By Jennifer McEntee
Joshua Akin has long known his talents were best applied in the lab, but it was a UC San Diego Extension certificate program that set him on the path to his current vocation in clinical toxicology.
Akin is a clinical laboratory scientist within the toxicology subspecialty at UC San Diego Health’s Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine, also known as CALM. He specializes in high-volume clinical diagnostics and mass spectrometry.
His background is in public health microbiology, including for the Sacramento and Shasta County Public Health laboratories. Originally from Northern California, Akin says he checked out clinical laboratory scientist training programs throughout the state before deciding UC San Diego Extension’s year-long program best suited his needs.
Akin participated in the San Diego Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) Training Consortium Program in the 2011-2012 academic year. With instruction in clinical laboratory medicine and technology, the CLS training program gives students theoretical and hands-on instruction in topics such as clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, urinalysis immunology and transfusion medicine. CLS students are readied for national certification and state licensure exams through a combination of lectures and clinical laboratory practical experience work at local medical facilities including UC San Diego Health, Sharp HealthCare and Scripps Health.
After earning his CLS certification, Akin was inspired to pursue his master’s degree in clinical research at UC San Diego. He completed his master’s degree in 2016.
He recently spoke with UC San Diego Extension about how the CLS program set the foundation for a rewarding career.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a clinical laboratory scientist for UC San Diego Health’s Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine, or CALM.
I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking, and I recently had a daughter, so I’m getting into hiking with her. We usually go to the Sierra Nevada mountains, particularly Yosemite National Park.
Why did you decide to study at UC San Diego?
For both the CLS training program and my master’s degree program, UC San Diego was definitely convenient. The hours made it optimal for working full-time, and there were several close locations I could get to right after work.
What did you learn in the CLS training program?
I gained an understanding of the entire spectrum of clinical laboratory work, from hematology to microbiology and everything in-between. I gained valuable experience working in the clinical lab setting as well.
It’s a unique program with its hands-on approach, especially when you compare it to other programs across California. It’s very state-of-the-art.
What advice would you give to incoming Extension students?
There’s no better time than now. Learn as much as you can, educate yourself on what this job entails and go for it. The unemployment rate for CLS is really low. This is a very lucrative position to be in right now. There are always going to be laboratory tests.
How did your experience in the CLS training program change or improve your life?
First off, it motivated me to get my master’s degree through UC San Diego. It grew my network of colleagues and collaborators, and opened the door for me to present research at different conferences.
Learn more about Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training on our website, or contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 858-534-9262.