Labs in the Lead
Spearheading research for better patient care
E. Blair Holladay | | Opinion
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the laboratory has been driving research associated with SARS-CoV-2. Pathologists and medical laboratory professionals have taken the lead on discovering the causes of the disease, the virus’ effect on the human body, how it manipulates underlying conditions a person may already have, and much more. The knowledge we have gained is unprecedented; without the timely and essential research laboratories have conducted – and continue to pursue – patient health would be in a tailspin.
The need for original research has always been important to patient health, but we have seen its influence carry much more weight over the past year. Our journals (Laboratory Medicine and the American Journal of Clinical Pathology) alone have published 79 papers in the past year on the topics of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 and, if you search the United States’ National Library of Medicine, the number of research articles on these topics in scientific journals worldwide is well over 100,000. Knowing that data was essential to combating COVID-19, our journals created rapid, streamlined editorial and production processes to publish high-quality, peer-reviewed original research in almost real time.
What’s more, with such rapid expansion and attention to research, we have seen an evolution since the start of the pandemic – one that has changed how we diagnose and treat patients. From serologic tests to convalescent plasma, the laboratory has contributed a wealth of knowledge and critical information that has helped patients recover – and helped develop the vaccines that are pushing this pandemic toward its end.
When the pandemic does end – and we can resume our lives without the dark cloud of a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus hanging over us – the need for research will remain. We need to understand and dissect everything we can about SARS-CoV-2 so that we aren’t faced with another pandemic like the one we are experiencing. And so that, if we do, we will have research on our side that gives us a better starting place to determine what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to patient testing and care.
Scientific research is the lifeblood of healthcare. It advances us and enables us to provide better options for our patients. As caregivers – and yes, pathologists and medical laboratory professionals are caregivers just like any other member of the medical team – we are committed to giving our patients what they need when we can and finding answers for them when we can’t. We find those answers in research – and we find those answers in the lab.