• NSH

From Mortars to Mordants

By: David Hemmerle

Like many before me I had an eclectic route to histology by meandering my way through jobs that provided one side of the coin but lacked the other.


In 2000, I joined the Army Reserve setting a path towards my future and the promise of a college education if/when I decided to go. After returning, I found entry level jobs as a quick lane tech at several car dealerships, and afterwards used my training in the military to become a licensed EMT-B. After a year of working on a bariatric ambulance I realized that it was not the field for me. However, transporting patients to and from appointments allowed me to drop off my resume to the large number of dialysis clinics I visited! After I was hired, I went through on the job training, like how many begin their training in histology.


Five years went by quickly while working full-time in dialysis and attending community college to complete my Gen Ed classes but I was starting to feel the need for change. The army delivered by sending me overseas to Afghanistan. I was trained as a medic and had the exceptional experience of being recruited by a Forward Surgical Team (FST). Surgical teams provide the first echelon of surgical care where soldiers need it most, the front lines. I worked in the EMT section while others, such as surgeons and operating room technicians worked in the OR, and nurses worked in the intensive care unit (ICU). While medic training is focused on treating soldiers on the frontlines, I worked with a team of around 20 people consisting of other EMT’s, nurses, and doctors.


After a year overseas, I re-deployed to the United States determined to complete a four-year degree so I could help more people. Since I was a reservist and not active duty, I did not accrue 100% of the GI Bill, therefore, I knew I would need to work at least part-time. I spoke with a former manager who re-hired me as a dialysis technician to work PRN, which for me meant working weekends and holidays. Combining college credits and three years at Northern Illinois University, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. After a lot of searching, I was not finding a career outside of dialysis that allowed for the personal and professional growth I was looking for. I decided that furthering my skills for a laboratory setting would open the opportunities I wanted. After I enrolled in Madison Area Technical College’s Post-Bachelorette Biotechnology Intensive Certificate, I realized the direction I wanted to focus my career. During the one semester full-time curriculum, I did an internship as a quality control specialist. In both the classes and the internship, I was exposed to environmental monitoring procedures as well as stem cell differentiation. Completing the certificate, my skills had expanded but my goal of helping more people had decreased from directly monitoring five patients in dialysis to the number of water samples I could collect and graph during the internship. It quickly became clear that a medical environment would be in my next job, so I searched jobs that combined biotechnology and medicine. It is no surprise to me now, Histology appeared in the search engine.


To all who have served our country, thank you!

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The National Society for Histotechnology is a professional member organization for individuals actively involved in the histology profession. NSH has over 3,000 members worldwide, and is the leading provider of histology focused continuing education.  

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