However, education can't be done without communication. Communicating what they do and what ASM has to offer is the biggest challenge of the organization, says Dr. Hooper, who is also associate chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and chief, Infection Control Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. "It's important to make sure all members understand and know what ASM resources are available to them."
ASM launched a major initiative Dec. 12 with the unveiling of a novel clinical microbiology portal. "Members wanted a one-stop website where all the information they need about the organization and other resources can be found," says Mike Miller, PhD, Microbiology Technical Services, Dunwoody, GA, who directed this project. "So the portal--at http://clinmicro.asm.org--has links to many internal and external resources to assist in day-to-day laboratory operation." For example, members can find links to organism and disease information, technical protocols, quick access to Q-Probes, (a program that gathers peer-group data on quality practices in pathology and laboratory medicine), and ProMED-mail (an Internet-based system of reporting and detecting emerging diseases), and other ASM products and services.
At Your Fingertips
Additionally, the new portal will offer all types of enhanced features such as a Q&A section and an interactive, live hot-topic blog.
"The portal has interactive features to reach out to smaller labs and hospitals," Dr. Miller says. "Q&A users can submit a question and based on the category of the query, for example mycology or virology, it will be sent to an expert for a response that will be available to all portal users."
Once an expert answers a question it will be posted and can be searched by users, who can also comment on the response "such as whether it worked for them or not," McNult tells ADVANCE.
Also, monthly, ASM will host a live online interactive discussion about a hot topic, a current event or a controversial issue. A week before the event, a designated expert will post on the topic. Users will be encouraged to read it and submit questions, either before or during the live event. The expert will respond to questions live. Then materials, questions and responses will be archived on the portal post-event. "This will be a game-changer in microbiology laboratory communication and support," Dr. Miller says.
However, online communication is not the only way ASM members can interact. For the second year clinical microbiologists will have their own track at the annual conference, June 16-19 in San Francisco.
"This meeting within a meeting was well received last year," says Ellen Jo Baron, PhD, D(ABMM), divisional group representative overseeing the track and professor emerita, Pathology, Stanford University. "We're looking forward to a record number of clinical microbiologists attending the Diagnostic Microbiology and Epidemiology Track this year. Microbiologists will be able to attend sessions and network among their peers."
Exploring new tracks can lead to new ways of meeting members' needs in the future. Recognizing bench technologists and laboratory supervisors and directors have different professional requirements, ASM will initiate a three-tiered dues system with different products and services at each level. The least expensive tier will offer online access to many news alerts and clinical microbiology laboratory procedures.
Gail O. Guterl is a freelance editor and writer based in Pennsylvania.