Building Bridges to Elevate the Laboratory: ASCP’s Support of the CDC’s OneLab Initiative

By Molly Strzelecki - October 01, 2023

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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.

Webinar 1: Exchanging Best Practices & Creating Statewide Policy Change for the Lab Workforce

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.”


  • Take advantage of opportunities to gather a peer group for the common good—both medical and societal—in response to public health emergencies.
  • Advocacy is a never-ending process and is essential to drive policy change. Establishing partnerships across your region and working with policy makers can strengthen these efforts and affect high-quality change.
  • Supporting visibility of the laboratory and advocacy efforts is crucial for supporting current and future workforce.

Webinar 2: 3D-Printed Nasal Swabs for the City of Austin’s COVID-19 Response

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.


  • Reduce administrative barriers, which can cause delays in reaction time, innovation, collaboration, and forward progress during emergency responses. Motivate administrative personnel by establishing the common mission—protecting the public during a public health emergency.
  • Identify needs quickly during public health emergencies for better crisis management. When key stakeholders can work together efficiently and rapidly to support a unified goal they can more readily and easily move into action.
  • Reduce silos of expertise for more impactful, effective solutions during crisis response efforts. Active communication and engagement and staying flexible in collaborative efforts will help efforts go further.

Webinar 3: Using Wastewater Surveillance to Understand Infectious Disease Trends

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.


  • Each laboratory partner brings unique capacities, strengths, and motivations. Stay up to date on current activities and progress, and work collaboratively with laboratory partners whose capabilities you can leverage, rather than starting from scratch.
  • Be transparent and effective in communicating each partner’s strengths and limitations. Discuss issues related to data usage and rights, clarify that the collaboration is an independent evaluation of a test or product, and understand what is sustainable within the scale of existing test operations. Ultimately, make the collaborative effort as easy as possible to support.
  • Identify test use intent, privacy considerations, and guardrails around the data. Potential impacts on communities that are subject to stigmatization must be considered.

Webinar 4: Increasing National Access to Mpox Testing by Leveraging Reference Lab Capacity

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.


  • When governmental agencies and reference laboratories collaborate, it allows for rapid test capacity expansion, increasing the number of tests that can be performed during a public health outbreak.
  • Through rapid expansion and access to testing, laboratories have the opportunity to efficiently disseminate information on test performance and utilization. It can also help identify hot spots of outbreaks and demographics of populations being tested.
  • Regular review of test performance means laboratories can implement best practices. These best practices can include strategies to ensure continuous quality improvement.

Continued focus on strengthening the laboratory workforce

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

Molly Strzelecki

ASCP Director of Communications + Editor of Critical Values