Mission and History
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. 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. This mission is consistent with the mission of the Department of Health Sciences, the School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Our 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 four-year and a five-year curriculum were offered. A student took three or four 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 Health Sciences) in 1973-4. The two + two format, with four semesters of courses integrating lectures, student laboratories, and clinical courses, began in the late 1970s. The name medical technology was changed to clinical laboratory science in 1993. Today, students earn a baccalaureate degree in clinical laboratory science from the Division of Clinical Laboratory Science.
In 2005, the division 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 Masters of Clinical Laboratory Science – Molecular Diagnostic Science Track (MDS graduate program).
The Master’s of Clinical Laboratory Science –Medical Laboratory Science track (MLS graduate program) became available for certified laboratory professionals starting in the fall of 2020. This master’s degree program prepares laboratory professionals for leadership roles through advanced coursework in molecular diagnostics, research design, laboratory administration and educational methods. The need for generalists and specialists in the clinical laboratory profession has never been greater and the Division of CLS continues to provide the education that lays the foundation for future leaders in the laboratory profession. The Division of CLS is proud of all the graduates of the baccalaureate and graduate programs who have made significant contributions to the health care of patients in the state and nation.