Reader's Respond

May 1, 2010

A bewitching compliment
I have been a laboratorian since 1955 (teaching since 1985) and an
MLO reader for as long as I can clearly remember, and among all the
“From the editor” columns I have ever read, February 2010 is the “best ever.” I
really appreciate your “Bewitched, bothered, and bedeviled” — even though the
statistics indicate medicine's continued failure at doing what should be very
straightforward and easy: positive patient ID. If we do such a lousy job, it
should be well publicized. Would it not be good if The Joint Commission always
actually functioned in “real time” — maybe then irresponsible decisions would
not plague us.

I really appreciate your editorial — you “hit the nail on
the head” regarding the attitudes governing our news media. They truly do spend
too much effort on horse-hockey stuff and only acknowledge important material
when it puts something in their pockets. I wish your article could be on the
front page in every newspaper in the country and a special segment on every TV
news program.

—Ed Calvert, MLT(ASCP)
Lab Technologist/HHS

Editor's note: Comments — good
or bad — are always welcome, but this put a blush in the cheek. Thanks to Mr.
Calvert for taking time to share his opinion!

And thanks for sharing yours!
Good contrast in your editorial comment for February 2010. I most
people would rather bury their heads in the meaningless sands of gossip and
nonsense instead of coming to grips with everyday reality as we know it in the
medical field. By watching someone else's life — especially if a tumultuous time
— gives people an escape from their own lives. I agree with you, that the devil
is in the details, diverting people's attention from what could directly effect
them to what is pointless in their day-to-day existence. Thanks for sharing your

—Juanita Lewen, MBA, MT(ASCP)

Diagnostic Systems Specialist

Editor's note: Thanks to Ms.
Lewen for taking the time to share her thoughts with us and our readers.

Just another train?
Richard Rogoski's recent article [MLO, February 2010,
“Transforming the LIS,” p. 26] raises many of the same questions that have
plagued labs and computer/software vendors for 30 years: What can “it”/will
“it”/must “it” do?; Will “it” save me time and/or money? Who (else) can “it”
talk to? What will “it” cost to buy and maintain? And most importantly, What is

When the first lab systems were developed — and I mean
something built for the lab, not just a screen or two hanging on the hospital
billing system — there was not a lot to choose from. The smaller companies used
off-the-shelf PCs and proprietary software. Interfaces to equipment and HISs
were limited (“You want an interface to Analyzer XYZ? Give us a month because we
will have to build it.”) Some other companies started out as whole hospital
system vendors, and lab modules were priced accordingly.

As smaller computers became more standardized and more
powerful, we began to see a light at the end of the tunnel — we would eventually
be able to have all of those things we had been promised years ago: interfaces
between systems, seamless billing, medical review of results, and the ability of
the clinician (who should have been driving this train anyway) to actually use
the information.

I think that is why this new “train” will eventually
leave the station — because the generation of clinicians who grew up with Xbox
will demand it.

I just hope that all of the problems we still see coming
(e.g., aging baby boomers, the failure to “reform” healthcare [which might have
lessened the amount of unnecessary preemptive testing that continues to be
performed]), and the decreasing number of lab personnel who still must be able
to run and interpret necessary testing will not prove that the light we see at
the end of the tunnel is not just another train.

——Chuck Millstein, MBA,
and gratefully retired

: Thanks to Mr. Millstein for his always-humorous
insights on life in the laboratory!

Tried-and-true versus “new”

I was encouraged to read Colleen Gannon's thoughts (e.g., “are we so firmly
ensconced in the old tried-and-true methods” [Mentoring Minute, February 2010,
p. 35]) — she is right! The old methods do need to be replaced with today's
education and ideas! And, thanks to her, I found out about this anaerobic media.
Who knew? I will always look forward to the next issue of
Medical Laboratory Observer

—Jill Midgett, MT(ASCP) SM
Diagnostic Systems Specialist
Laawrence & Memorial Hospital

Donors walking among us
Several blood banks utilize “walking donors” routinely, especially for neonatal
or pediatric transfusions when you will not give but 50-100 cc of blood at a
time. In a lot of military units, especially hospital or other units with easy
access to medical units, pre-transfusion testing is performed “just in case,”
and records are kept on hand. I routinely served as a walking donor — as Lab and
Blood Bank Officer, we had my records available, and they knew where to find me.

——Chuck Millstein, MBA,
U.S. Army, retired

Editor's note: Thanks to Mr.
Millstein for his additional comments this month regarding our blood-banking
article which drew some serious commentary from other readers!

