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Patrick preparing for a skydive

When an infection in Patrick Dzurilla’s leg sent him to the hospital, his observations of the diagnosis and treatment process helped him decide to become a medical laboratory scientist. When Patrick began to study and practice in the field, his fervor for the occupation became apparent. Although he already has a degree in biology, he explains that studying medical laboratory sciences (MLS) is different. This time, Patrick found his true calling, and his fascination with the work drives his eagerness to learn. Read about Patrick’s experience with the MLS program.

What attracted you to UConn? I wanted to go to a school that had a lot of different options and activities available. Originally, I had looked at other, smaller schools with the intention of entering as a pre-pharmacy major. However, I wasn’t married to pharmacy, and I wanted to make sure that I had options. If my interests changed, I wanted to be able to switch into another major easily. Although UConn is a bigger school, it still has the community of a smaller school.

What is your major, and why did you choose it? I have a bachelors in biology, and I am working on a bachelors in medical laboratory sciences. When I first started school, I was a pre-pharmacy major. I wanted to do something in health science, which is why I found pharmacy appealing. Over time, I found that my motivation for pharmacy was mostly financial. Once I started studying it, I realized that I didn’t have a passion for it. In my senior year, I switched to a biology major.

When I wound up in the hospital with an infection in my leg, I saw the process involved in my care. I found out that a lot of it was in the lab. It was then that I knew that that was where I wanted to be.

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Patrick skydiving

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? I am currently working at the West Haven Veterans Hospital as part of the VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) program. I have been gaining hands-on experience in different departments, including a high-level biosafety lab. Working with the veterans and hearing their stories of where they came from makes me reflect on my own accomplishments. It makes me want to live up to the kinds of things that they have done.

Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. After I graduated with a degree in biology, I had to wait to apply to the MLS program. I spent a year away from school working as an insurance agent, where I helped to educate people about Medicare during their transition into retirement. Since I was an independent contractor, my pay was based solely on commission. I quickly learned that if I am not working towards something, then I am not earning anything. It made me better at managing my time, prioritizing and planning. These skills transferred into my schoolwork when I came back.

Another enriching experience was a karate course that I took. It helped me to be disciplined and to focus on what I need to accomplish in that moment. I feel like I get bogged down sometimes, and this was a good way to push everything out, relax and clear my mind for a bit.

What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? My biggest challenge was figuring out what I wanted to do. When I was earning my degree in biology, I wasn’t able to focus on my classes because I didn’t have drive. When I found medical lab science, it gave me direction. Every day, I am interested in what I am learning about, which makes it easier to learn. It is especially interesting to work in the lab and see the direct applications of what I learn in school.

When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate in May 2018. After that, I would like to work in a hospital lab. More specifically, I would like to work in the microbiology department within a medical lab. What I like about the microbiology lab is that you can see the microorganisms on the plates. Chemistry and molecular labs are more abstract; most tests happen inside of a machine. You might see color changes, but it is mostly interpreting results, and you don’t really get to see what is happening.

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Patrick in his scuba diving gear

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I am a certified scuba diver. My parents live in North Carolina, where I have been scuba diving. At eighty feet deep, it is amazing to feel the pressure and gravity of being that far under water.

I have also been skydiving a couple of times here. I cannot describe what it feels like. I thought that it would be the feeling of falling, but I never had that sensation; it was something different all together.

By: Michelle Sarta