Sister Marie C. Vittetoe, CHM EdD, MT(ASCP)
ADVANCE: What prompted you to enter the laboratory profession?
Vittetoe: I took every science course offered in high school and many in college. I particularly enjoyed classes with labs.
A: What would you consider your first big break in the laboratory industry?
Vittetoe: I can vividly remember when the Coulter counter was announced. We did not believe that a machine could count cells like we did in the counting chamber. But now we could not live without the even more sophisticated technology of classifying and identifying blood cells. For example, at the Hopital Sacre Coeur laboratory in Milot, Haiti, we have 100 or more counts each day. It would be impossible to perform those counts and calculate parameters manually.
A: What piece of laboratory technology would you not want to live without?
Vittetoe: Dry chemistry analyzers--like the J and J Vitros DT 60s. When I first worked in medical technology, we made up all of our own media, chemistry solutions, stains, etc. There was a lot of room for errors. When I first began working in Haiti in the mid 1980s, those same old-fashioned methods were being used. There were so many big problems-such as dirty glassware, no distilled water, dirty and wet pipettes, solutions with "mother" (sediment) in the bottom of the bottles, dusty surfaces, uncalibrated instruments, and untrained or improperly trained technicians. It was difficult to know where to start, but getting a new refrigerator was one big step forward.
A: Discuss a significant advancement you've witnessed in the laboratory industry.
Vittetoe: The automation and digital recording of many tests.
A: What are the greatest rewards of your work?
Vittetoe: After my long career as a bench technologist, laboratory supervisor, teacher, teacher educator, professor, department chair and consultant to Haiti laboratories, I can say the greatest satisfaction is to know that I have impacted millions of people's healthcare in my lifetime . not only directly, but by the ripple effect of teaching those who will in turn teach and practice some aspect of the profession.
A: What has been your biggest challenge on the job?
Vittetoe: Having patience with the logistics of procurement and securing funding for the things which in the United States are essential, but in Haiti are esoteric.
A: What mark on the laboratory industry do you hope to leave?
Vittetoe: I have left an indelible mark on the practice of medicine and public health in Haiti by the help given in establishing a premiere clinical laboratory at Hopital Sacre Coeur in Milot Haiti . one that many doctors and others outside Milot have titled "the best little lab in Haiti."
|CONSULTING ABROAD: Sister Marie Vittetoe, CHM, EdD, MT(ASCP), right, poses with a lab tecnician at Hospital Sacre Coeur in Haiti, where she served as a lab consultant. ADVANCE thanks Sister Marie Vittetoe
A: Reflecting on your career choice, are you glad you chose the laboratory profession?
Vittetoe: I can't think of any other way that I could have influenced, taught and guided so many in so many ways.
A: Why did you choose your home town/city?
Vittetoe: In 1995, I moved from Lexington, KY, to Iowa City, IA, to be close my aging mother who died at age 96 in 2001. I was also closer to my religious Sisters and my family. I enjoy visiting with people, especially faculty, students and friends from the past.
A: Tell us about one your hobbies.
Vittetoe: One of my hobbies is genealogy. In 2000, I published a family tree and scrapbooks about both my mother and father's ancestors. I have more than 6,000 names listed with many old photos and documents.
As a Sister of Humility, I am very involved with committees and group activities. This summer I was a "retreat committee" member for Sisters in Davenport, IA, and Villa Maria, PA. On my way back to IA, I drove nearly 2,000 miles to visit friends and relatives in WV, KY, IN and IL. It was great to renew friendships with 26 folks in those places where I had once lived and worked.
A: What type of car do you drive? What does this choice say about you?
Vittetoe: Another favorite activity is visiting friends and relatives and for that purpose, I drive a 2002 Prius which recently turned 100,000 miles. I bought this car to show my concern for fuel efficiency. It has been wonderful and has taken me all over the country. In 2002, when the salesman told me they were new in this country and it was best not to buy the first model, I said, "Well, I have studied this car's use in Japan, and I want it now as it may be my last car!"
--Compiled by Karen Appold