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Histotechnologist's work honoured in award

The Report: May / June 1998 vol.18 num.8

by DAN KEETON

Okay, heres a test. How fast can you say histotechnologist? Forthat matter, do you know what it is?

Its a health sciences profession, of course, and it involves thetesting of human tissue for signs of disease. Its also a word that has an aura ofaccomplishment and pride about it for lab worker and HSA member Janet Tunnicliffe.

Tunnicliffe, section head of the histopathology lab at Surrey Memorialhospital, is last years winner of the Histotechnologist of the Year Award. Not onlythat, but shes the first Canadian to win the award granted yearly by the US basedNational Society of Histotechnology.

The Society, which offers voluntary membership in the US, is dividedinto regions. Canada is the ninth.

The award came as a complete surprise, says Tunnicliffe. She wasattending the societys annual convention in Columbus, Ohio. On the final night, hername was announced.

Why did she win? Tunnicliffe isnt completely sure, but notes shewas nominated by four Canadians, including the pathologist with whom she works.-Ive been very actively involved with the society for years."

So what does a histotechnologist do? Most of the technologiststime involves assisting the lab pathologist in -grossing" ... taking a pieceof tissue and rendering it into microscope slides for the pathologist to diagnose.-Ninety per cent of the work is looking for signs of benign or malignantactivity," says Tunnicliffe.

Other work relates to autopsies, vasectomies, forensic services to thecoroner and clinical studies. -We do all the tissue work for the Fraser Valley CancerCentre," Tunnicliffe relates.

Tunnicliffe graduated as a general medical lab technologist in 1975 andin histopathology the following year. She explains: -I like histopathology, I supposebecause you do so many different things on the job. You get to meet with the pathologistand discuss the work, rather than just standing in front of a machine all day, pressingbuttons."

She was second in charge at the Vancouver Hospital lab early in hercareer, and worked in New Zealand and at Royal Columbian hospital after that. Ten yearsago, after a stint in sales, Tunnicliffe started at Surrey Memorial.

A unique feature of Tunnicliffes workplace ... and anindicator of why she won the histotechnologist award ... is that she designed it. Shedid the same for the newer, expanded lab. (While at the convention, Tunnicliffe gave aworkshop on laboratory information systems.)

Additionally, she gives lectures across the country and volunteers timeto share skills and experience. -Im really pro-educational," saysTunnicliffe. -If you know something, you have an obligation to share yourknowledge." Lately shes been giving lectures on the use of computers in labwork.

That attitude applies to relations among lab technologists. -Idont believe in re-inventing the wheel. If someone wants some information on how werun things, Im happy to fax it to them. And I have no qualms about picking up thephone and asking others."

Over the last few years, Tunnicliffe has been offered jobs by severalfirms. -Ive turned them down," she relates. -Ive no desire toleave Surrey Memorial."

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