Focus on the Future of Pathology and Lab Medicine
We’re in the spotlight now – so let’s use that attention to encourage the next generation of lab professionals
E. Blair Holladay | | Opinion
The past year has put the laboratory at the center of health care – and put a spotlight on pathologists and medical laboratory professionals like never before. With such attention on our profession, this is our chance to underscore both the essential role we play in patient health and the value of the laboratory as a knowledge center for healthcare. It is an opportunity to emphasize to both patients and health care colleagues that the laboratory cannot and should not be relegated to the back row of health or patient care. At this point, we cannot go back to the way things were, with the vision of the laboratory as a “black box” that does nothing but spit out test results. We have always known what the rest of the world now realizes: that there is so much more to the laboratory than tests in and results out.
Despite the attention now turned our way, our profession is grappling with a major issue: developing a robust workforce. And although innovation and automation surround us, it’s clear that the role of the pathologist or medical laboratory scientist – though changing – is still critical to patient care. That’s why it’s imperative that we fortify our efforts to build a strong, sustainable pipeline of pathology and medical laboratory professionals who will continue to champion the laboratory as a provider of high-quality care for patients as well as a significant and strategic partner in healthcare.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) has developed several programs that speak to these efforts. Our Career Ambassador and Pathology Ambassador programs are dedicated to connecting with students and sparking an interest in the profession. Career Ambassadors targets high school and college students, sharing information and insight on careers in the laboratory; Pathology Ambassadors engage with medical students to encourage them to consider our discipline. Through its NEXTPO program, ASCP has also provided scholarships to college-bound high school students to help them pursue the field of medical laboratory science.
When we concentrate our efforts on building the workforce that is coming up behind us, we are both giving back and giving forward to this incredible profession. Medical laboratory science touches almost every part of a patient’s journey, and it is our duty as pathologists and medical laboratory scientists to amplify the voice of the profession. It is our duty to share our knowledge, joy, and satisfaction we get from our own careers with others – and to show them how their own career in the field could provide the same level of fulfillment.
There has been so much attention focused on the laboratory lately that we would be remiss not to capitalize on it by using it to inspire the next generation of pathologists and medical laboratory scientists who will lead our profession. We are at the apex of a premier opportunity to push ourselves deeper into the spotlight – so let’s let the incredible and indispensable work we do shine!