Lab Week 2021 and Better Days Ahead

Published by David B. Roth, MD, PhD, on April 20, 2021

April 19, 2021 Update from the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

Once again, in the last full week of April, we are celebrating Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, a time-honored tradition from the ASCLS, now entering its 44th year. This year's festivities are guided by the official theme "We Believe in Heroes: Avengers of the Laboratory." Over the last year, you have given me many reasons to believe in your almost superhuman strengths. I have witnessed firsthand the heroic efforts our laboratory professional colleagues have made under very challenging circumstances. So: a heartfelt thank-you from me on behalf of the entire Department and everyone at Penn Medicine to all of you laboratory professionals who have helped guide our institution through this very intense period in the face of the pandemic. Happy Lab Week!

Once again, then, we celebrate and acknowledge the achievements, contributions, and vital efforts of medical laboratory professionals under adverse conditions, albeit at a time when our fight against the pandemic is making clear progress. In this regard, I would like to emphasize a recent statement by Dean J. Larry Jameson and Vice Dean Jonathan A. Epstein, who remind us to be diligent despite our successes. Case positivity rates and hospitalizations for COVID are still rising in our region. As they say, this is not the time to let down our guard:

"It remains imperative that everyone on campus – vaccinated or not – continues to abide by the following: use PennOpen Pass; enroll in Penn Cares and COVID SAFE surveillance testing (as applicable); and practice mitigation measures of universal wearing of masks, maintaining physical distance, and avoiding large crowds."

At the same time they are confident that we can look forward to better days ahead: "While continued vigilance and adherence to safety guidelines remain crucial, we anticipate opportunities for more normal engagement of the research community later this spring and summer." I am very much awaiting a gradual return to normality with all of you. 

Just a few days ago, it was my privilege to attend the opening of the new Rittenhouse Lab in Center City, a lab for saliva-based COVID-19 testing that will be staffed 7 days a week, with a 24/7 operation from Monday to Friday, running up to 4,000 - 5,000 samples per day. Nasal swab-based testing will also be offered there to asymptomatic patients before surgical procedures and symptomatic patients. The lab is ramping up operations as I write this and will begin testing 1,500 samples per day and build up to 5,000 per day. It was such a joy to be surrounded by my friends and colleagues and to be able to greet each other in person to mark this special occasion. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that I cannot wait until such moments together will be the standard, and not the exception, for all of us again.  

Until then, I would like to remind you once more: for more than a year now, many of us have been pushed outside of our comfort zones. Some of us continue to make heroic efforts on behalf of others. Please be sure to spend some time taking care of yourselves. We are still running a marathon, not a sprint—so even in the face of all the change and the various pressures, we need to find ways to pace ourselves and to allow ourselves to accommodate all these changes.

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these blog columns 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.