MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University’s clinical laboratory sciences programs will receive $250,000, disbursed over five years, from the Cliffs Natural Resources Foundation. The funding will expand the scope of the CLS molecular diagnostics laboratory in the West Science Building to facilitate student training, test development and research. It will also establish a $50,000 Cliffs Endowed Scholarship to assist CLS students with costs associated with training at clinical agencies, including Mayo Clinic. Other planned uses are to provide molecular training for the current laboratory workforce and high school educators, offer summer molecular workshops for elementary/secondary students, and facilitate interdisciplinary genetics-based research initiatives with NMU students.
“This is a transformational gift,” said Linda Riipi, associate dean of the School of Clinical Sciences. “We will now be able to move forward with the molecular diagnostics initiative to meet the demand for professionals with this specialized training. Molecular diagnostics, or ‘personalized medicine,’ is the fastest-growing and most rapidly changing area in the clinical laboratory. It utilizes each person’s unique genetic ‘signature’ to diagnose disease and make predictions about the likelihood of developing disease. It utilizes molecular diagnostic tests to assist clinicians with determining treatment options that are as individualized as the patients. The expanding menu of molecular genetic tests, coupled with the lack of qualified graduates, exponentially increases the need for trained personnel.”
Riipi said NMU is one of eight universities nationwide that offers an accredited program in diagnostic molecular science. A unique feature of the CLS programs at NMU is the “career-laddering curriculum,” which allows students and displaced workers to seamlessly continue their education from one-year certificate to associate degree to bachelor’s degree. Students complete a clinical internship as part of their degree program, allowing them to work collaboratively with other health care professionals while gaining extensive experience in their fields.
The $250,000 represents the largest gift Cliffs has made to NMU.
“Cliffs is pleased to be able to continue our well-established relationship with NMU by providing this financial support to the very impressive activities involved with the clinical laboratory sciences programs and the education and research opportunities it provides for students, educators and others,” said Dale Hemmila, director of public affairs, North America. “In addition, the endowed scholarship is a commitment by the Cliffs Foundation to its longstanding mission of support for education."
Riipi added, “The CLS molecular diagnostics project supports Cliffs’ legacy of ensuring that the families of our region have access to exceptional healthcare services. It also supports Cliff’s commitment to providing its employees, Upper Michigan youth and educators with exemplary, innovative learning experiences.”