In February, we lost a giant in healthcare. Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, passed away unexpectedly. While the loss of Dr. Farmer is nothing short of tragic, we are blessed to have learned so much from him in the way of how we view and practice global health, and the importance of ensuring that patients—no matter where they live—have access to quality care and treatment.
More than a decade ago, at the ASCP 2011 Annual Meeting, Dr. Farmer said, “It’s not a hobby, what we’re doing with global health equity.” Those words continue to resonate with us, and inform and influence the diverse efforts we undertake to serve those populations that need it most. Health equity has become a paramount issue both nationally and globally, and it is one that ASCP has pressed as part of its mission. As the foundation of healthcare, the laboratory is in a prime position to better address the needs of patients, and ensure that they are receiving the highest-quality care. Part of that foundation includes a dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion, both for our patients as well as our workforce. Equity for patients, and equity for pathologists and medical laboratory scientists, is what drives our advocacy efforts; it is what drives the development of resources we know our members need; and it is what drives us to come together to care for patients around the world.
In this issue of Critical Values, we pay tribute to Dr. Farmer and the incredible work he did for global health. ASCP had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Farmer on several global health initiatives, and we honor his memory through our continued commitment to bettering healthcare access and service for patients around the world.
This issue also provides a glimpse into the challenges the laboratory workforce is dealing with today. The Executive Summary of the ASCP Vacancy Survey 2020 explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted laboratory staffing, resulting in a need to cultivate the future of the laboratory profession as a whole, as well as individual specialties. This will require a collective effort by stakeholders at all levels, the authors write, both in the field of laboratory medicine as well as outside institutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted how we practice global health. Traditionally, global health work was done in-person and in-country, in order to build relationships and sustainable practices. Virtual global health work was essentially non-existent—until the global pandemic hit. COVID-19 fostered the acceptance of virtual global health work and leveraging technology has become essential to make progress. “Now, people are much more willing to have virtual interactions and much more excited to have educational content delivered that way,” says Dan Milner, MD, MSc, Chief Medical Officer for ASCP.
Finally, the ever-changing environment of healthcare has become much more consumer focused. In their article, “Five Considerations When Creating a Task Force,” Richard Prayson, MD, MEd, and Bethany L. Burns, DO, MS, MEd, look at what to do with the data gathered from surveys and consumer experiences to enact change in a healthcare practice. “Although creating a task force may seem intuitive, it can be challenging,” the authors write, and offer up strategies on how to best create a task force to help address needed changes.
To reiterate what Dr. Farmer said, seeking change in global health is not a hobby for ASCP. Seeking change for local health is not a hobby, either. Addressing the inequities of care that are so prevalent in society is no simple task, and we won’t get there tomorrow. When we can come together, and use the power of the laboratory, we will get there, because we are StrongerTogether.
Thank you for your continued support of ASCP. Please send me your comments and suggestions at Blair.Holladay@ascp.org. My very best to each of you.