Faculty: Guyla Evans
As a high school student, Guyla Evans had to decide on a career path.
“I always knew I wanted to do something in health care,” Evans said. “Like a lot of high school students, I knew there were doctors and I knew there were nurses, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be one of those and I didn’t really know much about what else was out there.”
Evans describes the program in the College of Allied Health Sciences as a “hidden gem.”
“People don’t know a lot about who we are — that there is a body of knowledge and a professional discipline that prepares people for careers in hospital labs and other medical labs,” Evans said.
She said the need for clinical laboratory scientists is great, with a national job vacancy rate at around 10-11%. Evans said the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 7% job growth in the next decade.
“The needs are going to keep increasing because people are getting older and Americans have more chronic conditions,” she said. “We’re living longer with all of these different chronic things that years ago you might have died from. Now we live longer, and we have a need for that monitoring, for that diagnostic testing. And younger people need that, too.
“We need professionals who understand the principles of the diagnostic method, who understand the meaning of the results, who understand what can go wrong when you’re doing a test. Our goal is to always produce the right answers, so principles and practices in quality control and quality assurance are also an important part of what we teach our students. They’re well prepared when they go to work to do those things — to provide those high-quality diagnostic services and to perform high complexity testing.”
Evans grew up in Ayden, roughly 15 miles from the ECU campus, in a musical family, singing gospel tunes in local churches with her cousins and friends. Her mother, one of 16 children, was a church musician into her 80s.
“I started piano lessons when I was 4. When I was in first grade, my cousins and I were already singing four-part harmony,” she said. “It was just what we did, and it was a wonderful way to grow up.”
As a freshman at ECU, she married Wayne Evans, whom she describes as an Edgecombe County “farm boy” in 1977. He is still active in their family farm operation, and they have two grown children, Christopher and Rebekah.
After getting her bachelor’s in medical technology in 1981, Evans began work but didn’t stop her education, earning a master’s degree in adult education in 1983. She enjoyed a four-year stint teaching at what is now Barton College and had a lengthy career at Nash General Hospital in Rocky Mount in health informatics before seeking her doctorate in rhetoric, writing and professional communication at ECU. She retired from the hospital, but said she wasn’t looking to just sit at home.
She applied for a position at ECU, eventually landing a job teaching microbiology in 2015. Eight years later and in a new role as program director and interim department chair, she still relishes the opportunity to teach students.
“It’s just fun seeing the lightbulbs come on,” Evans said. “To have the opportunity to prepare the students to fill these open positions that we have all across the nation, to be able to contribute to that and have all these bright young people who want to make a difference — they don’t necessarily want to have their hands on the patients, but they want to make a difference in health care and be a part of ECU’s transformational mission — it’s fun getting them ready to do that.”
Evans is also focused on research involving universal design for learning (UDL).
“UDL is all about removing barriers to learning and making things multimodal, so you have not just one way of providing content but multiple ways of providing content. UDL also encourages providing multiple ways for students to show us what they’ve learned,” she said.
Evans said ECU’s clinical laboratory science program is enjoying a rebirth in many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic in combination with a staffing shortage didn’t allow the admission of any new students in the fall of 2021. She said a lot of work from many people and the support of ECU and college administration produced the department’s largest number of admissions offers for the fall 2023 cohort. An online program for those already holding two-year degrees is also starting.
“We’re very focused on filling the needs of our region,” Evans said. “ECU is a regional university, and a lot of our graduates stay here in North Carolina, and we want them to. It makes you proud to be a Pirate when you see all of these cool things happening.”
Name: Guyla Evans
Titles: Clinical associate professor, program director and interim chair of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science
Hometown: Ayden, North Carolina
Colleges attended and degrees: East Carolina University, Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology (now clinical laboratory science); Master of Arts in Education in adult education; Doctorate in rhetoric, writing and professional communication
Years working at ECU: Eight
What I do at ECU: I’m the program director and interim chair for the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science, and I teach courses in clinical microbiology and immunohematology within our professional curriculum.
What I love about ECU: I love the impact that ECU has on the people who live here in eastern North Carolina, and the way the local community supports the university. My education at ECU opened the door for me to have an interesting career in health care.
Research interests: Using universal design for learning principles to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.
What advice do you give to students? I want our students to remember that there’s a patient on the other side of all the testing we do.
Favorite class to teach? I enjoy clinical microbiology and immunohematology (better known as blood banking). In both these areas, we use theoretical knowledge to solve a diagnostic puzzle that directly impacts patient care.
What do you like to do when not working? I’m an amateur musician and volunteer church music director/pianist.
Last thing I watched on TV: “Antiques Roadshow”
First job: Picking cucumbers.
Guilty pleasure: Watching “The Curse of Oak Island” on Tuesday nights. What Pirate doesn’t love a tale of buried treasure?
One thing most people don’t know about me: I played bass guitar in a band when I was a teenager.