Back from the offices at Abbott Point of Care and into the MCCC lab are Medical Laboratory Technology students, seated, from left, Kaleanne Esguerra of Lawrence and Gladys Iglesias of Hamilton. Standing from left, Julie Kim of Bordentown, Carolyn Vasquez of Hamilton, and faculty member Lisa Shave.

This past fall, six Medical Laboratory Technology students at Mercer County Community College provided technical support as paid interns for Abbott’s Point of Care business in Princeton during the company’s software update to its widely used i-STAT device. They fielded phone calls from healthcare professionals across the country—even from an astronaut on the Space Station. One of those students is Kaleanne Esguerra of Lawrence.

According to MCCC faculty member Lisa Shave, coordinator of the MLT program, the i-STAT instrument is widely used in physicians’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, and other healthcare settings as a fast, accurate and cost-effective blood analyzer. With two updates annually, Abbott worked with Shave last year to bring in additional technical support to help with increased call volume during the software release. Mercer students received 40 hours of training on updating the devices to prepare for the release and were the first line of inquiry in helping customers, including initial calls and follow-up issues.

Student Carolyn Vazquez of Hamilton said the internship was a welcome addition to her college coursework. “We were helping people with an important task. I might be one of the people on the other end of the line someday.”

Shave is delighted that her students had the opportunity to learn about healthcare from the manufacturer’s side and rely on their critical thinking and communications skills. “People skills are important in every job, whether that’s dealing with patients or co-workers,” she said.

Shave adds that an MLT degree is more versatile than some may realize. “There are a number of jobs where a laboratory background is valuable,” she said.

Based in Chicago, Abbott produces testing and diagnostics equipment and technology, and manufactures medical devices and generic pharmaceuticals, serving people in more than 150 countries. The goal of its Princeton Point of Care business is to design, develop, manufacture and provide technical support to medical professionals who are using the i-STAT System.

Two students have been asked to stay on this spring, including Esguerra.

“Working at Abbott has given me a different insight into the laboratory testing field as a whole,” Esguerra said. “Most of the customers I deal with on a regular basis are lab techs, lab managers, and point of care coordinators, so I’ve gotten a glimpse of what they do and how seemingly differing industries all intersect.”

Esguerra, who already has her B.S. in biology from Humboldt State University, has mapped out her future plans, including working as a traveling medical laboratory scientist and earning her master’s degree in either MLS or public health.

But, she notes, working at Abbott’s Point of Care business has opened up other possibilities. “It’s exciting to be part of an international company,” she said. Other students who interned this fall were Jessica LaFrennie, Julie Kim, Gladys Iglesias, and Jerry Sowers (alumnus).