By - July 07, 2023
Aaron Odegard, MS, MLS(ASCP)CMSMCM, credits his decision to pursue a career in the laboratory to a series of fortunate events. After exploring majors in Spanish, music, and environmental biology, it was during a microbiology course when he took a field trip to visit an MLS program. The tour was led by Lynnette Chakkaphak, who would later become Mr. Odegard’s mentor. During her tour, Ms. Chakkaphak painted a picture of the dynamic role of the laboratory, and Mr. Odegard was hooked. “I haven’t looked back since,” he says.
Later in his career, when his local university decided to close its Medical Laboratory Science program, Mr. Odegard turned to his mentor, who encouraged him to join ASCP to advocate to keep the program open. Though they were unable to save the program, it showed Mr. Odegard the power of advocacy, and how being a part of ASCP enabled him to not only advocate for the profession, but also build a strong network of fellow laboratory professionals, which he notes has shaped his personal and professional development. Here he shares his thoughts on lessons he’s learned as a volunteer, what he’d like to see change within the profession, and the legacy he hopes to leave.
I started out as a local representative and an ASCP Career Ambassador. I volunteered at local career fairs and planned “Understanding your Lab Results” workshops. I wrote to my ASCP Council of Laboratory representatives, one being Tiffany Channer. They celebrated my victories and encouraged me along the way. This support led to an opportunity to serve on the ASCP Council of Laboratory Professionals and other roles in ASCP. I’ve learned to continue to fight, be passionate, be bold, and take risks. Dr. Holladay and leaders at ASCP are listening and will support you. Also, I've learned not to be afraid to leave my comfort zone.
I would like to see us be less siloed in our daily practice. Medical laboratory science is all interconnected. I feel like non-physician medical laboratory professionals are missing out by not getting to know the pathologists’ team and vice versa. We’re missing opportunities to learn from each other and even provide each other with support. You’re a part of a laboratory care team. Take advantage of your team. Be stronger together.
I hope my legacy will be one of inspiring others to do the unexpected. Most of my life I was told what I couldn’t do. I had a lot of people tell me, “You’ll never be more than mediocre.” Just keep moving forward! No one can limit your potential as a leader and educator. Make sure to bring others with you along the way. Every accomplishment in my life has been the effort of many. I hope to leave a legacy of inclusive, bold, and dynamic laboratory professionals! Give people the chances others gave you.
Team Critical Values