By - December 13, 2023
A group of Girl Scouts in Bridgeport, Neb., gasped when Rex Famitangco, MS, MASCP, MLS(ASCP)CM, QLCCM, recently showed them the results of their science experiment. They had all swabbed their cell phones a few days earlier and put the swabs in a prepared petri dish and left them for a few days. Upon their return, they viewed a sample from their petri dishes under a microscope and discovered bacteria had begun to proliferate. And, it had all come from their cell phones!
It was a lesson in cleanliness these girls, in grades 2 through 6, won’t soon forget. It also opened their eyes to the world of laboratory medicine.
“We reminded them, ‘Cover your mouths when you cough. Remember to wash your hands. If you don’t clean your hands, it can lead to bacteria on the cell phone which helps to spread illness,” says Mr. Famitangco, a longtime ASCP volunteer and a laboratory administrative director at the Morrill County Community Hospital in Bridgeport, Neb., who is passionate about teaching schoolchildren about science, particularly the medical laboratory.
In collaboration with The Lab Drawer, ASCP has designed two kits, one focusing on hematology and the other on microbiology, for presentations to younger students. Both kits are easy to follow and include materials, such as talking points and art supplies so that students can replicate their test results by making an art project. Anyone working in any laboratory specialty should be able to use the kits to teach the lesson to young people.
The kits are not widely available yet. When they are, they will be available to ASCP Career Ambassadors and Pathology Ambassadors through a request form available on the Ambassador Community. Ambassadors may use these while they are in the field working with students and their community and wish to have a ready-to-go activity. Mr. Famitangco is passionate about encouraging his colleagues to reach out to their local school districts to inquire about opportunities to teach students about the medical laboratory.
“These presentations are not complicated,” he emphasizes. “I believe that each of us, in our own small way, can help promote careers in the medical laboratory.”
Mr. Famitangco, a past chair of ASCP’s Council of Laboratory Professionals, learned about the existence of The Lab Drawer toolkits while attending an ASCP Leadership Forum for volunteer leaders earlier this year. Simultaneously, his sister had asked him if he would give a science presentation to a Girl Scouts in her community of Bridgeport, Neb., to make them more aware of careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
“These young girls are emerging leaders. I wanted to find an innovative way to spark their interest. When I learned about The Lab Drawer, I thought it would be perfect,” he explains. “I also serve on ASCP’s Workforce Steering Committee so this opportunity to speak with students about these careers really resonated with me.”
“My hope is that some of these students will go into the science professions, and they might even come back to serve their community one day,” he adds. “I like to remember what former First Lady Michelle Obama told us during her signature presentation at the 2022 ASCP Annual Meeting. She said, ‘You have to start encouraging students when they are young.’”
He has been invited back to present a hematology experiment to this same Girl Scout Troop next spring. Perhaps the best validation that his visit was a success were the words from a second grade Girl Scout who observed his experiment. “She asked, where do I go to become a medical laboratory scientist?’”
Anyone who wishes to learn more about using The Lab Drawer is encouraged to contact the ASCP Membership Department at email@example.com to ensure they are up to date on their status as ASCP Ambassadors.
ASCP communications writer