President Dwight D. Eisenhower first founded the People to People organization in 1956. Eisenhower was acting on his firm belief that the direct interaction between ordinary citizens around the world could promote cultural understanding and world peace. That proud legacy of hope lives on in the People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs. Along with Clinical Laboratory Science delegations, People to People sponsors delegations in more than 25 different professions.
The mission is simple: to bridge the cultural and political borders through education and exchange, making the world a better place for future generations.
People to People and ASCLS
The People to People organization has been working with clinical laboratory professionals, and more specifically, The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) for more than two decades. Numerous ASCLS leaders and past presidents have led clinical laboratory science delegations to countries such as Russia, China, Egypt, South Africa and more. I had the distinct honor to have led the last two laboratory science delegations to Egypt in 2010 and to South Africa in 2011. In addition, I will be leading the next Clinical Laboratory Science delegation to India this year from Oct. 13-21. See the bottom of this article for that trip information.
Professional and Cultural Aims
Fundamentally, the main purpose of the delegations is professional in nature. The delegations seek to increase collaboration with professionals and organizations abroad on topics of mutual interest in the clinical laboratory science arena. Delegates enjoy insider views of the clinical laboratory science profession both from a practice perspective as well as from the points of view of education, certification, accreditation, etc. It is very common for delegates to form friendships and professional collaborations with local professionals that last long after the trip is over. Tours of educational facilities, clinical laboratories, public health labs, and reference labs are all part of the program.
But one can never go around the world and visit foreign countries without also experiencing the cultural aspects of that country. Professional activities are interspersed with cultural activities highlighting the sights and sounds of the country. Delegates get to experience the culture of the country in ways that most travelers never do. From exploring small, local neighborhoods to urban cities, and historical landmarks and ruins, delegates experience a first-hand look at the country up close with knowledgeable and dedicated local tour guides. Delegates also often get to visit a local NGO (non-governmental office) such as an orphanage or school as well as network with local families through a dinner at a host home.
With both the delegations to Egypt and South Africa, the delegates were amazed at how structured the healthcare systems were in some regard and equally amazed at the differences in other areas. As an example, the delegation to Egypt met with Dr. Hassan Azzazy, the associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research, School of Science and Engineering, at The American University of Cairo.
The delegation learned that in the country of Egypt, there were no two or four-year clinical laboratory degreed programs. Most, if not all of the individuals who perform clinical laboratory testing in Egypt have bachelor's degrees in biology or chemistry, etc. and then are trained on the job. There appeared to be no certification programs to train laboratory professionals on the practical skills needed to work in clinical laboratories prior to taking a job.
Dr. Azzazy was actively working with the American Society for Clinical Pathology's Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC) to create a laboratory certification program. Graduates of this
program would be able to sit for ASCP's International MT ASCPi exam.
The program is very different than those in the U.S., but it's a great start. The goal is to continue with this program to show the value of a certified MT over those without specific and dedicated clinical laboratory science training, and over the years, move toward the college degrees that are required to precede employment as a clinical laboratory scientist.
In South Africa, the delegation learned that hospitals do not have hospital-run clinical laboratories. Instead, either the nationally run National Health Service (for governmental hospitals) or major reference labs (for private hospitals) lease space from the hospital to create and run the laboratory service for that hospital. In addition, especially in rural areas, it is not uncommon for small clinical laboratory scientist-run labs to be present across the country. The staff medical technologists in South Africa have a national diploma and must pass a national certification examination in order to work. The medical technicians receive on-the-job training and also must complete a national certification examination.
Learning about how other countries educate, staff and run their laboratories is very interesting, but, in addition, learning how clinical laboratory scientists interact with and fit into the larger health care arena in that country is even more fascinating!
If you are interested in learning more any of the past trips, you can view the Journals of the delegations to China, Egypt, and South Africa by going to the following link:
Lastly, I invite you to join me for the next Laboratory Delegation heading to India, from Oct. 13-21. This is an open invitation to anyone who works in or is affiliated with the clinical laboratory industry.
On this delegation, you can:
- Visit the cities of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra
- Enhance your professional career by meeting with faculty and students from a major medical university such as Maulana Azad Medical College
- Enjoy India's unique culture firsthand by exploring the Taj Mahal, a monument to love intricately designed and constructed in pristine white marble
- Gain an insider's perspective on the healthcare system while exploring India
Don't miss this extraordinary opportunity to learn more about your profession and your world.
Visit www.peopletopeople.com/scottaikey today for more details about this life-changing journey or email me directly at email@example.com.
Scott Aikey is past president, ASCLS.