PITTSBURGH -- Courtney Claar '19 is academically driven and
ambitious, but she never once took her education for
She was the first person in her family to go to college. Her family
could not coach her through the college landscape, but when she
sought help on campus, she learned the Carlow faculty were willing
to answer questions and guide her along the way.
Today Claar has her bachelor of science degree in Biology and
master of science degree in Cardiovascular Perfusion by completing
the five-year program at Carlow. With the skills she learned from
her time in the program, Claar now plays an instrumental role in
the health care world.
Stephen Boreck PhD in Carlow's biology department was the first
faculty member to help Claar during her visit as a high school
senior. After learning of her interest in biology, he recommended
Carlow's unique, fast-tracked program to earn bachelor's and
master's degrees in cardiovascular perfusion.
In the operating room (OR), a perfusionist monitors the heart-lung
machine that performs the heart's essential functions. Also known
as the cardiopulmonary bypass machine, the heart-lung machine takes
over the heart's functions by pumping blood and adding oxygen to
the blood. Perfusionists are essential members of a surgical team
and help to save lives by providing high quality care in the OR.
Borecky's advice would eventually shape Claar's career decision to
become a perfusion technician.
"Courtney had strong skills coming into the program. She not only
had the academic skills, but the personality to handle the stresses
of the profession," Borecky said.
The profile of someone who would do well in the perfusion program
is a student who has a strong academic record, particularly in the
sciences and math, and an ability to work well under pressure, due
to the nature of the operating room and the high demands of the
surgical team. According to Claar, students should also have some
level of mechanical aptitude to be able to operate the heart-lung
Carlow's program incorporates 18 months of clinical training at
UPMC Shadyside. Claar started training at Shadyside in the summer
after her junior year and completed it in November after her senior
year. She started her full-time job on the day after Christmas
Claar is now a perfusionist at Charleston Area Medical Center in
West Virginia. She works daily on a surgical team made up of an
open-heart surgeon, nurses and lab technicians. Her important works
centers around the functions of the heart-lung machine.
The career is challenging, according to Claar, but not without
benefits. Perfusion technologists earn competitive salaries among
medical professionals with similar years of educations, with some
starting salaries falling in the low six-figures.
"In terms of a value proposition, graduates of Carlow's perfusion
program require a four-year college degree followed by five terms
to complete the master's degree before fulfilling a significant
role in the operating room. Doctors must spend years in medical
school and residency. In the workplace, perfusionists tend to have
more predictable work schedules than surgeons, while also earning
an attractive salary," Borecky said.
Borecky actively visits high schools to talk about the profession
and find students who would be a good fit for Carlow's perfusion
program, which is how he first met Claar. He is "pumped" to show
how students with potential could one day be an important member of
a surgical team.
Learn more about majoring in Cardiovascular Perfusion.