“Never stop learning.”
This is the final message that accomplished medical technologist and educator Leilani “Lani” Collins would like to share with her students as she transitions into retirement. Collins, who has served in her profession for more than four decades, is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences in the College of Health Professions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC).
Born in Washington D.C., Collins, known as the “Queen of Heme” or hematology, by her UTHSC students, is a self-proclaimed military brat who claims El Paso, Texas, as her hometown, since she and her family were stationed there the longest. Collins came to Memphis for a short term, while her father was deployed in Korea. She would later return to attend Rhodes College, where she received a degree in biology. Still feeling as though she had no marketable skill, Collins went on to attend and graduate from the Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Medical Technology in September 1971.
Upon graduation, Collins would go on to serve Baptist Memorial Hospital as a bench technologist, lead technologist, and eventually supervisor and instructor of the hematology laboratory section of the Department of Pathology, before coming to UTHSC in 2001 to teach courses in hematology and urinalysis.
Collins has always had a love for medicine and lab sciences. “Hematology is an ever-growing field, so there is always something new to learn,” she said. “Helping to diagnose and monitor treatment of patients with hematologic problems and teaching students about it has been my favorite aspect of it.”
When she made the decision to pursue academia full time, Collins wasted no time becoming an innovator and great example for others to follow. Aside from earning her Master of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science with a focus on Laboratory Utilization from UTHSC in 2001, she was among the first of instructors to utilize the Blackboard Learning System. Her course on venipuncture earned her a Best of Practice at UT Award in 2001. The course was also selected as a model interactive learning project by the Association of Academic Health Centers Learning Object Initiative in 2004. Other accolades include an Excellence in Teaching Award from the UTHSC Student Government Association Executive Council (2005, 2014) and an Outstanding Alumna Award from Baptist Memorial Hospital.
Collins authored the chapter on body fluid analysis in the four editions of Rodak’s Hematology: Clinical Principles and Applications textbook, which is considered the quintessential instructional and reference book in the discipline of hematology throughout the United States. Other publications consist of case reports and articles in esteemed peer-reviewed journals.
“Lani has a national reputation as an expert in hematology and body fluids,” said Kathy Kenwright, EdD, MLS(ASCP)SI, MB, associate professor and chair of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences. “She is a local legend and has taught hundreds of medical laboratory scientists in the city. On a personal note, I will miss her quick wit and sense of humor.”
Linda Ross, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, associate professor and former chair of the UTHSC Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, recruited Collins to UTHSC in 2001. “As a hematologist, Lani finds beauty in cells. She is the quintessential medical laboratory scientist who puts patient care first. She will be greatly missed by UTHSC colleagues, friends, and students.”
At UTHSC, she has been a dedicated member of the UTHSC faculty senate and ADA/504 Advisory Council at UTHSC, advocating tirelessly on behalf of academia and persons with disabilities. Although she, too, has a disability and uses a wheelchair, she chooses not to let it define her life, deciding instead to become a true champion for the cause. Other professional affiliations include the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), the American Society for Clinical Pathology and the International Society for Laboratory Hematology (ISLH).
An avid reader and history buff, Collins is looking forward to relaxing the most in her retirement, but will still teach and consult in her spare time.