By - October 01, 2023
The laboratory plays a pivotal role as the bedrock of healthcare and patient care. As pathologists and laboratory professionals have a direct, and significant, impact on the quality, accuracy, and efficiency of care, it is critical that we address shortage facing the laboratory workforce, one that is stronger, more robust, and more diverse.
As leaders in healthcare, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) recognized that strategic partnerships would help leverage its influence to help increase visibility about this workforce need, and in 2022 was awarded a multi-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under its OneLab Network, with the ultimate goal of strengthening the laboratory workforce in the United States.
“Public health and medical laboratory professionals are the heartbeat of a healthy society. These expert diagnostic detectives are highly trained and provide the ongoing, non-stop laboratory data (results) needed for physicians and other healthcare providers to make informed medical decisions, including whether to perform lifesaving surgeries, prescribe effective medications and/or select treatment plans for a variety of medical conditions, including cancer and infectious diseases,” says Rodney Rohde, PhD, MS, SM(ASCP)CMSVCM, MBCM, Professor and Chair of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at Texas State University. “They provide approximately 14 billion laboratory tests each year which is the single highest-volume medi- calactivity affecting Americans from cradle to grave, and it drives about two-thirds of all medical recommendations. With this grant, we will all be able to break down silos to create a ‘OneLab’ framework and expert network, including synergistic teams across academia, public health, healthcare, industry, and government.”
The grant aims to harness the expertise of ASCP members and staff as laboratory educators and advocates and supports the development of a sustainable learning community with new and existing resources. As part of this grant, ASCP developed a virtual learning series, Building Bridges Across the Laboratory Community. This series of four webinars, moderated by Dr. Rohde and Ali Brown, MD, FASCP, Chief Medical Officer at ASCP, spotlights collaborations and laboratory partnerships that have had positive outcomes and innovative solutions to workforce challenges, with a focus on lessons learned and best practices.
Here’s a look at the four webinars and some of their key takeaways.
The Building Bridges Across the Laboratory Community kicked off with a discussion on the mobilization in April 2020 of the New York State Laboratory Leadership Consortium for the exchange of laboratory best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in support of local testing and emergency response. Through 2021-2022, the Consortium has had a significant impact on state-wide policies and statutes that affect laboratory licensure for laboratory professionals in New York State. The presenter, James M. Crawford, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, and Senior Vice President of Laboratory Services, Northwell Health, spoke to the importance of the CDC OneLab Initiative. “Strengthening the pipeline for our laboratory workforce, and advocating for our laboratory professionals, is all of our responsibility,” he says. “I am very grateful for the ASCP providing the Building Bridges forum for learning from one another, and for supporting our collective effort to meet this generational challenge.”
The second webinar of the Building Bridges Across the Laboratory Community series focused on a case study from Texas State University. A laboratory team repurposed existing and idle 3D printers to produce nasal swabs that were then used in COVID-19 testing in Austin, Texas. The strategy directly addressed the supply issues experienced early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the team collaborated with the City of Austin and other academic centers to create a successful solution that greatly benefited residents.
The third webinar in the series Building Bridges Across the Laboratory Community featured a case study of collaborations that supported the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System. Not a new concept, wastewater surveillance has been used since the 1960s when it was used to identify communities with polio transmission. In the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater surveillance was used, and the data was the leading indicator of increases and decreases in the virus. The data was also used to inform messaging, resource allocation, and personal decisions.
The fourth session of the Building Bridges Across the Laboratory Community series focuses on the collaboration among Labcorp, CDC, and FDA. In the summer of 2022, with the emergence of mpox, these three institutions worked together to validate and scale high-throughput testing platforms to respond to this virus. Using data generated from high-throughput testing of infectious disease can provide real-time insights on outbreaks that can prove important to protecting public health.
As the second year of the grant kicks off, ASCP is committed to the continued development of initiatives that will address ongoing and emergent laboratory workforce challenges. Collaborative efforts between laboratories and healthcare organizations help strengthen the laboratory workforce and elevate the visibility of the laboratory across healthcare and play a key role in providing highquality care for all.
For more information on Building Bridges Across the Laboratory Community and other resources and tools developed as part of the grant, visit www.supportcdconelab.org.
ASCP Director of Communications + Editor of Critical Values