When Aaron Domine walks across the stage at UC’s winter commencement, it will be the culmination of many late nights and early mornings.
Domine, a senior in the College of Allied Health Science’s Medical Laboratory Sciences Distance Learning program, is also a working lab technician, a husband and a father to a 4 year old daughter.
He’s been earning his bachelor’s degree in UC’s online program while his wife, Sharon, works on her master’s in education. Together they’ve traded child care responsibilities for their daughter, Deirdre, and study hours for two years.
"We did a lot of partitioning of responsibilities,” says Domine. "I’d handle child care while she finished her work, then after she went to bed, I would do my schoolwork. We’ve both been supporting each other.”
But the long hours paid off. Domine will graduate with a 3.9 GPA and serve as the college’s flag-bearer at graduation, an honor reserved for one CAHS student each semester.
He earned the degree to help him move up in the medical laboratory field, eventually hoping to go into molecular diagnostic testing, where he believes the future of laboratory testing lies.
"I really enjoy the detective work aspect of medical laboratory science,” he says, "figuring out what’s going on for the patient and what the story is. In molecular testing, you can analyze the DNA of a sample to find the genetic basis for diseases—and you can find it out in four hours, not two days.”
Domine works as a senior clinical lab technologist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, N.Y., part of the Seton Health organization in Troy and Albany. He began his career as an electrician in the U.S. Navy, which he joined to pay for college and be an example for his four younger siblings as the first person in their family to attend college.
Laboratory sciences caught his attention while serving as electrical technician in Operation Desert Storm. He served on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz from 1991 to 1995 and was assigned to the reactor division working on nuclear power plants. Through an assignment to the medical division during drills, he learned about laboratory testing from the hospital corpsmen.
Back home, Domine earned his associate’s degree from a Hudson Valley Community College and started at St. Mary’s in 1997. After over a decade in the field, he decided to earn his bachelor’s degree through UC. The MLS-distance learning track is UC’s most popular undergraduate distance learning program of study, enrolling 550 students in the 2012-2013 school year.
Though he was nervous about balancing family, work and school, Domine says UC’s program was the best fit for both his schedule and educational needs.
"It’s so flexible,” he says. "It was really perfect for someone like me could do work whenever I had the chance. But it’s a lot of work and the onus is on the student to ingest the information on your own time. You have to be independent and self-motivated to get through it. I think I got an excellent education out of it.”
Domine said he also learned a lot from his classmates through online group projects: "it was really great to interact with the other students and learn about their work,” he says. "I got new insights into other fields, other areas of the county.”
Assistant Professor Educator Gideon Labiner says Domine stood out in the MLS program for his passion for the field.
"Aaron would email me questions related to advanced testing and research, going above and beyond the coursework,” says Labiner. "He’s an excellent writer and it’s easy to see where his interests lie. He’s very patient-centered and geared toward providing care for all sectors of the community.”
For his work, Domine was a co-recipient of the George Family scholarship, an award created specifically for first-generation college students in the MLS distance learning program.
He also received support from St. Mary’s, both tuition assistance and help from colleagues.
"My mentor at St. Mary’s, Debbie Guynup, especially supported me by being my proctor for the past two years and being my preceptor during clinical rotations,” says Domine. "My supervisors allowed me to shift hours to accommodate school needs and other staff filled in to help…I couldn’t have asked for so much support from work.”
Domine’s wife will also be graduating from her program this year, also with high grades.
After graduation, he looks forward to having more time for family and his hobbies of writing and playing guitar—though not too much time: He plans to start a Master’s program in the fall of 2013.