Alex Luevano | Histotechnology class of 2015
While most people attend college hoping it will lead to a job, Alex Luevano had a job that led him to college.
“My sister-in-law was working in a lab as a transcriptionist. She told me there was a position available,” says the 27-year-old. “I had a bunch of pre-med classes, so they thought I would be great as a lab assistant.”
But after two years in that position, Alex realized he wanted to further his career, and to do so, he’d need more than the general studies associate degree he received from Eastern Arizona College. He searched for accredited bachelor’s programs through the National Society for Histotechnology and saw a name he recognized—The University of Texas at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“I knew about MD Anderson because our lab sent slides here to be read by doctors,” he says.
His desire to attend increased when he learned he'd earn board certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) before graduating. He was accepted into the two-year histotechnology program at the School of Health Professions (SHP). A one-year option is also available for students entering with a minimum of 90 credit hours. While Alex spent his junior year focused on required basic courses, his senior year has brought exciting opportunities to rotate in MD Anderson labs.
“It really helps the students get a feel of the pace and volume that comes with the job. In the real world, if you mess up, that’s a big deal.”
Histotechnologists prepare tissue samples for review by pathologists. Their work includes the techniques of processing tissues with chemicals, embedding the specimens in wax, micro sectioning and placing the tissues on slides, to staining the cellular components of tissue samples. The typical time spent on one slide is more than 20 hours but it is a critical initial step.
“Histology is like an art form. When you stain a slide, you have all these blues and greens and pinks,” says Alex. “You have to cut it just right to make that image so people can see these things.”
Alex lived in several border states growing up because of his father’s occupation. He longs to return to that nomadic lifestyle, this time with his wife Hillary to accompany him. After graduating, he hopes to work as a traveling histotechnologist or as a salesman of histology equipment. He recommends histology as a career field for people who like to visually see their work and the end result.
“We help the doctors by making a visual aid to diagnose. It’s only through you [histotechnologists] that they’ll be able to see what’s going on.”