MU Connect issue 3 (page 02 to 05)

Home MU Connect issue 3 (page 02 to 05)

HKMU to train medical laboratory technologists to ease manpower shortages

One profession, apart from frontline healthcare, has drawn a lot of attention during the pandemic: the medical laboratory industry. While there has always been a shortage of medical laboratory technologists in Hong Kong, successive outbreaks of COVID-19 since 2020 have put our clinical lab testing capacity under unprecedented tests. In 2021, an updated healthcare manpower projection by the Food and Health Bureau suggested a persistent increase in demand in the next decade or so, with a shortage of 328 full-time equivalents in 2040. Immediately, HKMU rose to the challenge, developing new programmes to train fresh blood for the industry.

New programme to gain professional accreditation

Starting 2023, the University's new Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Medical Laboratory Science will admit 60 medical laboratory technologists-to-be. The programme's development has been partially supported by a HK$40 million grant from the Education Bureau's Enhancement and Start-up Grant Scheme for Self-financing Post-secondary Education — a sign of government recognition of both the need for such a programme and HKMU's calibre in executing it. Designed according to the requirements of the Medical Laboratory Technologists Board, the programme will seek accreditation from the Board, upon which graduates will qualify for registration as medical laboratory technologists in its Part II Register. After working for three years with the Hospital Authority or in a private setting, they will be able to advance to the Part I Register.

A 7,000-sq.-ft medical lab on the way

Medical laboratory science is divided into four major disciplines, namely cellular pathology, clinical chemistry, haematology and medical microbiology. Medical laboratory technologists are expected to perform clinical tests on specimens of body fluids and tissues using specialised equipment. In the meantime, the University is constructing a massive 7,000-square-foot laboratory on a single floor, which will be entirely dedicated to medical laboratory science. In line with HKMU's traditional strength in educational technology, the laboratory will adopt smart elements to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and research activities. For example, by connecting all equipment to a central information management system, lab results can be recorded real-time to facilitate simultaneous discussion.

HKMU's expertise in related disciplines

HKMU is well-placed to contribute to the education of medical laboratory technologists. The School of Science and Technology (S&T) charged with this task has built a reputation running programmes in the related fields of testing and ertification and life sciences, which has given it strong expertise, industry connections and hardware support. Even before the addition of extra facilities, the School boasts state-of-the-industry equipment for biological and chemical analysis in laboratories totalling 4,000 square feet. With such facilities, the School has launched the Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Science programme this year, training 35 students aspiring to make a career progression or transition. At the same time, the School of Nursing and Health Studies (N&HS) also has a proven commitment to training healthcare professionals, supplying the largest number of nursing graduates among all local institutions since 1994, and recently also joining in the education of physiotherapists. Synergies between N&HS and S&T will compound students' learning opportunities. For example, N&HS's strong clinical partner network will help secure practicum positions for students of the medical laboratory science programmes. Subject to the approval of the Ministry of Education of the PRC, the University's future Zhaoqing campus will also provide students with a base to explore further studies and job opportunities in the Greater Bay Area. This new programme de-velopment once again evinces HKMU's agility in responding to societal needs — including the growing demand from the increasingly pres- sured healthcare sector — and tapping into its expertise and resources.