Histology Traveler on Personal Journey to Heal from Loss
Med Travelers is proud to honor histology technician Scheherazade (Shaz) H., BS, HT, CP, as our Allied Traveler of the Month for April. Not only has she spent years dedicated to serving patients in her profession, but her penchant for pathology began when she was just in middle school.
Shaz was introduced to science at an early age. Her mother was a career inspiration and a phlebotomy supervisor for Quest Diagnostics in Wisconsin, a leading provider of diagnostic information services. At 13, Shaz read an article about histology in a trade publication for the laboratory sector and was particularly fascinated by the illustrations.
"The histology illustrations looked like artwork to me with all the different, pretty colors," she said. "The article discussed staining tissues, and it blew my mind because I never saw art like this, which was actually human tissue. Many people say histology is 'the art of the lab' because of all the specific things we do to make a diagnosis."
Shaz was hooked on histology, which involves studying the microscopic structure and organization of tissues and organs, including their cells, extracellular matrix, and other components. Histology technicians use techniques such as staining and microscopy to examine and analyze tissue samples to better understand their function, development, and disease processes.
Prodigious and focused, Shaz majored in chemistry at the Milwaukee Trade and Technical High School in her hometown. She then went to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, on a full academic scholarship to pursue her Bachelor of Science degree in the School of Allied Health. During the summer months, she attended Milwaukee Area Technical College for its phlebotomy program. She graduated with an associate’s degree in May 2000, taking her first step in the healthcare laboratory sector.
Shaz also landed her first job with Aurora Health Care, a major healthcare system in Milwaukee.
During her junior year, UW-Milwaukee cut her program, so in the summer of 2005, she transferred to Argosy University in Eagan, Minnesota, entering its histotechnology program. She got her Applied Associate of Science degree in October 2007 and returned to Milwaukee to work for her former employer.
Before becoming a traveling histology technician, Shaz worked for 20 years in numerous permanent, full-time positions, gaining vast experience in clinical, histology, and dermatology laboratories. In 2008, she left behind the Midwest's brutal winters and headed to Phoenix to work at the Mayo Clinic. From there, she went to Dallas and the Maryland/DC area. In 2016, Shaz obtained her Bachelor of Science in Investigative Forensics from the University of Maryland University College.
Traveling for a Purpose
In September 2013, while pursuing her bachelor's degree in Maryland, Shaz met a gentleman named Ernest, who would become the love of her life. Soon after they met, Ernest told Shaz that he had cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart condition that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.
The couple stood strong, and their love blossomed. During Shaz's college graduation dinner in May 2016, Ernest proposed to Shaz, and they became engaged. But shortly after the engagement, the couple learned that his heart had declined.
"Ernest passed on December 12, 2019," said Shaz. "Before he left, he said, 'Since I met you, you've just been my sunshine and always had my back. And even though you knew from the beginning that I had a known heart issue, you always told me it's not about your diagnosis — it's about how you take care of it.' He knew I had a medical background, and he was my heart. He wasn't my husband on paper, but he was my husband."
Ernest's last wish was for Shaz to live her life and to be that happy, bubbly person he had met on their first date in 2013. Ernest's message became Shaz's mission. But the grief and pain of his death hit her hard, and she decided that in order to find any semblance of her former self, she needed a change.
Shaz applied for medical leave through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
"I needed time to grieve and heal," she said. "The permanent company that I was working for at the time said it wasn't conducive for the department for me to go on FMLA. So, they let me go while I was on FMLA, and right before COVID hit the Washington, DC area."
While deciding how to move forward, Shaz thought about the allied health travelers she had met in some of her past jobs. They had always intrigued her. She had heard about AMN Healthcare and researched the company. She concluded that no one else compared to the company's size and success, so she called and talked to then-recruiter Julia S. at Med Travelers, an AMN Healthcare company.
"To this day, I am so grateful because Julia just listened to me," said Shaz. "She listened to what I went through, and it changed my mind on many things. Talking to her made me think differently about what to do next."
It became clear to Shaz that travel histology tech jobs could be a way to change her life and help her deal with the loss of Ernest. And traveling had been a long-term personal goal.
On March 23, 2020, she took her first travel assignment in Washington, DC.
Recognition as Allied Traveler of the Month
Shaz has traveled exclusively with Med Travelers over the last three years, doing assignments in Washington, DC, San Diego, Houston, South Dakota, rural Virginia, Ohio, and Atlanta.
She recently received the staffing agency’s Traveler of the Month Award for her numerous client recognitions, effective communication, flexibility, loyalty, and positive attitude. Considering everything she has endured since 2019, these traits are even more laudable.
Shaz chalks it all up to understanding priorities.
"At the end of the day, regardless of what healthcare or classification you are in, whether being a traveler or a permanent employee, it's all about the patient, who doesn't care how it gets done," she said. "They care about getting effective results and what helps them improve. That's how I've always been. In my 23 years working, it's been about the patients for me. So, I try to do what's right for them."
After Shaz's first recruiter was promoted, she started working with Med Travelers’ Jamil S., who has been her recruiter since May 2021.
"Jamil has been my godsend since Julia was promoted," Shaz said. "I am grateful that these two beautiful souls were sent to me at a time when everything felt gray. I am grateful to have Jamil as my recruiter and his ability to have patience with me throughout my journey."
Shaz brings a wealth of experience to every histology travel assignment, and while visiting new cities she enjoys sightseeing, meeting new people, exploring, and educating.
Her travel assignment in San Diego stands out as one of her most memorable.
"During that contract, I found a family," she said. Three months into her assignment, she lost her biological father in February 2021, following his seven-year battle with prostate cancer. “My lead, supervisor, director, and department made me feel like a part of their family."
The staff told Shaz to go home to Milwaukee to attend her father's funeral and take the time needed before she came back. It made her contemplate the stark difference between her San Diego travel family’s reaction and how her permanent employer treated her when her fiancé died. While in San Diego, she was also allowed to do some teaching, which she finds very fulfilling.
The remainder of that year would prove even more challenging for Shaz, as she also lost her stepfather, uncle, and grandmother in 2021.
Still, Shaz has continued to give her best at work and leave indelible impressions on Med Travelers’ clients; some have even offered her full-time positions. But she kindly thanks them and conveys she's on a personal journey.
"My goal is to travel for five years, and then we'll see about returning to the permanent sector again," she said. "The histology motto is 'Saving patient lives one slide at a time.' My passion is to teach histology when I finish traveling, possibly in the Houston area. Our field is depleting because no one knows anything about our discipline, and I want to change that."
READY to start your own allied travel adventure? Just apply online, and Med Travelers’ recruitment team will help get you on your way!