Armed Services Blood Program deserves proper
My jaw dropped to the ground when in the first sentence of your MLO

article “The give and take of blood banking,” you state Staff Sgt. Provencher
donated another unit of blood at the AMERICAN RED CROSS CENTER [ARC] on Camp
Foster in Okinawa. There is and never will be ARC on a military base in Okinawa!
Blood-donor centers and, for that fact, all blood-banking facilities on Navy,
Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army bases in the U.S. and overseas are operated
under the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP). In Okinawa, Japan, at the U.S.
Naval Hospital, Camp Lester, the blood program is run by the joint military
unit, ASBBC (U.S. Pacific Command-Armed Services Blood Bank Center WEST). There
is no American Red Cross or any other civilian blood-collection agencies that
collect blood for the military. In the United States, military blood-donor
centers collect blood for military medical-treatment centers such as the
National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD (the President's hospital!).
Military blood-donor centers supply blood overseas to support combat casualty
care through the ASWBLs (Armed Services Whole Blood Laboratories), which are big
storage and shipment blood depots.

Please correct your article, so the many lab techs that
read MLO will not be under the false impression that the American Red
Cross has any role whatsoever in providing blood or blood products to our
military members overseas or in the U.S. I was there for every one of Staff Sgt.
Provencher's blood donations from 2001 to 2004. He is a true hero and well worth
the honor of a Book of World Records.

Except for my concern above, you wrote a great article!

—John F. Van Patten,
Lieutenant Commander
Medical Service Corps
U. S. Navy (retired),C, Okinawa
Currently: Supervisor, Blood Bank
Department of Pathology
Glens Falls Hospital
Glens Falls, NY

ASPB serves blood needs overseas
I very much enjoyed your most recent issue of MLO with the
blood-bank articles. I must correct your statement pertaining to USAF Staff Sgt.
Dennis Provencher donating blood at the American Red Cross Center. There is no
Red Cross Blood Center on Camp Foster, Okinawa; it is Armed Forces Blood Center
which is comprised of elements of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
For many years, this blood center was part of the Navy Blood Program before they
unified with other elements of the Armed Forces. The military has their own
blood program and does not purchase blood from the American Red Cross or other
civilian blood centers unless their needs exceed their internal collection and
availability requirements. A case in point is that of the Vietnam conflict which
lasted over 10 years and 1.5 million units of blood was collected, processed and
shipped to be in country to support transfusion needs. Of these 1.5 million
units of blood, not a single one was purchased from the American Red Cross. Nor
did the American Red Cross ever offer to send any blood to that country on a
gratis basis! Just thought you would like to know.

—W. Patrick Monaghan,
CLS, SBB, PhD Professor
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Florida, College of Medicine
Health Science Center-Shands Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL

Editor's note: This is why we
love military laboratory professionals! They are thorough! Thanks to both LCDR
Van Patten and Dr. Monaghan for alerting us to this mistake. We contacted the
Stars and Stripes' kind and helpful ombudsman, Mark Prendergast, who worked with
us to verify what happened. The actual text of the article did say “Armed Forces
Blood Center.” MLO, however, copied the material used in the photo
caption to the article, which incorrectly stated that Mr. Provencher went to
have his blood drawn “at the American Red Cross Center on Camp Foster.” We
apologize for any confusion this may have caused, and we agree wholeheartedly
that Staff Sgt. Provencher is a true hero, along with other generous blood

Editor's note:
Ohio's Al Whitney was also a part of the
March 2010 blood-banking feature. Readers may recall that Whitney began
his “Platelets Across America” campaign in Pennsylvania in 2007 and
managed to get to Oregon for his 35th state visit to donate platelets
(his 647th time in his 45-year volunteer career).

At age 71, Whitney is an inspiration to anyone who wants
to contribute to community health but has limited time and resources. Meet Al
Whitney at,
and peruse the organization's website for more information to learn how you can
donate platelets and help save lives, as well all keep up with Mr. Whitney's
latest donation location as he continues his travels.

Whitney could take Ralph Nader's mantra about the Corvair
— “unsafe at any speed” — and morph it into “unstoppable at any age.” We
congratulate Al Whitney on his devotion to an idea that has made a difference.

MLO welcomes letters to the editor. We ask that you
include a phone number for verification. While we prefer to publish the writer's
name, we will publish a letter with “name withheld by request,” but our
editorial staff must have the writer's name confirmed for our files. MLO
reserves the right to edit any letter for style and length.

Published: May, 2010