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Outside the Lab Profession

Olympians in the Laboratory

Credit: Supplied by Author

Summer is always a special time of year for the laboratory, as recent graduates and pathology residents join our teams and start their careers in the laboratory. This summer brings with it extra flair in the form of the Olympics, with world-class athletes from around the globe gathering in Paris, France, to compete. Though these athletes, who have trained for years to hone their sporting skills, have only a few weeks to show the world what they can accomplish, new-in-practice laboratory professionals and pathologists, and pathology residents are at the precipice of a lifelong career of creating change in pursuit of high-quality patient care.

As pathologists and medical laboratory scientists, we parallel many of the same qualities needed to succeed – and honing those skills starts from day one. What you might find in the heart of an athlete is not dissimilar to what you will find in the heart of a pathologist or laboratory professional who is equally dedicated to their craft.

Olympic athletes have an unyielding desire to excel and to push the boundaries of what is possible. They refuse to settle for mediocrity. So, too, do leaders in the laboratory. In the context of patient care, the drive to excel is paramount. We begin building our commitment to patient care from the first test we run and the first diagnosis we provide. We are just as committed to achieving the highest standards of quality, accuracy, innovation, and always seek ways to improve. Central to our training – whether at the beginning, middle, or end of our careers – is the understanding that the accuracy and reliability of our work can mean the difference between life and death. Just as an Olympian’s drive to excel pushes them to break records and achieve new heights, a laboratory leader’s drive ensures the highest level of performance in their laboratory. We don’t do it for fame and recognition; we relentlessly pursue excellence because we understand that on the other end of the test is a patient whose life may depend on how well we do our job. 

When we are at the beginning of our careers, the need and amount of learning that must be done can seem overwhelming. Unlike an Olympic athlete, whose goal may end at the gold, silver, or bronze medal, there is no end point of learning. Rather, the process of learning is what we adapt to throughout our careers, knowing that it is relentless and challenging work to stay abreast of evolving technologies, new and stringent regulations, and the constant vigilance of maintaining quality. Like an Olympic athlete, however, the process of learning allows us to improve, embrace new techniques and methods; moreover, our willingness to learn, ideate, and innovate is critical to our success.

For those starting their careers, know that you are an Olympian of the laboratory. Your skills and abilities are what make your role unique and imperative within patient care. Allowing your desire to excel flourish and keeping yourself open to learning and adaptable to change will create an unstoppable, winning career in the laboratory. 

This summer is the start of so much and will be an inspiration for so many. Let your dedication, your achievements, and your willingness to learn shine as a role model of excellence and unwavering commitment to patient care.

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About the Author
E. Blair Holladay

CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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