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National Cytotechnology Day: Cytotechnologists Poised to Embrace Molecular Diagnostics

Friday, April 27, 2012

May 13 is National Cytotechnology Day, celebrated in honor of Dr. George Papanicolaou’s birthday and commemorating his important contributions to the field of medicine, as well as the critical role cytotechnologists continue to play in health care today.

“Our role continues to expand and is highly rewarding as cytotechnologists’ potential is evolving; new opportunities are recognized through an optimal blend of technical skills, professional talents and a newly emerging field.” 
—Amy J. Wendel Spiczka, MS,
SCT(ASCP) CMMBCM,HTLCM
As medical technology, and especially the explosive area of genomics, continues to bring advances and promise to patient care and outcomes, cytotechnologists remain at the forefront of the war against cancer and other diseases.

The recent advances in unraveling the secrets of the human genome have prompted the development of numerous technologies in molecular diagnostics. Techniques including polymerase chain reaction, Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization, Hybrid Capture, and Invader technology are used to evaluate DNA.

“Trained cytotechnologists can perform DNA analysis techniques, and cytotechnologists possess the skills to make the initial diagnostic interpretation for some of these techniques, such as Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization or FISH,” said Jennifer J. Clark, SCT(ASCP)CMMBCM, ASCP Product Development Manager. “This presents a natural extension of our professional duties.”

As many as 5,000 diseases are known to have direct genetic causes, and now, thanks to specific and sensitive DNA testing, the science of pharmacogenomics has lead to better treatment options through personalized medicine protocols. The addition of a cadre of molecular diagnostic tests has taken place in many laboratories, and will only accelerate as the genetic keys to more diseases are identified, according to Ms. Clark.

“Our role continues to expand and is highly rewarding as cytotechnologists’ potential is evolving; new opportunities are recognized through an optimal blend of technical skills, professional talents and a newly emerging field,” said Amy J. Wendel Spiczka, MS, SCT(ASCP) CMMBCM,HTLCM, Manager, Anatomic Pathology, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The benefit of contributing to diagnoses and related patient care is fulfilling and now we are going beyond that by providing molecular-based personalized care.”

In 2003 the ASCP launched a new ASCP Board of Certification category and examination; Technologist in Molecular Biology. Cytotechnologists, by virtue of their training, are eligible to take this exam without prior hands-on experience.

“I recently passed the examination which focused on areas of Molecular Science, Molecular Techniques, Laboratory Operations, and Applications of Molecular Testing,” said Ms. Clark, encouraging cytotechnologists to pursue the certification for enhanced career development opportunities. “Even though I currently work in education, my background as a Cytotechnologist, along with self-study guided by the ASCP-provided examination content guideline and suggested reading lists, supported my successful outcome.”

For more information, visit www.ascp.org/Board-of-Certification.


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