Alumni in Action
Fran Lebahn, Class of 1974
In 2020, as was the case in the 1970s, few people who visited a doctor or a lab knew what happened to the lab specimens they provided and left behind. Then, as now, a medical laboratory scientist worked behind the scenes to review the sample, analyze the results and report it to doctor as the basis for creating an appropriate care plan.
“Without medical laboratory scientists, your doctor wouldn’t know what to do,” says Fran Lebahn, who entered the workforce as a medical laboratory scientist after she graduated from the University of Minnesota’s MLS program (then called Medical Technology) in 1974.
But getting credit for the essential role that medical laboratory scientists play in promoting better health care matters far less to Fran than ensuring that there’s a robust pipeline of these professionals to staff the health care teams that depend on them. And to do that, she says, it’s critical to envision the college student who’s trying but struggling to gather the resources to cultivate an MLS education.
“It breaks my heart. It really does,” she says. “I am so grateful for my education at the University of Minnesota. I was fortunate to receive some scholarships to go to college. It was a gift. I’ve been fortunate in being able to go beyond the laboratory because of my education at the U.”
Fran worked in the VA Hospital’s microbiology lab after she graduated from the MLS program, and then at the Ob-Gyn Lab in Powell Hall and the Phillips-Wangensteen Building. She built upon the base of her University education, enrolling in masters classes in the College of Food Science and Nutrition. She eventually started her own business, catering desserts and teaching cooking classes.
Fran later returned to her MLS roots to work as a microbiologist, teaching specialist, a clinical research coordinator and a lab medicine and pathology education coordinator.
Along the way, she continued to respond to the calling within her, to provide access to others whose futures could begin with a University of Minnesota education. One way was to combine her two areas of expertise – MLS and Food Science – to create a cookbook (titled Laboratory Tested Recipes) comprised of recipes that MLS graduates from throughout the Twin Cities contributed. Fran, then a member of the Med Tech Alumni Board, embarked on the effort to raise money for students to attend the University’s MLS program. The book sold like hot cakes when it first appeared at the 1993 annual alumni dinner and many more books were also sold at subsequent banquets and student bake sales.
Fran also committed to contributing directly to MLS program, which makes numerous scholarships available for students who seek to pursue the degree.
“I think its important to make education available to anyone who wants it. Education is your key to being able to do whatever you want to do in life,” she says. “I like the idea of giving back and making that available in any way I can. If students need to supplement what they have, lets help them out.”