Southwest Tech Spotlight: Emily MacKinnon

Southwest Tech Spotlight: Emily MacKinnon

Emily MacKinnon graduated from Dodgeville High School in 2014 with a passion for science.  She soon discovered the best start down her path to curing disease would begin not at a 4-year school, but at Southwest Tech. Our two-year Medical Lab Technician program is preparing her to take her pick of jobs in a variety of hospitals and labs throughout Wisconsin and beyond.

In your own words, what does a Medical Lab Technician do?

Being an MLT involves so much more than just running tests. I like to think of MLT’s as diagnostic detectives.  When a lab tech is given a patient sample, whether it be blood or another fluid, it comes with an order from a doctor who is trying to figure out what is wrong with a patient.  The initial order could have a few or numerous tests to be run, each having a purpose.  An MLT is responsible for investigating problems that are occurring in patient’s bodies, a task which requires an immense amount of skill and patience.

How did you end up in the MLT Program at Southwest Tech?

To be completely honest, I ended up in the MLT program at Southwest tech by accident.  I was a Biochemistry major at a local 4 year university, where I thought that I could become part of a laboratory staff with simply a bachelor’s degree.  After a year, I came to realize that I was wrong, the only thing you can do with a Bachelors in Chemistry is go back to school.  I didn’t want that for myself, I wanted a short, efficient program that would get me where I wanted to be, so I turned to Google.  It sounds pretty hilarious saying it to myself that I found this program by googling “how to get into a lab without a 4 year degree,” but it’s the truth.  I knew what I wanted to do, I just didn’t’ know how to get there.  That was when I stumbled upon the MLT program.  I did my fair share of research before enrolling, but there is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision. My interest in the lab all began the moment I walked into my high school chemistry class on the first day of Junior year.  I fell in love with the shiny, beautiful lab and everything in it, especially the science behind it.  I have always been a curious person, but when I walked into that lab, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

What do you wish people knew about this program?

One thing I wish people knew about this program is, to be blunt, that it exists.  I feel that there is an intense need for someone to spread the word, because the field is diminishing, but the need for techs is not.  Yes, students work incredibly hard for two years to graduate, but in those two years, so much education and experience happens.  I haven’t graduated yet, but from the minute I started the program in 2015, I knew that I was on the right path.


Tell me a little about your experience at Southwest Tech.

Personally, my experience at Southwest Tech, thus far, has been very appealing.  I thoroughly enjoy the small campus and class sizes, they make the whole “college experience” a lot more personal, and I feel like I have learned new concepts much better because of it.  My instructors are extremely knowledgeable in their fields, and I could not be more enthused to be learning from the best.  My classes are tough, but I have learned so much over the course of the last year! As for the cost of the program, affordable does not even begin to cover it.  The level of education that I am receiving makes every penny of tuition worth it.

After you graduate, what are your plans?  What kinds of options does a graduate have?

After I graduate, I have some pretty massive dreams that I hope to achieve.  Like so many other people, I have witnessed the horrific effects of cancer on the human body, and quite frankly, I despise it.  Following graduation, I take a board certification exam, which will allow me to practice as an MLT.  Once I pass my boards, I hope to move somewhere on the west coast to further my education to become a Medical Technologist or a Medical Laboratory Scientist. After I obtain those degrees, I hope to move forward in my career by doing cancer research.  I strive to make a difference in the world, and I want to put my name on something huge, something life changing for millions of people.  While I have set the bar pretty high for myself, a person can definitely make a career out of being an MLT.  There are so many opportunities just in this area, I can only imagine the opportunities that lie elsewhere.  Because the MLT program is not very well known, that means that there are not as many students pursuing the degree, which, in turn means there are no new graduates to replace the retiring population.  I would love to continue to promote the MLT program at Southwest Tech, even when I move away, because I want others to have the same passion for the lab that I do.

Emily MacKinnon, Southwest Tech Medical Lab Technician Student

Emily MacKinnon, Southwest Tech Medical Lab Technician Student

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