URI grad student awarded national scholarship from clinical pathology association

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 2, 2010 – Leah Toomey, a graduate student in the University of Rhode Island’s Cytotechnology Program, has been awarded a prestigious national scholarship from the American Society of Clinical Pathology.

Toomey, a Hope Valley resident, is one of very few students across the nation to be awarded the $1,000 scholarship for exceptional clinical laboratory science students, based on academic, leadership and community service achievements.

Cytotechnology is the study of cellular structure in order to examine cells for cancer, diseases and other abnormalities on the microscopic level. Cytotechnologists then submit their findings to pathologists for a diagnosis.

Initially a biology major, Toomey wasn’t aware of the wide range of careers in clinical laboratory science until she spoke with Greg Paquette, clinical professor of laboratory science.

“I went to Professor Paquette to talk about getting my master’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences, which is what I realized I really wanted to be doing when I was an undergraduate,” she said. “He suggested the cytology specialization in the master’s program because of my high grades and interest in pathology and disease.”

“Leah is highly qualified to receive this very prestigious and competitive national scholarship award as she is a hard-working, dedicated, and focused graduate student,” said Paquette. “She is doing extremely well and has become a natural leader for all of the graduate students in the program.”

“My role as a cytologist is life changing. I am the one who finds out if a patient has cancer or not,” Toomey said. “It’s an awesome responsibility.”

Not only has Toomey taken on a demanding field of study, she has also been active in the community, putting in volunteer hours, as well as assuming a leadership position at her job.

Sheila O’Connell, owner of a UPS branch in Coventry, wrote a letter of recommendation attached to Toomey’s scholarship application. O’Connell noted the leadership skills demonstrated by Toomey while acting as appointed manager, responsible for payroll, scheduling, and customer service.

Still completing classes, Toomey realized the benefit of this scholarship.

“It was exciting to be awarded this scholarship. Not only does it help financially but it will also help to further my career,” Toomey said. “The American Society of Clinical Pathology is a well respected agency. After I take the board exam and start applying for jobs, being awarded this scholarship will look great on my resume.”