Why We Celebrate Lab Week

Published by Irving Nachamkin, DrPH, MPH, D(ABMM), FAAM, FIDSA, on April 17, 2015

April is an exciting time of year for all who work in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. We get to enjoy longer daylight, warmer temperatures, and celebrate our own during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, aka Lab Week. Lab Week this year occurs April 19-25 and is a time to acknowledge the important contributions made by laboratory professionals and pathologists to health care in this country.

Lab Week has been celebrated since 1975 when it was first organized by the American Society for Medical Technology, now called the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS).  Today, 14 professional organizations are sponsors of the event:

AABB, American Association for Clinical Chemistry, Association of Genetic Technologists, American Medical Technologists, American Society of Cytopathology, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society for Cytotechnology, American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, American Society for Microbiology, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Clinical Laboratory Management Association, College of American Pathologists, and the National Society for Histotechnology

Every day, our laboratory staff and pathologists work in various teams with clinical colleagues to help diagnose and manage treatments of patients seen in our now four hospital (perhaps soon to be five) system. A recent example that demon­strates the critical role of laboratory professionals in meeting medical challenges is the Ebola outbreak, both in West Africa and in US hospitals. We needed to rapidly develop the infrastructure for taking care of individuals returning to the States who were suspected of having or who had actually contracted the disease.

Countless hours were spent by our pathology faculty, department administration, laboratory technologists and support staff to develop the testing policies, procedures, processes, simulations, and the special treatment laboratory (STL) for the evaluation of patients with suspected Ebola infections admitted to the hospital’s special treatment areas.

No doubt, our contributions to this program ultimately led to HUP becoming one of a number of centers designated by the CDC as an Ebola treat­ment center. While the Ebola outbreak is not yet over, fortunately there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of cases in West Africa and we are hopeful that by this time next year, the Ebola outbreak will have ended.

This is just one reason why “some heroes wear lab coats” and why we celebrate Lab Week. This year, there will be a number of fun events for all to participate in at various times during the week. Special thanks to our labora­tory activities committee for organizing these events! Of particular note is our three-day basket raffle held on the Ravdin Mezzanine with proceeds benefiting two local Philadelphia charitable organiza­tions: People’s Emergency Center and MANNA.

In addition to the daily diagnostic activities, we should also remember that many individuals in our department are at the forefront of developing new diagnostics and therapies that help showcase PLM staff as leaders within the health system. Main­taining our visibility as key players in healthcare is crucial to the profession, so please continue to foster team work, get involved with UPHS activities outside the department, and many thanks for the great work that you do.

Irving Nachamkin, DrPH, MPH, D(ABMM), FAAM, FIDSA, is the Director of the William Pepper Lab and the Division of Laboratory Medicine at Penn Medicine.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog column are those of the authors or other attributed individuals and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Department, Penn Medicine, or the University of Pennsylvania. Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of medical advice or diagnosis.