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Meet the first Clinical Laboratory Science master’s graduate, Brenna Ildza

Nov. 3, 2022

By Gracie Hedenberg

Brenna Ildza, the first graduate of MU’s master’s in clinical and diagnostic sciences with an emphasis in clinical laboratory science program, will graduate in December with her second MU Health Sciences degree. Though a lot has changed between her CLS degrees, her passion for laboratory science has not wavered.  

Ildza first graduated from MU in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science. She attended classes in person — there was no Zoom, Canvas or Google Drive to speak of. But for the MHS CDS-CLS program, she has completed her second degree entirely online, met with peers and attended class virtually — all while working full-time. Though her learning mode has shifted, MU provided a home for learning, professional mentoring and growth in her field both times. 

“I was a little worried about the program and courses being exclusively online,” Ildza said. “In the past, that wasn’t even an option — it is a completely new experience for me. I really enjoyed the flexibility; classes were never scheduled for a specific time, so I could complete course work on my schedule.” 

Even within this highly specialized post-professional degree, students can tailor their classes to what will best suit them after graduation, especially in their capstone course, which Ildza is completing this semester. The capstone course is a project completed within the student’s workplace. 

Ildza’s project aims to decrease blood culture contamination during collection by implementing a diversion device. A small amount of potentially contaminated blood is reserved and bypasses collection into the blood culture bottles. The diversion device catches contaminants within the skin layers and allows a pure sample for testing. 

Implementation of new procedures and devices improve patient care. The MHS continued to inform Ildza about these best practices to bring back to her lab and management position.  

“When your job affects patients’ lives, it makes a difference how we complete our work,” Ildza said. “You have to pay attention to the details in the lab.” 

The customization of this program also extends to teaching for Ildza. During her master’s she has taken classes emphasizing college teaching and education in CLS. After years of managing and teaching others in the lab, this program taught her how to be a better manager and educator. 

“When you work at a hospital, everyone teaches, so I’ve had many opportunities,” Ildza said. “I’ve learned that my current techniques are appropriate and gained additional knowledge and skills to improve my teaching through this master’s program.” 

Beyond the plusses of the program itself, a return to Mizzou felt natural to Ildza. 

“I had a connection to MU and was excited to have the option to continue my education here,” Ildza said. “My son also went to MU and graduated in 2019. We have football season tickets together! I’ve had exceptional courses, advisors, peers and experiences. The MHS CDS-CLS exceeded my expectations.” 

Brenna and her son Ryan at a Missouri football game