Clarksville, TN – Rex Ameigh, chair of the Austin Peay State University Radiologic Technology program, occasionally forgets to take off his I.D. badge when he leaves work. If that happens, he usually receives several confused looks from the people he runs into.
“I am surprised at the number of places, even at Wal-Mart, where they will say, ‘I didn’t know they had that program at Austin Peay,’” Ameigh said. “We’ve been around for just about ever, but people don’t know about us. I think our students internally a lot of times don’t know we exist.”
Ameigh’s colleague down the hall, Dr. Perry Scanlan, understands his frustration. Scanlan is director of the University’s medical technology program, an equally overlooked field in the health care industry.
“Our jobs are vital, but we’re among the least publicized of medical careers, in my opinion,” Scanlan said.
Many people think only of doctors and nurses when they look into health care professions. Medical technologists and radiologic technologists are usually regulated to the background, which is unfortunate given the important roles these professionals play in keeping patients healthy. And, as both Ameigh and Scanlan like to point out, these are two areas where good, high-paying jobs are easy to find.
“There are a lot of jobs,” Scanlan said. “There’s a high need for laboratory professionals because a lot of that work force is retiring. And there’s a high demand, especially in the middle Tennessee area when you think about all the hospitals – Skyline, Centennial, Baptist, St. Thomas, Gateway in Clarksville. Seventy percent or more of the med techs that work at Gateway are from our program.”
“Nationwide, there’s still a lot of demand for positions,” Ameigh said. “Baby boomers are retiring. Our students are getting jobs all the time.”
The two unique Bachelor of Science degree programs belong to the APSU Department of Allied Health Sciences, which is where senior Louis Monrose showed up one day, researching information on the radiologic technology program. Monrose came to APSU four years ago as a pre-med major because he always wanted a career in the health care industry. He quickly realized, however, that he didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse.
“I didn’t know about (allied health sciences),” Monrose said. “I looked into it, started doing more research, and I found the radiologic program.”
Monrose is now finishing up his clinical rotations in the program, and he’s set to graduate this May. He will then be eligible to take the national certification exam for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist. Once he passes that test, he’ll be qualified to work in hospitals and doctor’s offices around the country, operating X-ray equipment, CT scanners and MRI scanners. And he’ll have a bachelor’s degree from APSU, allowing him to earn more money than some of his colleagues and rise in the ranks to supervisory positions.
“I would recommend the program,” Monrose said. “I know there are a lot of job opportunities in the area, but if I want to travel or go out of state, there’s plenty of job opportunities out there. If you’re looking for a challenge that’s exciting and fun, this is it.”
Vanna Gassmann also always pictured herself working in the health care industry. After earning her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at El Paso, she considered continuing her education and becoming a dentist. But Gassmann is a military spouse, and moving around the country with her husband wasn’t conducive to that type of program.
The Gassmanns eventually found their way to Fort Campbell, and she heard of the little known medical technology program at APSU. After doing some research, Gassmann realized a career as a medical technologist was just what she wanted.
“I never realized before I entered this program what med techs do,” she said. “We are the behind-the-scenes workers. It’s the results that we find, the items we find that provide the important information doctors need to determine what they’re going to treat.”
Gassmann is now in her last semester with the program, doing her clinical rotations at Gateway Medical Center. She has learned how to take all types of patient samples, from drawing blood to throat cultures to collecting virtually any type of specimen.
“We do the analyzing of those specimens,” Scanlan said. “On TV it looks like doctors and nurses are doing it. That’s not the case. It’s a field that is vital because without that data it would be just guess work.”
It’s the medical technologists who find the results on whether your cholesterol is too high, just like it’s the radiologic technologists who provide doctors with the clear X-rays showing the hairline fracture in your foot.
And the programs are beneficial to students like Gassmann, who may leave Clarksville soon for a city with another military post.
“You go to a new city, you have a job,” Scanlan said. “There are a large number of people that could benefit from something like this. The best thing is to get the word out because a lot of people don’t know about this.”
“I think getting the word out allows them to make a more informed decision of which direction they really want to pursue,” Ameigh said.
For more information on APSU’s medical technology or radiologic technology programs, contact the APSU Department of Allied Health Sciences at 931-221-6455 or visit the website at www.apsu.edu/allied-health.