Distance diagnostic cytology grads gather to mark commencement

The diagnostic cytology class of 2023

The diagnostic cytology class of 2023

UNMC’s Master of Diagnostic Cytology program, within the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions, is one of the nation’s leaders in distance education. For example, allied health faculty were the first in the nation to teach via virtual microscopy, to educate students at 16 sites across the U.S.

The first class of master’s degree diagnostic cytology grads, who matriculated in fall 2022, come from all over and will get jobs all over, thanks to the expertise learned and degrees conferred at UNMC. It’s all made possible through a unique program created by allied health faculty and collaboration with clinical placement locations across the country.

(UNMC has educated post baccalaureate students in cytology since 1994 and done so via distance since 2005. In 2020, UNMC elevated diagnostic cytology to a master’s-level program, to ensure its graduates are competent to practice newly outlined competencies of the profession.)

At 2023 winter commencement, several of this first class of master’s degree graduates came “home” to take part in commencement and officially receive their degrees in person at UNMC.

“I worked hard for this,” said Emily Hodges, who often told people she was in grad school in Nebraska, while physically working at ProPath in Dallas. “You only walk across the stage once, and I wasn’t going to miss it.”

Louis McCoy, who studied at UNMC while working from Avero Diagnostics in Bellingham, Washington, expressed similar sentiments. “With the amount of work I put into this program I wanted to celebrate,” he said, while gathered at a get-to-know-you breakfast with a group of fellow distance grads. “It would feel kind of anticlimactic” to simply receive his degree in the mail.

“After the hard work I put in, I wanted to reward myself,” echoed Mai Te Xiong, who also completed the program from Bellingham.

Manju Mukherjee, PhD, director of the cytology program, said it was meaningful to see so many of her students in person for the first time. But what really affected her was “all of the guests.”

Seeing the loved ones who came to support the graduates and celebrate with them, “that is very special,” Dr. Mukherjee said.

Dr. Mukherjee is among the UNMC faculty who have made the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions not just a historic pioneer in distance education, but at the current forefront of the trends. She and Amber Donnelly, PhD, Leuschen Professor and allied health’s assistant dean for student affairs, together found ways to use technology to create and then grow one of the nation’s leading distance cytology programs.

“It was Dr. Donnelly’s vision to elevate the program to a master’s degree, and I have seen how hard she worked to get the master’s program approved,” Dr. Mukherjee said. “I’m just honored to have helped make the dream come true.”

Dr. Mukherjee also praised cytology faculty Jillian Cascini and Sarah Sprinkle, program coordinator Nick Hanson, clinical placement locations coordinators, along with Stanley Radio, MD, emeritus professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology, the program’s founding medical director, who gave the college’s convocation keynote address.

Kyle Meyer, PhD, dean of the College of Allied Health Professions, praised the first class of UNMC cytology master’s graduates for “making history.”

“It was wonderful; it went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” said Maria Munoz, who praised the distance training she got from UNMC and the expertise of the attendings she worked with at her collaborative clinical placement location at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Now she is qualified to practice at the highest levels of her profession.

“Earning a master’s degree in diagnostic cytology was a huge deal,” said Calvina Tsosie, who completed the program from Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, Illinois, but traveled to Omaha to celebrate with family and her fellow classmates and new colleagues.

How many of them will now get better jobs and promotions, thanks to their newly attained UNMC degree?

“It gives me chills thinking about it,” said Tammy Webster, PhD, allied health’s assistant dean for academic affairs.


  1. Tanya Custer says:

    Congratulations Dr. Mukherjee & team!

  2. Dr. Linda Love says:

    Congratulations to Drs. Mukherjee, Donnelly and so many others who imagined and took action in exploration of advanced educational technologies–measured, innovative, years of forward motion–all which have led them to this distinct accomplishment for both Nebraska and learners across the US. UNMC values? Innovation, Teamwork, Excellence, Accountability, Courage — there’s some inspiration!

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