The Windy City served as home to the largest gathering of medical laboratory professionals in the nation in late July. There, thousands of laboratorians arrived for the ASCLS and AACC meetings with a shared exhibit hall dubbed Clinical Lab Expo.
The biggest buzz at the meeting, with the theme "A Global Connection," was the breaking news announcement NCA will cease to exist in October, taking with it the CLS(NCA) credential. Those bearing the familiar letters behind their names will now be designated as MLT(ASCP) or MLS(ASCP) as NCA will be merged into the ASCP Board of Registry. Click here for coverage from ADVANCE.
Awards ceremonies, receptions, a silent auction and a long list of speakers rounded out the meeting that also serves as annual reunion of familiar names and faces in the clinical lab arena.
Kyle Riding, CLS(NCA), clinical laboratory scientist, Children's Hospital Boston, said, "This was my fourth year attending the ASCLS annual meeting. I enjoy catching up with old colleagues and creating new contacts with laboratory professionals across the country. I also enjoy going to the scientific sessions and learning about the most up-to-date information relating to our profession."
"Going to the Alpha Mu Tau Fraternity dinner was great and really showed me the dedication my more experienced role models have for the CLS field. I also really enjoyed growing closer relationships with those I know and making new friendships with some fun people," recalled Mickey Yost, CLS(NCA), clinical laboratory scientist at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.
Scott Aikey, CLDir/CLS(NCA), said the highlight for him was "certainly being president of the society during the meeting and turning it over to Mary Ann McLane, PhD, MLS. Additionally, being the Society representative to sign the agreement to merge the ASCP-BOR and NCA was certainly a career level moment for me."
Sessions and roundtables were numerous and varied, ranging from state licensure and workforce trends to emerging diagnostics.
Bruce W. Hollis, PhD, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, presented "Clinical Significance of Vitamin D." He said, "The current adequate intakes (AI) for vitamin D are but a fraction of what the actual amount is. Defining a new AI based on blood levels of circulating 25(OH)D is the likely the best way to achieve this goal. Further, the FDA should be more involved in the reference lab to control the use of 'home brew' methods when FDA-cleared tests for the same analyte exists."
Paula Garrott, EdM, CLS(NCA), University of Illinois at Springfield, presented "State Licensure: Views from the Trenches." She explained the roundtable discussion was designed for individuals interested in learning more about the process of pursuing state licensure legislation for clinical laboratory professionals. "We discussed developing coalitions, basic bill language and the process for introducing licensure legislation," she said.
Susan Whittier, PhD, D(ABMM), NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, presented "Strange Encounters of the Microbe Kind: The Weird Bugs." "The weird, strange and unusual microorganisms we encounter on a daily basis is one of the reasons why I love clinical microbiology so much," Dr. Whittier explained. "The 'bugs' certainly do not read the same textbooks we do, making their identification challenging. But they provide a welcome diversion from our routine work, stimulate us to develop new algorithms and give us a better clinical picture of their pathogenicity."
A Look at Russia's Labs
In the Friday session "Health Care and Laboratory Medicine in Russia: A Peek at the Other Side," a handful of laboratorians talked about their experience touring laboratories in Russia through the People to People (PTP) Citizen Ambassador Programs. PTP was founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and was started to promote international peace and understanding.
While in Russia, the laboratorians got to explore the country and the nation's healthcare facilities.
Lisa Anderson, MT(ASCP)SH, senior medical technologist, special hematology, UNC Hospitals, told session attendees how different healthcare is in Russia. For example, doctors live on a low income, and many of them have second jobs. There are also very few general practitioners in the country, as most doctors trained in specialized fields.
David Falleur, Med, CLS(NCA), associate professor and chair, Clinical Laboratory Science Program, Texas State University-San Marcos, said the education for laboratory scientists in Russia mostly depends on the school they attend; each have different curriculums.
In the lab, about 80 percent are medical laboratory technicians, while 20 perfect are medical technologists or "doctors."
Falleur also added that in Russia, clinical laboratory scientists are on a higher level than nurses, and many nurses are trained to help out in the lab. Laboratorians need to be recertified every 3-5 years, and they need to take a written, oral and practical exam, plus present a portfolio.
Linda Whaley, CLS(NCA), medical technologist II, Clinical Laboratories, Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago, said the Russian labs were all very clean and had windows.
Like the U.S., Russia is also experiencing a shortage of medical technologists. Other challenges include low salaries and competition between state hospital labs and commercial laboratories.
The lab areas include immunology, transfusiology (blood bank), biochemistry, hematology, microbiology, histology and cytology, and allergology (study of workplace allergens and treatment of workers, including environmental and food allergy testing).
The group's next PTP trip will be to China on Nov. 6-16.
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