required to fulfill current and future professional roles and leadership positions as members of the health care team. Programs of the Division include the baccalaureate degree CLS program, which prepares students for MLS certification, and the master's level Molecular Diagnostic Science program, which prepares students for specialty certification in molecular diagnostics. The division is committed to contributing to the knowledge base of clinical laboratory science through research, to transmitting that knowledge to other professionals, and to strengthening the profession through service. These statements are consistent with the mission of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
History of the Division of Clinical Laboratory Science at UNC-CH
The UNC program to prepare graduates to work in clinical laboratories is at least 50 years old. Although records of a formal training program do not exist prior to 1952 (the year Memorial Hospital opened) a single course in "clinical pathology" offered by the medical school in the 1940's may have been one way to prepare undergraduates to meet a shortage of trained laboratory staff during World War II.
Prior to 1993, the educational program was referred to as "medical technology". A description of the medical technology program is found in the medical school catalogue of 1952-3. Both a 4-year and a 5-year curriculum were offered. A student took 3 or 4 years of undergraduate courses followed by 12 months of "training" at Memorial Hospital at UNC Chapel Hill. Students were taught at the bench by staff in a variety of laboratories. At that time, women could enroll as freshmen or sophomores at UNC only if they majored in medical technology, pharmacy, or nursing. Early program directors were Miss Lois Tillman and Miss Louise Murphy Ward.
Over the years, the curriculum has changed frequently, reflecting scientific advances in laboratory medicine, the status of the program within the institution, a better understanding of student needs, and the requirements of accrediting agencies. In the 1960s, the clinical training component consisted of 18 months of hospital work. The medical technology program became part of the School of Medicine's newly formed Department of Medical Allied Health Professions (now the Department of Allied Health Sciences) in 1973-4. The current "2 + 2" format, with 4 semesters of courses integrating lectures, student laboratories, and clinical courses, was begun in the late 1970s. Clinical experiences are held at a wide variety of sites in addition to the McLendon Laboratories of UNC Hospitals. The name medical technology was changed to "clinical laboratory science" in 1993. Today's students earn a baccalaureate degree in clinical laboratory science from the Division of Clinical Laboratory Science.
In 2005, the Division of CLS began offering a post-baccalaureate certificate program in molecular diagnostic science (MDS-C). This one-year program allowed students to gain knowledge and skills in molecular laboratories and qualify for national certification examinations. Plans for converting the MDS-C program to a Master’s Degree began almost immediately and, in May 2009, the first group of students entered the MCLS program.
The need for generalists and specialists in the clinical laboratory profession has never been greater and the Division of CLS is proud to provide the education that lays the foundation for future leaders in the laboratory profession.