New program to deliver advanced training for medical technologists

Tuesday, March 05, 2024 Dr. Jelena Holovati and Dr. Gwen Clarke
Specialization in Transfusion Science Logo

This blog post was adapted from a blog post from the May 2023 issue of ORBCoN's newsletter and a Letter to the Editor published in the peer-reviewed journal, Immunohematology,1 in October 2023. 

The Specialization in Transfusion Science (STS) program is a new training program in development at the University of Alberta that will offer advanced training for medical technologists. Intended for those with work experience in transfusion medicine, this program will allow individuals to develop and demonstrate an area of advanced competency in transfusion and earn credentials: a certificate in transfusion science after 1 year of study and a Master of Science (MSc) in laboratory medicine and pathology after 2 years of study. Options for part-time study are in development and may allow candidates to extend the period of study over 4 years.

Advanced training for lab technologists

The idea for this program was born at the 2015 Canadian Society for Transfusion Medicine (CSTM) annual meeting in Winnipeg and subsequently championed by the CSTM board of directors. In 2020, an education subcommittee was tasked with program planning. The group included technologists, scientists, educators and physicians from across Canada with work experience in large and small transfusion services, blood suppliers, industry, and quality systems. Canadian Blood Services was represented on the committee by Dr. Sophie Chargé, Dr. Jelena Holovati and Mei Yiep.

Identifying knowledge gaps for lab technologists in transfusion science 

The CSTM education subcommittee began by developing a needs assessment survey that was distributed across Canada. The aim was to assess employers’ perspectives on the need and support for such a program. Ninety-two surveys were sent to transfusion medicine leaders at hospital transfusion services and blood suppliers. Surveys were completed by 60% of recipients (53/92) and confirmed there was a need for training and recognition of specialists in transfusion science to fill leadership positions in transfusion laboratories across the country. Notably, many sites indicated willingness to serve as training venues for experiential learning associated with such a program and survey respondents agreed that advanced competencies in technical, managerial and clinical skills were important.  

While the surveys were being completed, the education subcommittee also undertook a review of similar programs worldwide and determined that a “made in Canada” approach to training was needed to address topics related to Canadian standards, laboratory accreditation and inspection, as well as training related to the particulars of blood supply distribution and blood components available in Canada. 

The next steps for CSTM were to develop a series of competencies for the program, the skills and abilities graduates would possess upon completion. By grouping these competencies— each accompanied by a broad recommendation about the assessments and activities that could lead to their achievement—the education subcommittee identified six courses that would comprise the first year of study. Subject matter experts on the CSTM education subcommittee will regularly review and update the competencies. 

Next steps 

In 2023 the University of Alberta Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology appointed a committee led by Dr. Jelena Holovati and Dr. Gwen Clarke to develop an advanced training program—the Specialization in Transfusion Science Program—which was built around the competencies identified by CSTM. Detailed planning related to governance and curriculum at the University of Alberta began. 

A team at the University of Alberta is currently working on the content, learning objectives and evaluation plans for these courses. Work in 2024 will involve focus groups for curriculum refinement. Many resources available on Canadian Blood Services’ professional education website will be included as course resources. The program will be supported by Alberta Precision Laboratories and Canadian Blood Services as additional training partners.  

If all goes according to plan, the first candidates could be accepted for entry into the program as early as the fall 2024 term. Once details about the program’s courses and application process are confirmed, information will be available through CSTM and the University of Alberta. Any inquiries about the new MSc in Transfusion Science can be directed to the Graduate Program, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Alberta at Stay tuned!


  1. Clarke, Gwen and Holovati, Jelena. "The Specialist in Transfusion Science program" Immunohematology, vol.39, no.3, 2023, pp.134-135. 

About the authors: 

  • Dr. Gwen Clarke is the specialist in transfusion science lead, clinical professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Alberta, and a hematopathologist with Island Health Victoria B.C. 
  • Dr. Jelena Holovati is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Alberta, and the laboratory director for stem cell manufacturing at Canadian Blood Services. 

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact.

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency. 


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