Avera Health announced a new $40,000 per student sponsorship program for a dozen medical laboratory science students at an unveiling before 19 Medical Laboratory Science I students at South Dakota State University March 28.
Later in the day, it was presented via Zoom to several Upward Mobility and Accelerated Mobility students.
For selected applicants, the Avera MLS Sponsorship provides a $15,000 scholarship paid to the school while the student is receiving the four-year degree, a $15,000 sign-on bonus in exchange for a three-year work commitment and $2,000 per year in student loan repayments for up to $10,000.
The Medical Laboratory Sciences program resides within the Department of Allied and Population Health in the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health professions.
South Dakota State has the only accredited program in the state and has had a 100% job placement rate since 2017, a 100% graduation rate since 2018 and a 96% board exam pass rate since 2017. SDSU offers a four-year, on-campus bachelor’s program as well as accelerated and upward mobility options. A phlebotomy certificate also is offered.
“SDSU and Avera have worked together for many years to match students’ interests and abilities with opportunities at Avera,” Hilber said. “We are excited to work with SDSU to fill a critical workforce need.”
Dan Hansen, dean of the college, said, “This is another bond in the partnership between Avera and SDSU, which includes the lead gift for the building that houses our college. I thank Avera for the commitment it is making for our students and our college.”
Targets future Sioux Falls employees
Hilber explained the sponsorship program is for students committing to work at one of Avera McKennan’s facilities in Sioux Falls.
“Its laboratory division has more than 200 employees involved in testing and support,” Hilber said. “Increasing demand and increasing complex lab procedures are fueling a need for more employees,” she said.
Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 11% growth in clinical laboratory technologists and technicians between 2020 and 2030 with another 36,500 positions being created nationwide. The federal agency reported median pay in May 2020 was $26.92 per hour.
Medical laboratory scientists work with other health care professionals to aid in patient care by performing laboratory tests that can help in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. They use advanced technology to perform testing on blood and body fluids in the areas of chemistry, microbiology, hematology, immunology, toxicology, blood banking and molecular procedures.
“Our lab is a critical element in health care. Our MLS team is able to directly impact care and work cohesively with many other departments,” said Mike Black, Assistant Vice President of Lab. “We are excited for this collaboration, and will welcome these new members to our nationally recognized lab.”
Funding to be reevaluated in 2022-23
Sponsorship recipients will be selected this spring with funding to be in place at the start of the 2022-23 school year in August.
To be eligible, students must be preparing to begin their clinical training in the summer or fall, 2022. Selected students must also be willing to become employed in a full-time MLS position for a minimum of three years following graduation.
The sponsorship program will be re-evaluated every year and will be dependent on Avera’s workforce needs.
Sharrel Pinto, head of the Department of Allied and Population Health, said, “I am confident that opportunities like these will continue being offered to students. We’ve grown substantially in the last couple years and continue to produce high quality health care workers. We feel blessed to partner with Avera on meeting this vital workforce need across the county and specifically in our rural communities.”
Stacie Lansink, who directs the SDSU medical laboratory science program, said up to 24 students are accepted into the on-campus program, which requires completing 120 semester credits. The accelerated program is completed in 16 months with fall and spring coursework done online. Summer labs are on campus.
For more information on the sponsorship program or the scholarship, which is available to juniors or seniors, contact Lansink at 688-5855 or Stacie.Lansink@sdstate.edu.