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50 Years of parasites and fungi

IMG_6589.jpgImagine working for half a century. That is how long Barb Smith, MT (ASCP), medical technologist II, has worked at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) in the Microbiology Lab. It’s an impressive achievement and one that Barb is now taking the time to appreciate as she prepares to retire on September 3.

Barb’s career studying and identifying parasites and fungi began with a degree in medical technology from the University of Maine in 1967. After spending a short time in southern Maine, Barb and her husband, Bryan, moved back to the Bangor area, and she started work at EMMC on September 2, 1969.

“When I started, the lab was located where maintenance is now,” recalls Barb. “At that time, we had an incubator that had been converted from a refrigerator, and there were no computers or automation in Microbiology.”

Aside from her passion in identifying micro-organisms, Barb developed a keen interest in teaching, which led her to teach a lab class at the University of Maine on parasite and fungal identification to medical technology students. She also taught parasite and fungal identification, direct gram stain smears, and tuberculosis to EMMC fourth-year students.

“I enjoyed teaching my students using a variety of methods and especially liked creating PowerPoint presentations for them,” states Barb.

When asked about the most interesting professional case in her career, Barb recalled being called into the lab when the director was away. “The patient was a young woman who had visited her sister who was serving in the Peace Corps. She had Malaria and I ended up identifying it as the rarest form, plasmodium ovale, a strain that most medical technologists would never see.”

When asked about her retirement, Barb shares that she has many interests to keep her busy, including gardening, enneagrams (a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types) and spending time with her two-year-old grandson. “EMMC has been my second home, so leaving will be quite a change, but I’m looking forward to having time doing other things I enjoy.”

Barb’s supervisor, Marilyn Hintz, MT (ASCP), Microbiology Lab technical supervisor, and her comments reflect the respect Barb has earned among her peers, “Barb’s dedicated service in all areas of the micro lab is unmatched. On her fortieth anniversary, the Mycology Lab was named after Barb, which speaks to the influence her quiet presence has made among her coworkers and students. It won’t be the same without her.”