Six years ago, Daisha Gonzalez Baso came to the United States with her dad. At the time, she was 17 years old and unable to speak much English.
“I didn’t really know much besides, ‘Hi, how are you?’ And after that the conversation was done because I really couldn’t say anything else,” Daisha said.
She was just out of high school when she came to the U.S. from her native Cuba and eventually enrolled at the State University of New York at Brockport.
“I always wanted to do something related to the medical field,” she said. “That was the major reason why I came to the States with my dad.”
Today, Daisha is a U.S. citizen and has graduated from SUNY Brockport after majoring in both biology and medical technology. Recently, she was one of seven students to complete an intensive 45-week Medical Laboratory Science program at UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown that included classroom and hands-on clinical learning.
“I wasn’t planning on doing what I do right now,” she said. “I wasn’t planning on doing med tech at all, but we found like a route for me to kind of get into med school because it works a little different here than in Cuba.
“But after I started looking into the microscope, seeing that it’s like a puzzle that you can get answers for. … I just kept getting more excited.”
Daisha is grateful to the program and its staff at the hospital, among them Michele Harms, program director, and Kyle Jordan, program coordinator.
Earlier in her studies, she took classes for ESL (English as a second language) that helped improve her English, for the most part when writing information down.
However, for her final year at SUNY Brockport — used as a clinical year at UPMC Chautauqua — she found the material and its medical jargon especially challenging to absorb. There are certain words she struggles to say out loud because they conflict with her first language, Spanish.
“It was really hard, I’m not going to lie,” she said of the 45-week program. “It’s really, really intense. I struggled a lot.”
UPMC’s Medical Laboratory Science program trains students to become accredited medical laboratory scientists, also known as medical technologists. According to the program description, medical technologists play a critical role in the “performance and reporting of laboratory tests important in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease in a dynamic health care environment, working as a vital member of the health care team and extending care and compassion to the patient and health care community through customer service and education.”
Daisha said the program was a culmination of what she learned at college. For many, the clinical year acts as a first step to a career in the medical field.
“You’re learning a lot about what the different things do to the human body and what to look for when these results come back,” she said.
At present, she’s keeping her options open regarding her future career. When she first arrived, her plan was to become a pathologist — someone who examines bodies and body tissues.
She now lives in Jamestown and currently works as a processor at UPMC Chautauqua.
A special ceremony was held recently to celebrate the seven graduates of the Medical Laboratory Science program. The graduates also included Brandon McDonald, Melissa Moore, Chardonay Oliver, Sydney Preston, Katie Gasiewicz and Nicole Leslie.
The graduates received a certificate of completion, allowing them to complete their bachelor’s degrees at their respective universities. Of this year’s class, five graduates have committed to full-time positions with UPMC Chautauqua, pending the passing of their licensing exams.
“The graduates have not only learned how to use special techniques and instrumentation in the diagnosis of disease, but they’re also prepared to support our clinical staff in processing patient specimens and supporting high-quality patient care,” Harms said. “They will be vital members of our overall care team. Our faculty and staff are privileged to be a part of their growth and professional development.”