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Professor recognized for commitment to laboratory science

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One Texas State professor’s passion for medical laboratory science is reaping big rewards.

Rodney Rohde, chair for the Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) program and professor in the College of Health Professions, was recently given the 2015 urEssential award by Cardinal Health. The award is designed to highlight the contributions Rohde has made to the medical laboratory profession.

Rhode said the award included $20,000 in scholarship money for students involved in the CLS program at the university.

“It was a total surprise and very humbling and exciting,” Rohde said. “It means students in our major will be able to receive scholarships in the future.”

Rohde received a bachelor of science in microbiology, a master of biology focusing on virology and a Ph.D. in education from Texas State. He began his career working as a public health microbiologist and molecular epidemiologist in the Texas Department of State Health Services Bureau of Laboratories and Zoonosis Control Division. Over the years, his research has covered adult education and public health microbiology.

Rhode said he has a special interest in studying rabies virology.

“It’s a passion of mine,” Rohde said. “And that’s probably why I’ve been fortunate enough to get this award. I’ve been doing it on a national, state and local level for a long time.”

Rohde said he did not realize CLS was the profession for him until receiving his Ph.D.

“I did not know about it,” Rohde said. “I went and worked in the public health labs and I started meeting medical technologists and people with this degree and I was like, ‘Well, that’s interesting.’”

Rohde said many students entering the program are unaware of the certification required to work in clinical environments such as a hospital laboratory.

“Many people come to college, and they’re going to be a biology or microbiology (major) like I was and there is nothing wrong with that,” Rohde said. “They have all these big plans, and it’s great, but they cannot practice without a degree or national certification—the same way a physician or nurse must obtain a license.”

Rohde said students within the CLS program do not work directly with patients. Instead, they work behind the scenes running laboratory tests.

“We are not in direct patient care like a physician or a nurse, which is why we are not really well-known,” Rohde said. “We do every known laboratory test to help a physician diagnose your illness. It’s a critical, lifesaving job.”

Lindsey Coulter, Texas State alumnus and Centers for Disease Control Emerging Infectious Disease fellow, said Rohde served as her mentor once she entered the CLS program.

Throughout my master’s program he gave me a lot of advice,” Coulter said. “In the CLS program, he was always there, helping, and he was just always someone to talk to.”

Rohde said CLS students play a major role in raising awareness for their program.

“Our own clinical laboratory students are great ambassadors,” Rohde said. “You can’t complain about being hidden if you’re not going to be willing to be a part of the solution. Hopefully it will keep spreading.”