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Medical Laboratory Technicians

History

Medical laboratory technology shares many important milestones with the history of medicine itself. For instance, both fields can claim as their founder Aristotle, the father of biology and physiology. Some significant achievements include Jan Swammerdam's discovery of red blood corpuscles in 1658; Anton van Leeuwenhoek's observation of microorganisms through the microscope during the latter part of the 17th century; and the discoveries of Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur in bacteriology in the 1870s.

The valuable information gained through these efforts showed medical professionals many possibilities for therapy, especially in the medical specialties of bacteriology (the study of microorganisms in the human body), cytology, histology, and hematology. The growth of these medical specialties created a steadily increasing need for laboratory personnel.

Because of the great medical advances of the 20th century, physicians are even more dependent on laboratory procedures and personnel for assistance in diagnosing and treating disease. In the early part of the last century, individual physicians often taught their assistants how to perform some of the laboratory procedures frequently employed in their practices. Because the quality of work done by these technicians varied considerably, many physicians and medical educators became concerned with the problem of ensuring that assistants did the highest quality work possible. In 1936, one of the first attempts was made to standardize the training programs for the preparation of skilled assistants—in that case, the training of medical technologists. Since then, the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, in association with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), has instituted standards of training for medical laboratory technicians. CAAHEP accredits educational programs offered in community, junior, and technical colleges for the training of medical laboratory technicians, and other accrediting agencies have also entered the field. For example, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools accredits education programs for medical laboratory technicians and medical assistants. In addition, CAAHEP and other agencies have accredited dozens of other programs for students willing to concentrate their studies in a medical laboratory specialty such as cytology, histology, or blood bank technology.

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