Cytotechnology: Saving Lives One Cell at a Time

Autumn Kitabjian, Student Writer

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Mary Kitabjian spends her days helping to save lives, but it took her many turns in her life to get there. She now works at Lehigh Valley Hospital as a Cytotechnologist; however, she never anticipated that she would be where she is today. After high school, she initially studied engineering at Drexel University, eventually earning a Master’s degree. From there she got a job at Johnson & Johnson as a product development scientist, but at the time she didn’t fit in with the corporate scene. She was offered a job as a biology teacher at a high school and took it. “It was the most work I had to do in my life”, she states. Then she decided to stay home and have kids, but eventually deemed it time to head back to work which lead her to the job she has now.

Being a Cytotechnologist comes along with a variety of responsibilities, the most prominent being screening hundreds of slides per week. This consists of looking at cell slides under the microscope and detecting any abnormalities in order for them to be treated. They also are part of an FNA service in which they assist needle biopsies. “We often do thyroid biopsies in the ultrasound department, we do a lot of lung biopsies in CAT scan and we do various biopsies in the GI lab”, she explains. This is where they obtain needles with the cells collected within them and transfer them onto the microscopic slides.

Cytotechnology isn’t just sitting in a lab all day and being serious. “There’s this GI doctor who sings and tells jokes during the procedures”, she claims. She also tells stories of “bumping elbows” with the custodial workers in the hallways. Working at the hospital can also be intimidating and exciting. “You have to be able to make quick and accurate decisions for the sake of the patient”, she says. There are times throughout the day where she has to run from one procedure to the next because of the tight schedule they’re on. They venture to and from labs and procedures. Even though it’s hectic at times, she enjoys the variety and can’t imagine doing anything else with her life at this time.