Scientist by Day, Dancer by Night, MLT Program Coordinator Inspires

Scientist by Day, Dancer by Night, MLT Program Coordinator Inspires

Maia Maiden was destined to be a chemical engineer. Or so she thought. After advancing through her courses at the University of Minnesota she did not enjoy the physics and calculus courses the program demanded. “At what felt like the last minute I got a hold of the University’s course catalog and scoured for a program that would incorporate my previous courses but better align with my interests and strengths,” says Maiden. She stumbled upon a program in medical technology and it piqued her interest. “I knew I always wanted to do something hands-on that would help people, I just never knew medical technology was an option.”

Maiden, like many of her students today, wasn’t initially aware of the critical role a medical laboratory technician (MLT) plays in the complex healthcare system. MLTs are responsible for running blood and body fluid tests and must be highly skilled and trained to examine and analyze the results. “The laboratory is often this mystical black box of unknown, and we really need skilled people behind that box,” says Maiden. Once she lifts the curtain, Maiden sees her students’ interests come to life. “It really is the behind-the-scenes role that is shaping healthcare today and my students, like me, want to be a part of that.”

Maiden has always had an interest in teaching, having taught in different capacities throughout her personal and professional life. After working in the field for many years, she knew she wanted to make an impact on those entering it for the first time. “I wanted to shape the quality of applicants entering the profession as I knew what sort of skills were needed to be successful in this vocation and which ones were currently lacking amongst my peers,” she says. With the role being widely unknown, Maiden wanted to educate others on the impact MLTs have on patient diagnoses.

Maia Maiden Headshot

“As an African American woman, my goal has always been to bring diversity to the field and to the classroom. When I was going to school, there was no one that looked like me. I knew, as a teacher, I could relate to students from varied backgrounds on their journey,” Maiden says.

When she first arrived at Rasmussen College, Maiden knew it was a different environment. “The level of expertise the instructors provide at Rasmussen is amazing. We all have varied backgrounds and bring awesome real-world experience with a passion for education to the table,” she says. Maiden wanted to be a piece of that community so she started as the Medical Laboratory Technician program coordinator at the Lake Elmo/Woodbury, Minnesota campus. With the opportunity to help shape the curriculum and forge relationships with students of all backgrounds, Maiden knew she had found the right fit. “Our curriculum is great and our board scores are above the national average. We truly have great outcomes, but it is not just about the numbers; the people at Rasmussen College are irreplaceable,” she says.

The Medical Laboratory Technician Associate’s degree program is a rigorous program and Maiden claims, for good reason, because MLTs’ analyses shape what doctors do. “It is challenging but so rewarding. Students can’t be afraid of body fluids. It’s all about stepping up to the plate and analyzing what’s in the cup,” she says. To encourage her students to be successful, she inspires them to be self-determined and truly try their best every day. She does her best to remind them daily that there is a patient on the other side of each result. Lab results, especially false ones, can change people’s lives. Technicians need to be able not only to analyze but also help to diagnose. In fact, 70 percent of medical decisions today are based on lab results.1

Maiden says, “This career isn’t for everyone, you have to have the dedication and self-motivation. I always ask my students, ‘Do you have space in your life to be successful?’ Don’t waste your time and money on an education if you are not going to give it the dedication it deserves.”

Like many of her students, Maiden lives what she refers to as a dual life, stretched by her career and side hustles. As a self-proclaimed “scientist by day and dancer by night,” she delicately balances teaching with owning her own production company, which produces artistic performances across the state and country. Inspiring both inside and outside of the classroom, Maiden was awarded the Ordway’s Sally Award for Initiative in 2018. The prestigious award recognizes and celebrates the contributions and accomplishments of artists, educators, volunteers, philanthropists and leaders across Minnesota who strengthen and enrich the community through the arts. Awarded to Maiden for her bold steps to strengthen the state’s artistic and cultural community, the award acknowledges the fantastic work she is doing to make a difference.

In addition, Maiden was the recipient of the 2018 Upswell Fellowship by Independent Sector. Upswell gives “changemakers” the opportunity to participate in community-based events and action-oriented experiences to learn, network, and develop solutions to critical social and environmental challenges. Maiden was recognized for being a real “changemaker” and innovator in pursuit of her personal mission, to provide an equitable and engaging platform for people of color, women and youth through performing arts.

While humble about her accolades and success, Maiden does encourage her students to follow their passions and pursue opportunities that give back to the greater good. In reflection, she says, “Earning awards affirms that I am making a change. This is just a jumping off point, how can I keep moving forward and continue to impact the world?”

Are you looking to put your passions to work in a rewarding healthcare career to give back to your community? Learn more about our Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) Associate’s degree program here.

Jon R. Cohen, M.D, Quest Diagnostics, 70% of medical decisions are based on lab results, [accessed March 2019]

Hannah Burn

Hannah is a Sr. Communications Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She loves to share stories and hopes that her content inspires others to pursue their educational goals.

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