Cherika Robertson, MEd, MLS(ASCP)CM

Clinical laboratory science has a deep history. The Medical Laboratory Sciences (MLS) Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, Arkansas, is an example of this long running, prestigious history. UAMS is extremely excited to celebrate the 100th year of its MLS program in 2018! The history of this program helps to demonstrate the rich background of laboratory science, the need for laboratory science as a health profession, and the value of education and training of laboratory professionals to deliver timely and accurate test results to provide the best patient outcomes. 

In 1918, World War I was just ending, and a large number of clinical laboratories were being established which created a need for trained laboratory professionals.1 
The first documented formal laboratory training program for laboratory technicians was established in 1918 at the Philadelphia Polyclinic.1 However, laboratory training also began at UAMS in 1918. This first class consisted of seven students from Arkansas, Texas, Illinois, and Tennessee. Courses in the Medical Technology Program were initially offered by faculty within the College of Medicine.2 From 1918 through 1947, the Medical Technology Program existed as a one-year certificate program. In 1936, the program at UAMS was accredited by the American Society of Clinical Pathology but was not officially listed as a school until 1938.2 Two years later, E. Lloyd Wilbur was appointed as the first program director. The Medical Technology program at UAMS transitioned from a one-year certificate program to a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1947.1,2 Those students who had already completed 90 semester hours at another college or university were eligible for the Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology Program. 
The program existed 53 years prior to the founding of the UAMS School of Health Related Professions.2 In an effort to improve the state’s healthcare delivery system and meet its societal responsibilities, which required more than producing physicians, UAMS created the School of Health Related Professions in 1972. The Medical Technology Program was one of the major driving programs in development of the School of Health Related Professions. UAMS saw an opportunity to organize all the health profession training programs at UAMS into a single unit, thus enhancing the prestige of technical training programs and giving them their own identity.2

The MLS Program continues to offer a Bachelor of Science degree, helping to satisfy the demand for quality trained laboratory scientists in Arkansas and surrounding states. From the first class of seven students in 1918 to the most recent December 2017 graduates, the program has graduated over 1,500 laboratory professionals. Given the vast testing availability and technological improvements of the medical laboratory science field, professional laboratory scientists are needed now more than ever. The characteristics of laboratory professionals include paying close attention to detail, a desire for accurate and quality results, and problem-solving capabilities. UAMS is one MLS program that is fulfilling the need for professional laboratory scientists.

The field of medical laboratory science could be described as the team behind the scenes, solving patient cases one test at time. The 100-year celebration of the MLS program at UAMS gives us the opportunity to bring the profession to the forefront, highlighting our impact on patient care as valuable members of the healthcare team. This is a great opportunity to publicize that the medical laboratory science profession is involved in saving patient lives every day. We are proud to be able to have an impact on patient safety and outcomes.

Plans are currently in progress for a 100-year celebration for all UAMS MLS alumni. The event will be held in conjunction with UAMS Alumni Weekend, where the MLS program will be the featured program. The event is scheduled for August 17-18, 2018. All previous program faculty, alumni, current students, friends, and supporters of the program are invited to attend. If you or someone you know is an alumnus of the UAMS program, please feel free to contact the department to make sure your contact information on file is current. The department’s contact information is: 

The Medical Laboratory Sciences Program
4301 West Markham St., Slot #597
Little Rock, AR 72205-7199
Office number: 501-686-5776
E-mail: Leslie Burgener at

Keep an eye out for more details concerning the event as further plans are developed.


  1. Kotlarz VR. Tracing Our Roots: The First Clinical Laboratory Scientist. Clinical Laboratory Science. 1998;11(2):97-100.
  2. Baird WD. Medical Education in Arkansas 1879-1978. Memphis, TN: Memphis State University Press; 1978