For six years, Clare “Alex” Lowman earned a good living as a staff attorney. But it was a job she did not enjoy.
“I was never passionate about the practice of law,” she said. “Even during law school, I knew it was not the right field for me.”
Lowman had enrolled at the Ole Miss School of Law because she enjoyed participating in the mock trial program as an undergraduate. Originally a chemistry major, her 18-year-old self knew early on she wasn’t focused enough to meet the program’s demands. So she changed her major to psychology and minored in political science.
Law school, then, seemed the next logical step. And though she excelled, quickly landing a job at the 16th District Chancery Courthouse in Pascagoula, it was not meant to be.
It was her dad’s stage four kidney cancer diagnosis three years ago that reimagined her dream deferred.
“Watching him fight his illness inspired me to return to school to pursue a field I loved,” said the Brookhaven native. “I always had a passion for science and lab work but had not pursued it in school my first time around because I was young and didn’t have the drive necessary to complete the curriculum. My dad’s bravery inspired me to be brave enough to chase my original dreams of being a scientist.”
With that realization, Lowman, who lives in Flowood for now, didn’t waste any time. She completed the prerequisites for the medical laboratory science program in the School of Health Related Professions on her lunch breaks and saved money for tuition.
“I have not regretted my decision to return to school,” she said. “The MLS field is the field I was always meant to be in. Law school felt like the path of least resistance, but MLS feels like I’m swimming upstream against a heavy current. Even so, I’ve managed to make it this far, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it.”
Lowman’s decision to enroll in the MLS program was quickly confirmed by the support she received from her professors and classmates. The small classes – she is one of 11 students – created a tight-knit group.
“We are extremely close,” she said. “They’re almost like another family to me. I owe a good portion of me making it through this program to my classmates’ being there for me when times get rough.”
A student medical technician in UMMC’s microbiology lab, Lowman is getting plenty of hands-on experience under her belt as she processes micro samples, ensures accuracy of collections, resolves any problems and sets up microbiology tests for the other techs to read.
Dr. Renee Wilkins, MLS professor and program director of histotechnology in the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, has been impressed by Lowman’s problem-solving skills and drive to understand how to perform and interpret lab tests and how they correlate with clinical conditions.
“Even though she entered the program with an impressive background, she has remained humble and consistently passionate about what she does,” said Wilkins. “She seeks to always learn and grow, a strength that will most likely serve her well as a laboratory professional.”
Dr. Jana Bagwell, associate professor of MLS, has also noted Lowman’s exceptional critical thinking.
“I actually had one person comment on her performance as a student worker in the UMMC laboratory,” Bagwell recalled. “I believe their summation of her work ethic was exactly right: They said she works with ‘purpose.’ I believe this is how she tackles all aspects of life, and I have certainly observed this ethic in her classroom activity.”
The soon-to-be graduate, now 34, has already been offered two laboratory positions in the Denver metro area, where she strategically focused her job search because of her love for mountains, hiking, scenery, and big-city living.
Lowman was one of five MLS students nationally to receive an American Proficiency Institute scholarship in December 2020, which came as no surprise, said Dr. LaToya Richards Moore, professor and program director of MLS.
“She has a genuine passion for serving others wholeheartedly, making her an ideal candidate for any award,” said Moore. “I am exceptionally proud of Alex and can’t wait to witness her remarkable tenure as an outstanding professional within the MLS arena.”
Lowman admits that returning to school to pursue an entirely different field has taken a financial and emotional toll. There were times she fought back tears because of the stress, afraid she wouldn’t make it while working part-time to make ends meet.
“But when you truly love something, like I love the MLS field, the blood, sweat and tears are worth it,” she said. “Drive and passion can inspire someone to do amazing things and to overcome difficult hurdles.
“For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m chasing a dream that I’m extremely passionate about, and it feels wonderful.”
By: Andrea Wright Dilworth