A correction…and some reflections

Oct. 19, 2012
There is an old saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” That quickly came into my mind last month when I found the following emails (edited slightly for length) in my in-box.

“Your recent article regarding the “medical technician” David Kwiatkowski may be incorrect. When I first read the article about his potentially infecting many patients with hep C, I asked myself, what is a medical laboratory technician doing in a cardiac lab?  After doing a little research I came across articles describing him as a radiology technician. Is it possible that he has been mischaracterized as medical laboratory technician?  If so, maybe it would be helpful to let the public know he was not employed in a clinical laboratory….I would think that we laboratory professionals would have little to no contact with the dispensing of narcotics. Maybe we’re getting a bad rap here for no reason. Could it be that the bad apple is in a different barrel?”

—Don Zeh, MT,CHT, WVU Center for Reproductive Medicine, Morgantown, WV

“Kwiatkowski is not a medical laboratory professional!  He is not an MLT or MLS.  He is being incorrectly reported to be! This guy is either a cath lab tech or a rad tech….I have been an MLS for over 11 years and we would never have access to those types of drugs, but a cath lab tech would….”

—Jennifer Hutchings, MLS(ASCP)CM, The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas

Over the next few days, several more e-letters arrived, all reacting to my September 2012 “From the Editor” article: “One bad apple challenges our profession.”

And they were all correct. My facts were wrong. Further research confirms that Kwiatkowski worked as a radiologic tech and a cardiac cath lab tech. The sources I used were incorrect or used language too loosely; he was often referred to as a “medical technician” or even a “hospital technician.” I did not do an independent check. As more than one reader pointed out, that kind of error might be expected in the daily newspaper, but readers have the right to expect better from Medical Laboratory Observer! I stand corrected. We will do better.

Having said that, three thoughts occur to me:

  • Part of the problem arose from the fact that job titles used to refer to medical technologists who work in clinical settings are inconsistent, in the media and even within healthcare institutions. Another letter writer alluded to “the overwhelming confusion stemming from the fact that there are too many names for essentially one identity (CLS, MLS, MT, MLT, lab tech, med tech, etc.).” The preferred title today, used in the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, is “medical laboratory scientist” or “medical laboratory technologist” (or technician, when that reflects the credentials of a particular individual). We will use those in MLO going forward.


  • Kwiatkowski was not a medical laboratory scientist. But the issues that his alleged actions raise are relevant ones for all workers within the healthcare delivery system. Licensure procedures, regulation, certification, the creation of a national database, etc., remain legitimate issues. I am not advocating any specific changes. Letter writer Robert Bijak, DPM, MT(ASCP), a retired podiatric surgeon, points out that excessive regulations “tend to lead to inefficiency and poor morale,” and that individual licensure “is redundant and restrictive on one’s freedom to move without retaking tests and paying fees.” Certainly, some proposals may not be good ones. But they are valid subjects for discussion.


  • Whatever public relations fallout radiologic technologists, medical laboratory scientists, the healthcare delivery system, or medicine in general may suffer as a result of Kwiatkowski’s alleged crimes, increased visibility for medical laboratory scientists is a good long-term idea. Letting people know what you do—through presentations, job fairs, career days at high schools and colleges, community service—is the best way to let the public know how very few bad apples there are in your profession.


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