Thrive by IU Health

October 12, 2022

What were you doing in 1967?

What were you doing in 1967?

Siu Lian Rubio is celebrating her 55th anniversary in the Pathology Lab for IU Health.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Siu Lian Rubio doesn’t really want to talk about herself. She’s more comfortable looking into a microscope than being the focus of an interview, but hers is a story worth sharing.

After all, who else has been on the job in the Path Lab at IU Health for more than half a century?

Turns out, Rubio has been working as a medical technologist (now a medical laboratory scientist) longer than her manager, Eric Kohler, has been alive.

Kohler, supervisor of the Core Lab evening shift, wanted his longest-tenured team member to get her due, and what better time to do that than today, her 55th anniversary in the Path Lab.

On Oct. 12, 1967, Rubio joined Methodist Hospital as a med tech in the lab, housed in the basement of the hospital at that time.

She had come to the United States from the Philippines in 1964 with a degree in pharmacy. After a couple stops in other cities in the U.S., where she earned her medical technology certification, she joined the Methodist team, even living next door in Wile Hall for a year.

It was a dormitory-style setting with single rooms, a shared bathroom and the cafeteria nearby, she recalled.

“It was nice, so convenient,” she said.

When she met and married her husband, they moved to an apartment a stone’s throw from the hospital, where they lived for several years.

She was never late to work, that’s for sure, she said.

She has pretty much kept that record of being on time intact, despite later moving into a house with her husband and raising four daughters.

Her work ethic is second to none, says Kohler, who has worked in the Path Lab for 15 years.

“It’s hard to fathom the decades that have passed since she started working here,” he said. “She’s seen not only the political change in the country, but Vietnam, 9/11, the HIV epidemic and now COVID. I’m kind of in awe.”

Technology has certainly changed too.

Machines do some of the work that used to be done by hand, but Rubio says a machine is still just a machine. It cannot replace a human’s ability to think or to analyze abnormal specimens.

The hematology department gets upwards of 2,000 test samples in a 24-hour period, Kohler said, so the lab works 24 hours a day, seven days a week covering Methodist, University and Riley Hospital for Children, as well as some regional hospitals when the need arises.

Rubio spends her days primarily running testing on hematology specimens or urine samples. She might be checking for things like anemia, diabetes, leukemia, urinary tract infections or clotting issues.

Where she really excels in is cell morphology, Kohler said.

“She has such vast experience obtained over the years, especially with IU Health’s hematology/oncology patient population, that I think she’s seen it all,” he said. “So, if the younger, inexperienced techs look under the microscope and are not sure what they’re looking at, they know to ask Siu Lian. She’ll know.”

She identified a recent case of malaria from a patient sample, something the lab sees about a half-dozen times a year.

COVID-19 was new to the lab 2½ years ago, of course, but it quickly overtook most other infections as it rapidly spread.

The vast majority of samples that come through the lab stem from routine physician orders.

“A lot of people outside don’t understand what we do,” Kohler said. “People go to the doctor and they know their blood is sent somewhere. A day or two later, they get the results. They don’t know that people like Siu Lian and myself are generating that data to help the doctor treat conditions. It’s a unique, interesting and rewarding world.”

Rubio agrees, saying she likes knowing she is able to help a patient, even indirectly.

After 55 years, you might wonder if she is thinking about retirement, but she says she enjoys her work and her colleagues and she continues to uphold high standards every day.

Rubio, who has always worked second shift, said the hours were convenient when her children were small, but the later shift continues to be her preference.

With the lab’s move several years ago from the basement of Methodist to its current home near 11th Street and Senate Avenue, she and her colleagues can watch the sun set and traffic snarl on I-65 from their vantage point on the fifth floor near a large bank of windows facing west.

They are daily witnesses to the new IU Health hospital being constructed in Methodist’s shadow.

Described as a “workhorse” by a colleague in the lab, Rubio shares this advice for team members who are new to the job: “Take your time, don’t rush anything because if you do things too quickly, you could miss something,” she said.

“Do things right. If there is something you don’t know, you can always ask me. That’s how you learn.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

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