Health Aldis, Cytogenetic Technology Class of 2014
A single mother of five, Heather Aldis was at a crossroads following her divorce. She decided to do something for herself for a change. The self-described “soccer mom” completed school at Texas A&M University two decades ago with plans of becoming a veterinarian. However, marriage and family responsibilities took her on another path. Perhaps that’s for the best, considering the technology she’s working with today didn’t exist back then.
“The human genome wasn’t mapped,” she says, reflecting on her first stint in college.
Now, she’s involved in what she considers the turning point in medicine. “We’ve only scratched the surface with what we can medically help with the understanding of genetics.”
She started by taking prerequisites for nursing at a local community college. “The head of the biology program said, ‘You have a science research mind,’” says The Woodlands resident. She directed Heather to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center School of Health Professions. Initially, Heather didn’t know much about the field of cytogenetic technology. She chose the program because it combines her passion for oncology, yet adds a human touch.
“Automation and technology are wonderful, but it still requires a human being to read and interpret. That’s what appeals to me.”
Cytogenetic technology involves analyzing chromosomes to look for abnormalities, either constitutional or oncological. Cytogenetic technologists harvest living cells in the metaphase stage for microscopic visualization of the chromosomes. It’s finding small differences or changes in the chromosome that lead to the diagnosis of various diseases. With graduation and her American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) board exam completed, she’ll work full-time in a private lab as a cytogenetic technologist.
When she’s not shuttling her kids (ages 17, 15, 13, 10 and eight) to soccer games, piano lessons and lacrosse, Heather enjoys volunteering, tutoring high school students and rediscovering Houston through museums, restaurants and live music. Whether helping a student grasp a difficult concept or collaborating on a targeted therapy plan for a cancer patient, there’s one similarity weaving through everything she does.
“To see somebody realize what they can do and what they’re capable of doing…You give someone that, and there’s hope.”