Dr. Stacy Vance, a professor whose primary appointment is in Medical Laboratory Science, works as a Hinds County Sheriff's Department deputy on weekends.
Dr. Stacy Vance, a professor whose primary appointment is in Medical Laboratory Science, works as a Hinds County Sheriff's Department deputy on weekends.
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Front and Center: Stacy Vance

Published on Monday, March 14, 2022

By: Andrea Wright Dilworth,

Move over, fictional superheroes. Dr. Stacy Vance, one of UMMC’s own, is a real-life scientist on weekdays, and a crime-fighter on weekends.

The professor of health related professions in the Department of Diagnostic and Clinical Health Science has been a part-time reserve deputy with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department since 2016.

As a member of Friends of Fallen Riders, a motorcycle organization that focuses on community service platforms such as anti-bullying, domestic violence, and human trafficking, Vance was drawn to do more after visiting schools and talking to students.

“Once in the schools, I soon realized there were issues that our children were facing, and being a professor was not enough,” said the Meridian native. “I was encouraged by a friend to become a part of the Sheriff’s Department to expand my knowledge base and to respond immediately when children are facing challenges.

Vance decided to become a part-time Sheriff's deputy after visiting schools and realizing students facing challenges would benefit from her expertise in clinical chemistry and toxicology.
Vance decided to become a part-time deputy after visiting schools and realizing students facing challenges would benefit from her expertise in clinical chemistry and toxicology.

“I had no idea I would eventually expand into street crimes, which also goes along with my expertise in clinical chemistry and toxicology.”

Vance’s primary appointment is in the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program. Annie Ross, a May 2021 MLS graduate, said her former professor’s personality matches her part-time job.

“Dr. Vance is a brave, confident and ambitious individual so I honestly was not surprised,” to learn she is a deputy. “She has such a dynamic personality. She commands your attention when she walks in the room.”

Vance’s passion for fighting crime in no way negates her dedication to teaching, researching and advising students. She considers earning a doctorate in clinical health science from UMMC one of her greatest accomplishments and joining the faculty at her alma mater a bonus.

“The opportunity to teach students in a profession that has been so rewarding to me was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said the Brandon resident. “The MLS team I work with were all hired young, and we were not so far removed from being students that we still understood the student needs and intended to meet those needs and close the gaps.” 

Vance worked as a medical technologist for a few years after earning bachelor’s degrees in biology and clinical laboratory science from Jackson State University and UMMC, respectively.

Before she entered the MLS program, a diagnosis of focal segmental glomeulosclerosis idiopathic, a disease in which scar tissue develops on the small parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood, would change the trajectory of her life, forcing her to endure three long years of dialysis.

“I received a living-related donor kidney from my mom in 1999 and began MLS school the same year,” she explained. “I had no idea that the knowledge I would gain during the program and working would help me understand some of the challenges I would face.”

Being able to read her own lab results while going through the transplant process has been one of the greatest perks of being an MLS, and years later would inspire her dissertation and research interests. She would receive another kidney transplant in 2015 at UMMC.

As much as she loves teaching, she admits that courses like clinical chemistry can be challenging, as it is not the easiest subject to make exciting. The complexity of the material matches the gravity of the work students will be expected to do on the job.

Vance meets that challenge, said Ross. “She makes clinical chemistry exciting by applying the material to real-life situations. She also held study sessions to ensure that each student understood the challenging study material.”

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the profession by putting the laboratory front and center, as scientists created tests to detect the virus and its variants.

“Laboratory personnel are vital to the care we provide to patients,” Vance explained. “You may not ever meet the person that is responsible for your laboratory results, but they are trained and highly skilled professionals that are essential for accurate and reliable test results.”

There is such great demand for the scientists that UMMC’s MLS students receive job offers before they graduate and are able to work in multiple areas with the one degree, including hematology, immunohematology (transfusion medicine), clinical microbiology and body fluid analysis. 

“Many of our students come to us with a bachelor’s degree in biology and like more of the behind-the-scenes aspects of health care,” she said. “Many have interest in the profession, but sometimes do not know what the career path is called. I have met people in Walgreens that saw my badge and asked what an MLS is.” 

Of the job offers Ross received before graduating, she chose one from UMMC, where she works as an MLS in the flow cytometry laboratory.

“Dr. Vance did a great job highlighting the different career paths we could pursue with a degree in MLS,” Ross said. “She explained to us the critical role that medical laboratory scientists play, not only in the core laboratory, but also in specialty laboratories such as toxicology, molecular and stem cell therapy, as well as in other careers such as consulting, teaching, research and field application specialist.”

Though her deputy responsibilities only require an 8-to-10 hour weekend commitment, her unit does receive some last minute requests for assistance, which she doesn’t mind.

“Time management is the key to my success, and a planner is essential,” Vance explained. “I plan to continue to teach and work as a deputy as long as I see the positions as my passion rather than a job. The ability to make a difference does not have a time limit if you enjoy what you do.”

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