Students from Small West Virginia College Put Medical Laboratory Profession in the Spotlight

By Susan Montgomery - December 27, 2021

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Last fall, Shirley Dardi, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, learned of an event dubbed the “National Super Cell Bowl Competition,” sponsored by ASCP and YouTuber Tiffany Gill, MA, MLS(ASCP)CM, known as “Medical Lab Lady Gill.” The competition offered an engaging way for medical laboratory students nationwide to enhance their knowledge of blood cell morphology and build professional networks while preparing for the ASCP Board of Certification exams.   

At first, Ms. Dardi, who is a professor and medical laboratory technology coordinator at Southern West Virginia Community & Technical College, in Mount Gay, WV, didn’t think her students had enough time to prepare and keep up with their studies. But, on the last day of registration, she submitted an application anyway.   

To her amazement, her students won the inaugural National Super Cell Bowl Championship.  

“It’s unbelievable,” she says. “We are a small community college in southern West Virginia, and we competed again universities across the nation! I, along with my colleague, MLT instructor Christy Spry, couldn’t be more proud of this group.” 

The students’ achievement has been highlighted on the school’s Facebook page and at a celebratory school luncheon, as well as on local TV and radio and in the local newspaper.  

As the winning institution they will receive a trophy, plus ASCP BOC study guides and Interactive Practice Exam Bundles for each team member.  

Ms. Dardi says it was amazing how quickly the competition engaged her students. The Cell Bowl used a free blood cell identification quiz in a tutorial app, created by CellaVision, for students on each team to submit their weekly high score. Program faculty then submitted the best score as the team’s score for the week. Each week during the competition, Medical Lab Lady Gill and the ASCP Council of Laboratory Professionals’ Past Chair, Aaron Odegard, MS, MLS(ASCP)CMSMCM, announced the weekly winners, discussed information about the profession and certification, and provided a tutorial on a specific blood cell line. Other hematology professors, specialists, and current Doctorate of Clinical Laboratory Science (DCLS) students guest starred in the Medical Lab Lady Gill YouTube Cell Bowl episodes to discuss these topics.  

The Bowl started in early October with 72 teams from around the country. The teams included both MLT and MLS students. During the first month, teams competed against others within their geographical region. The top two teams in each region advanced to the week five playoffs. Teams that made it to the playoffs competed for one of the three semifinal spots in week six. The final two teams competed in week seven’s Super Cell Bowl.  

Professor Gill, coordinator of the Medical Laboratory Technology program at the College of Southern Maryland and member of the ASCP Social Media Committee, initially developed the Cell Bowl for her medical laboratory technician students and wanted to share this fun educational tool with educators across ASCP’s membership. Professor Gill loves to engage medical laboratory students in learning and also educates through her YouTube channel, Medical Lab Lady Gill. 

“Throughout the competition, our students continued to amaze us each week with improved scores,” Ms. Dardi says. “One of the things this competition did was to encourage students to re-visit learning about immature cells that they studied in the first part of the semester. It forced them to do a deeper dive in studying these cells.” 

Ms. Dardi entered two different groups of students as one team into the Cell Bowl competition. One of the groups is a first year group that started in August, and the other group is a second year group of students who will graduate in May. 

Southern MLT student Erin Garretson was named Most Valuable Player with the best individual score, identifying 30 cells in 20.9 seconds. Students who had perfect scores and identified 30 cells in under 60 seconds included Megan Cochran, Summer Collins, Stacy Conley, Tiffany Copley, and Kayla Lowe. Other team members were Kaitlyn Coleman, Rebecca Collins, Elexus Havis, Kristy Newsome, Joseph Sigmon, Jill Sparks, Shania Topping, Garrett White, Jaidyn Adkins, Brandon Arthur, Tanya Ball, Summer Butcher, Haylie Ellis, Krystal Hensley, Alexis Lusk, Callista Ransier, Kelsey Slone, and Margaret White. 

Ms. Dardi and her colleagues cannot underscore enough how proud they are for the home team. “This win shows that, with hard work and dedication, there isn’t anything our students cannot achieve,” she says enthusiastically. “They have brought pride to our MLT program, Southern WV Community and Technical College, and the state of West Virginia!” 

Yet even more important than the students’ championship title is the attention that their participation in the Cell Bowl brought to the medical laboratory profession, which is often hidden from the public eye. “No one knows exactly what medical laboratory professionals do because they work in the laboratory and are not that visible to the public,” Ms. Dardi says. “This is the medical laboratory’s moment to shine.”  


Susan Montgomery

ASCP communications writer