Heba Othman, who works as a clinical lab technician at Tabarak Maternity and Children's Hospital, is among the first cohort of students who graduated from AUC's Medical Technology Training Program. She is also the first student in the cohort to successfully complete the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCPi) international certification exam. The program is the first of its kind in Egypt and offers specialized training to medical technologists in accordance with globally recognized standards.
Othman said the program extended beyond the practical applications of her work experience. “Through my job, I am only exposed to work that relates to children’s diagnostics,” she said. “The program has enabled me to diversify my knowledge to areas I had never approached before and touch on applications that relate to clinical chemistry, hematology, transfusion medicine and microbiology.”
AUC’s Medical Technology Training Program, also accredited by ASCP, was launched with the aim of enhancing the ability of students to master the practice of clinical laboratory medicine and become certified as international medical technologists. The program provides students with high-caliber mentors, as well as the opportunity to use state-of-the-art analytical instruments and systems at some of the best medical laboratory facilities in Egypt, including Al-Mokhtabar Laboratories, the United States Naval Medical Research Unit-3 and Shabrawishi Hospital.
“The basis of medicine is diagnosis, which relies on the work of medical technologists and clinical laboratorians,” said Hassan Azzazy, founder of AUC’s Medical Technology Training Program and professor of chemistry at the School of Sciences and Engineering. “The program provides students with extensive, hands-on training and is of great service to Egyptians, as it trains medical technologists according to the highest international standards. Students are given the opportunity to work with real patient specimen at some of the most advanced facilities in Egypt. The program builds on the critical role of proper diagnostics in providing good health care services.”
AUC’s Medical Technology Training Program was launched under the umbrella of the Engineering and Science Services unit. The program employs graduates of the faculties of science, medicine, veterinary medicine and pharmacy. Priority is given to students with the best and most relevant work experience. As part of the screening process, candidates are asked to sit for interviews and technical exams. Based on their performance, students are offered fellowships.
“The program embodies AUC’s efforts to provide constant services to the community,” said Azzazy, who founded the ASCPi chapter in Egypt. “It has the potential to impact the health of Egyptians in society, whereby it promotes professional standards within the country’s laboratories. Further, the program offers students opportunities for mobility. Students are able to work as medical technologists in the United States and other countries following the successful completion of the program and passing the ASCP certification exam, which is now offered in Egypt.”
Several national institutions have approached AUC with the possibility of applying its medical technology training program on a macro level. Prior to the initiation of the medical technology program, there were no certification modules to train laboratory professionals on the practical skills necessary to work in clinical laboratories. Additionally, there are no regulations that require a certain level of education or experience when hiring laboratory professionals.
“Unfortunately, laboratories may hire individuals with no proper training in laboratory medicine who may be able to follow a test protocol and obtain results using semi-automated or automated systems,” explained Azzazy. “However, they are incapable of verifying test performance or troubleshooting instrument problems and cannot address errors encountered in the preanalytic, analytic and postanalytic phases of testing. Erroneous results generated by untrained technicians pose a serious threat to the safety of patients.”
The program is one of several other biomedical research initiatives undertaken by the University, which aim to positively impact the health profession in Egypt. Several graduate students in the biotechnology, chemistry and nanotechnology programs are conducting their thesis projects on biomedical research topics. In addition, the Novel Diagnostics and Therapeutics research group at the Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center is pursuing the development of novel diagnostic assays for the detection of infectious agents and cancer markers, as well as smart drug nanocarriers. Most recently, AUC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Children’s Cancer hospital.
“The ultimate aim is to not only train these medical technologists to a skilled level, but to ensure that candidates selected for the program have the ability to become senior technologists and contribute to the transmission of their knowledge,” said Azzazy.