American Board of Bioanalysis provides certification for clinical and public health lab directors

May 24, 2018
Brooks A. Keel, PhD, HCLD(ABB)
Chairman of the Board
American Board of Bioanalysis

Dr. Keel is President of Augusta University (AU) and CEO of AU Health System. Previously, he has held administrative positions at Georgia Southern University, LSU, FSU, and the Kansas University School of Medicine-Wichita, where he was also director of Reproductive Medicine Laboratories. Dr. Keel has more than 20 years of clinical laboratory experience, and has been certified by the ABB as a High-complexity Clinical Laboratory Director (HCLD) since 1987.
BS, Augusta College; PhD, Medical College of Georgia; Postdoctoral Studies at UT Houston Medical Center, and University of South Dakota School of Medicine.
Nationally, Dr. Keel chairs the Board of Directors of the ABB, and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the AAB Proficiency Testing Service. He has authored 65 peer reviewed scientific publications, 78 peer reviewed abstracts, 19 book chapters and edited four books in the area of reproductive medicine and biology, and has served as PI or Co-PI on externally funded grants and contracts totaling over $26 million. Dr. Keel is married to Tammie Schalue, PhD, an accomplished scientist and scholar.

What is the mission of the American Board of Bioanalysis? How does ABB serve the clinical lab community? The mission of AAB is to identify individuals who are qualified to direct and supervise clinical, public health, and bioanalytical laboratories.

ABB serves the clinical laboratory community by establishing education, experience, training, examination, and other qualifications that individuals must meet to qualify for ABB’s director and supervisor certifications; determining and identifying which individuals meet those criteria; and providing a means for patients, physicians, employers, government agencies, accrediting agencies, and other interested parties to verify which individuals are certified by ABB.

How does ABB certify laboratorians who wish to advance in the clinical laboratory profession? What is the typical process? ABB certifies individuals by reviewing and verifying an individual’s educational coursework; analyzing and verifying an individual’s work experience, training, and continuing education; and preparing, administering, and maintaining an examination program to determine an individual’s knowledge of relevant clinical laboratory technical disciplines, and, for directors, their knowledge of laboratory administration and management.

The process requires submission and review of an application by the ABB Board of Directors; receiving educational transcripts and employment verifications directly from the source; passing relevant examinations; and once certified, documenting continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain certification.

When was ABB established? What needs was the organization created to address? ABB was established in 1968 to provide a nationally recognized certifying board for generalist and specialist clinical laboratory directors/supervisors under the federal Medicare/CLIA and state statutes and regulations, and the requirements of private accrediting organizations.

How has ABB responded over the years to changes in federal regulations and other national and state oversight? Have new certifications been added? ABB modified its certification categories to be consistent with changes in the CLIA ’67 and CLIA ’88 regulations, for example, by changing the director certification designation from CLD (Clinical Laboratory Director) to HCLD (High-complexity Clinical Laboratory Director).

Certification in several new technical disciplines has been added—for example, andrology, embryology, molecular diagnostics, and public health microbiology.

How is ABB addressing the aging laboratory workforce, and how is it affecting your work? ABB has championed, and continues to champion, a flexible career ladder that provides a variety of pathways for young laboratorians to enter into and advance within the clinical laboratory workforce.

What are some other broad industry trends and contexts that ABB is addressing? ABB has added technical disciplines that reflect important technological advancements in the laboratory industry, such as molecular diagnostics. The organization has also incorporated these new technologies into its certification qualifications and examinations.

You have had a distinguished career as a scientist, educator, and now president of Augusta University. How has your work in academia informed your work with ABB? During my career, I have worn the Lab Coat of a Clinical Bench Tech, the “Tweed Coat” of a College Professor, and the Suit Coat of a University Administrator. This has given me unique insight into the various aspects of clinical laboratory training, practice, and regulation.

I began my career in assisted reproductive technology (ART) clinical laboratories in the mid-1980s, having had quite a few years of previous experience in a general hospital clinical laboratory setting. At that time, virtually all ART clinical labs were directed and staffed by individuals who had a great deal of reproductive biology knowledge but often had little to no experience in general clinical laboratory medicine. This often made the certification process for these ART-specific individuals difficult.

I approached ABB to determine if they would consider offering certifications to individuals in specific areas (like andrology and embryology) and judging the applicant’s specific ART experience instead of requiring broad clinical laboratory knowledge in areas such as hematology, chemistry, and microbiology. The ABB Board agreed with this concept, and in the early 1990s adopted new certification standards recognizing categories of directors and supervisors that encompassed the specific disciplines of ART as well as the more classical areas of general lab medicine. This new certification process included the development of comprehensive general clinical lab knowledge and discipline-specific examinations.

Working with the ABB and the American Association of Bioanalysts, we have since sponsored comprehensive review courses and annual scientific and educational conferences aimed at providing continuing education opportunities for ART laboratory professionals, preparing candidates for ABB Certification Examinations, and enhancing the overall practice of clinical laboratory ART. Thus, my experience as an academician and an administrator, coupled with my years of experience at the clinical laboratory bench, has helped shape the certification processes now employed by the ABB, resulting in the certification of hundreds of clinical laboratorians throughout the U.S. and, indeed, across the world.