When Miranda Collins graduated from Clarkson University with her bachelor of science degree in biology in May 2020, she was setting out into a world that had been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With plans to become a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathic medicine, Collins first desired to gain more real-world experience in healthcare, in addition to the work she had done as an undergraduate shadowing physicians. She also wanted to do her part in the battle against the virus.
"As a hopeful doctor, I knew that there was quite literally no time like the present to do what I could in the medical world to help," she says.
Collins left Clarkson and her nearby hometown of Parishville for Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where she took a position as a laboratory technical associate at Saratoga Hospital in June 2020. The position, which was new to the hospital, was created at the start of the pandemic to assist with the COVID workload to phlebotomists, laboratory medical technologists and clinical scientists.
Collins says that her position was a “right-hand man” to a clinical laboratory technologist/clinical lab scientist. She was trained extensively for jobs like determining the acceptability of specimens, maintaining positive identification, and documenting discrepancies; maintaining competency in the shipping of infectious biological materials; assisting staff and providers with outsourced testing information; and ensuring that reference laboratory testing met established turn-around time.
Her position became more fluid as day-to-day tasks were rearranged to deal with the effects of the continuing pandemic.
"From processing thousands of COVID-19 swabs under a biosafety cabinet, reporting the daily COVID-19 statistics to the county, and performing roughly 150 Sofia SARS COVID-19 Antigen tests daily, to hand-pipetting thousands of sterile saline testing kits for testing centers countywide when supplies dried up, and eventually being trained to perform RAPID testing via PCR -- I can proudly say that I have served on the front line of this pandemic," says Collins. "Alongside my colleagues, I have witnessed the resilience, compassion, and unwavering work ethic that has been integral to simply get through each day."
Collins says that her experience at Saratoga Hospital will be invaluable as she continues her path toward becoming a doctor. "It’s interesting to be on the diagnostic side of medicine, where testing ordered by providers divulges information beyond what the naked eye can see. The laboratory techs and staff make it a point to teach us why specific testing is ordered and what results could indicate a cause for disease."
Collins notes that Clarkson played an important role in preparing her. "My time at Clarkson prepared me for my career by establishing a strong work ethic early on, which continues to be beneficial in both work endeavors and my continued education," she says. "Clarkson fostered my passion for the sciences, while simultaneously refining my skills necessary for a laboratory and medical setting. After speaking with many of my colleagues who attended larger schools, I can attest to the quality of education I received at a smaller school, where the professors know you on a first-name basis."
Collins plans to take the Medical College Admission Test -- or MCAT -- this summer and then apply to both medical and osteopathic medical schools, although she is leaning toward an osteopathic program. And she is certain that her interests lie in neurology. "I’ve always enjoyed the puzzle of diagnosing disease in the central nervous system. I am fascinated by the associations between brain regions and their consistent ties to unique and specific physical manifestations. Between my curiosity in emerging medical imaging technology and not wanting to perform brain surgery, my end goal is to become a neurologist."