FEATURE | Posted Oct. 2, 2014

Cytotech training: advancing careers, meeting regional needs

New 12-month postbaccalaureate certificate program launched

Lab assistant Rosa Lopez © UC Regents
Rosa Lopez observes as Stan Seko, a mentor in the cytotechnology certificate training program, processes a specimen from a fine needle biopsy procedure in the hospital. The mobile cart allows Seko, a cytotechnologist with more than 30 years of experience, to provide immediate and rapid on-site assessment of specimens.

Rosa Lopez, a laboratory assistant in the pathology department’s microbiology division, recently began her one year of training to become a certified cytotechnologist — a highly skilled health-care professional who examines human cells from various body sites to determine the cause or nature of disease.

Lopez is the first student enrolled in the new Allied Health Cytotechnology Training Program, a partnership between UC Davis Health System and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Launched Aug. 25, the innovative certificate program trains new cytotechnologists to become key members of the health-care team, working closely with pathologists, radiologists and other physicians and professionals to meet patient-care needs.

Ready to advance skills

Lopez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Sacramento State University in 2010 and has worked at the health system’s Specialty Testing Center for the past five years, was ready to broaden her knowledge and skills.

Lydia Howell © UC Regents"There is a regional shortage of cytotechnologists, especially in Northern California, and only one cytotechnology school in California."
— Lydia Howell

“I have always had an interest in science and medicine and have taken many college-level courses as electives,” Lopez said. “I like knowing why things happen and how laboratory testing supports excellent patient care. Through this program, I will be learning new skills such as identifying cancer in tissues and taking a big step in my career.”

As an assistant in the department’s microbiology division, Lopez works at the Specialty Testing Center on Business Drive in Sacramento. She checks the accuracy of information for all incoming patient specimens and processes them for an array of tests that detect the presence of pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

Cytotechnology program © UC Regents
Click here to learn more about the UC Davis Cytotechnology Training Program (pdf).

As a new cytotechnology program student, she will continue to work part-time as she learns to examine human cells to identify the cause of disease. Her training includes online classes through the University of Nebraska Medical Center, didactic lectures at the Specialty Testing Center, and hands-on practical training at the Pathology Building laboratories.  

“We are very excited to launch this new training program and expect that Ms. Lopez will set a high bar for the students to come,” said Lydia P. Howell, professor and chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC Davis.

“There is a regional shortage of cytotechnologists, especially in Northern California, and only one cytotechnology school in California. This unique training program meets a key workforce need to support the health of our community,” Howell said.

The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine includes 40 faculty and 400 academic and clinical staff who develop and deliver comprehensive diagnostic services in the fields of pathology and laboratory medicine through established and novel diagnostic modalities. Its Clinical Laboratory is home to one of the most technologically advanced testing facilities in California, providing many unique diagnostic tests. The department processes 5 million clinical tests and 20,000 surgical pathology and 20,000 cytology specimens each year.