Pipeline program: VCU Acceleration (2009)
Year in school: Graduate of VCU School of Allied Health Professions, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences
High school/hometown: Warwick High School, Newport News, VA
Interview Date: Winter 2015
A current Medical Technologist, Kierra Cooke feels fortunate to have been a VCU student and now a VCU Health employee. Her journey has come full circle, but is also ongoing in her drive to grow professionally and have a larger impact in healthcare.
During high school Cooke connected a well-informed passion of science with healthcare, and began volunteering at her local hospital’s Emergency Department. Looking ahead to college and careers with biological sciences in mind, Cooke came across the VCU Acceleration program during a VCU Open House. Cooke was drawn to Acceleration as it would help her learn more about pre-health options in relation to her major, and allow her to explore the VCU Health campus where she ultimately would come across the VCU School of Allied Health Professions, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
“From being in Acceleration I was able to learn about the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity Scholars Program (IMSD) which gave me lab research experience for more than just one summer; I conducted research every summer of college as well as through the school year my junior and senior year,” Cooke recalled. “I was able to learn the basic lab skills that I still use today as an MT. I believe my research experience through IMSD aided my acceptance into the Clinical Laboratory Science Program.”
Cooke entered the CLS Program as an undergraduate and completed her degree in 2013. Now as an MT in the Chemistry Lab of the VCU Health Pathology Department, Cooke plays a vital role in diagnostic medicine. From the time a human specimen, blood for example, is collected to the time results are released, Cooke is with the sample every step of the way and is also responsible for daily equipment calibrations and quality control tests.
“I am trained to know when a sample is contaminated (possibly with fluids the patient is receiving) or [whether it is] potentially the wrong patient’s sample,” explained Cooke. “The importance of my profession is something that I feel gets overlooked. [The] majority of the decision making a doctor makes comes from the work of someone in my profession. Without lab values it would be hard to know how a patient is really doing, what care plan is needed, and how effective the care plan is.”
Cooke’s ultimate goal of having a larger impact in healthcare, coupled with the desire for greater patient interaction has brought her back to VCU through a Pre-Health Post-baccalaureate certificate, to continue to grow and explore professionally. With her sights set on medical school, Cooke believes that her attention to detail and appreciation of interprofessional exchange will enable her to become a successful physician.
“I am currently working towards this goal by taking additional pre-requisites while working full-time as an MT and volunteering at Crossover Ministries. What inspires me is knowing that this goal is attainable. My desire to get there will take me there.”