News & Announcements

Clinical Laboratory program ‘a dream come true’ for international student

April 10, 2023

By Mia Hollander

A woman wearing a hijab uses a pipette in a lab.
Photo by Jacob Brase

When Fatima Alsaihati came to the University of Missouri, she was excited to immerse herself in a culture outside of her own. But when she found the Clinical Laboratory Science program at Mizzou, she truly felt at home. 

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Alsaihati dreamed of continuing her education by studying abroad. In 2015, she applied for a government scholarship to support this dream — and was overjoyed upon her acceptance. She moved from her home in the Middle East to Rolla, Missouri, where local relatives helped her adjust to life in the U.S.  

“I took some classes at a couple of different universities — other than Mizzou — and I enjoyed my time in both of them,” Alsaihati said. “But being accepted in the CLS program at Mizzou was a dream come true for me.”  

The Mizzou senior is set to graduate in 2023 with a Bachelor of Health Science in Clinical and Diagnostic Science with an emphasis in Clinical Laboratory Science. A degree in this field prepares students for a career in a health profession that is vital to patient care, but relatively unknown to most. Medical Laboratory Scientists are trained to work in clinical laboratory areas like hematology, clinical chemistry, microbiology, blood banking, immunology and molecular diagnostics. 

Making a difference

Alsaihati was taking a microbiology lab class when she first learned about the CLS degree path, and she immediately knew it was the perfect fit for her. She wanted to pursue a career that combined her passion for helping others with a course of study based in science.

“It’s an integral part of health care and patient experiences and outcomes,” she said. “Physicians rely on the information and the data that we provide […] to accurately diagnose patients, design treatments plans, monitor patient symptoms and progress, and much, much more.”

Since beginning the 11-month professional phase of the CLS program at Mizzou, Alsaihati has absolutely flourished. This field of study enables her to make meaningful contributions to patient health and wellness while working behind the scenes, which is ideal for someone who thrives in an independent work environment.

“This profession is immeasurably rewarding and interesting, as the science is continuously evolving and growing,” she said.

Considering the high demand for certified medical laboratory scientists, it’s also a stellar option in terms of career prospects. Mizzou CLS graduates have a 100% job placement rate — with many receiving multiple offers upon graduation.

International affairs

While Alsaihati said her choice to study CLS has been a great fit overall, she has grappled with several challenges common among international students. 

“For international students to gain lawful residency status, there is a series of extensive paperwork that needs to be done that no one warns you about,” Alsaihati said. “There is so much that goes into this complicated process that even international affairs advisors are unable to keep up with it all.”   

There are also unique financial burdens that international students face when working toward a degree at a U.S. institution. Alsaihati said noncitizens must pay up to three times the standard tuition and navigate employment restrictions, such as limits to their on-campus work hours, that can make it a severe challenge to fund their academic pursuits.  

Without government sponsorship or an affluent family, it is nearly impossible for international students to afford the high cost of education and living overseas.  

Alese Thompson, clinical site coordinator and assistant clinical professor with the School of Health Professions, works closely with Alsaihati on a day-to-day basis. Thompson said the senior’s positive attitude helps her overcome any obstacles she might face. 

“I have never heard Fatima complain about anything — and I mean anything,” Thompson said. “She always has a positive attitude and suggestions for how to fix something when there is an issue. She never wants to bring anything to my attention without having a potential solution for the problem first, which is an incredible trait to have in this profession where critical thinking is crucial.”  

Although the struggles of being an international student might seem overwhelming at times, Alsaihati said her passion for CLS and excitement about her future career help make it all worthwhile. 

“Patient health and positive outcomes rely on accurate testing results and diagnosis,” she said. “As much as it is a huge responsibility to carry, it is very rewarding to be an active part of someone’s health journey.” 

Featured in this post

Alese Thompson

Alese M. Thompson

Clinical Site Coordinator and Assistant Clinical Professor