April 2019 marks the fifth year I’ve been involved in MLO’s Lab of the Year (LOY) contest. As an MLO “newbie” in 2015, I underestimated the vital role the laboratory plays in healthcare. Even after working for 15 years within the pharmaceutical trade, it became clear I’d been working in a silo, unaware of the bigger picture.
Today, thanks to MLO, I have a whole new respect and appreciation for the medical laboratory industry—especially in regard to my local healthcare system. From the phlebotomists that collect my blood at Quest, to the nurses who administer my Feraheme drip at Florida Cancer Specialists, to the Veracyte pathologists who analyze my liquid biopsies…the list goes on.
There are approximately 300,000 practitioners of clinical laboratory science in the United States.1 A medical laboratory’s chief concern is the diagnosis and treatment of patients. There are many medical symptoms that can be caused by very different illnesses, and often the true cause (and correct treatment) can only be determined by the lab. The news they bear is vital to accurate treatment. It may sound ignorant, but five years ago, when I was wearing my patient hat, I’d never really thought about the lab after I had left it. Diagnosis and treatment had always started and stopped with my physician.
Like every other consumer, I would begrudgingly forgo my morning coffee so I could get my fasting blood drawn in the early morning before work. I’d look the other way as my blood was drawn (I still do), gazing at the rainbow-colored tourniquets and wondering if I’d be left with a bruise and how soon I could escape the chair to get some food…blissfully unaware of what would happen to my tubes of blood after I left the facility.
Now, in its 44th year, Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, which takes place April 21-27, 2019, is an annual celebration of medical laboratory professionals and pathologists. MLO’s annual LOY contest strategically coincides with this event every April (see page 16 for the 2019 LOY winners!). Unfortunately, the efforts of laboratory professionals often go unnoticed by the general public, as well as by the very institutions employing their services. With the public now demanding quality healthcare and professional accountability, organizations representing laboratorians have a responsibility to ensure that the public is well informed about their competency.
The American Society of Clinical Laboratory Professionals have some awareness materials publicly available (https://www.ascls.org/celebrate/125-scholarships-and-awards2/new-professional-of-the-year/101-new-professional-of-the-year), however who is responsible for educating the masses? Who else is creating and disseminating patient-directed materials that showcase what goes on behind the scenes of a laboratory? On a nationwide level? On an international level? Perhaps regular PSAs are needed from the FDA or the CDC?
The enormous challenge of public health education is one I will leave to those better equipped to do so. In the meantime, I will continue to strive to provide quality content on behalf of MLO, educate and be an advocate for myself and my immediate family, and remember to thank my local healthcare team for their continued dedication and hard work. #Lab4Life
- ASCLS. American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists. https://www.ascls.org/about-us/celebrate/125-scholarships-and-awards2/new-professional-of-the-year/101-new-professional-of-the-year. Accessed March 12, 2019.