Iman Omar received her degree in medical laboratory science from USD in 2018. By the time the pandemic struck, in March 2020, she was the lead medical lab scientist at four Sanford Health clinics in Sioux Falls. “Our workload increased a lot,” said Omar, describing how things changed at her clinic when COVID-19 arrived in the community. “It was tense. It was stressful,” she said. “We learned about the different COVID tests. There was a lot to study and learn in a short amount of time. And we were processing and collecting COVID-19 tests on top of our other work.”
Because of her high-level exposure potential, Iman moved out of her family’s home and into a small rental. “I wanted to eliminate or minimize any threats of exposure I might bring home,” she said. She and her colleagues at work were witnessing many positive COVID tests, and it was heartbreaking. “We conducted many positive tests,” she recalled, “and we kept working, and doing our jobs. It kept getting harder, though. As the number of positive tests grew, so did the need for testing.”
As the pandemic began to slow, Omar started pondering a change in career plans. Instead of remaining in the clinical setting in Sioux Falls she yearned to travel, so she arranged with a recruiter to serve as a traveling lab scientist, visiting different parts of the country, and working under different conditions with different people at each stop. By mid-March she had departed South Dakota for Arizona to work a three-month assignment in a lab on a Navajo reservation. “I wanted to travel to different places and do the work I enjoy doing. This was a perfect solution,” she explained.
Omar, who is of Sudanese descent, was born in Saudi Arabia and moved with her family to Sioux Falls when she was four years old. She credits a high school science teacher at the Career and Technical Academy for inspiring her to pursue the career she now enjoys. “We did lots of hands-on science and lab work, and that prepared me for advanced level college,” she said.
Her experience at USD was enjoyable, challenging and rewarding, she rexported. “Not only was the lab science program very good, it prepared me to be good at what I do,” Omar explained. “I also enjoyed getting to know students from around the world at the Center for Diversity and Community on the USD campus.” Omar reported that everyone in her class of medical laboratory science students had jobs before they graduated. “The program’s one-year internship is especially useful,” she said. “That is what distinguishes USD’s program from other programs.”