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Outside the Lab COVID-19, Profession, Laboratory management

The Pandemic Puts Labs In the Spotlight

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, before most of the United States was encouraged to shelter in place, I had the opportunity to visit some of the major laboratories handling the initial cases and see firsthand how they were navigating this uncharted territory. These labs were the epicenters of testing – healthcare leaders getting the right tests to the patients who needed them most. My conversations with their laboratory directors and the teams of medical laboratory professionals highlighted their unprecedented levels of dedication to getting answers for patients and health officials alike. They selflessly put the needs of others ahead of their own, knowing that safe, rapid testing was critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19. That attitude will be essential to fighting our way through to the other side of this pandemic.

We, as pathology and laboratory professionals, are the ones who can shape how the COVID-19 pandemic is handled and, ultimately, how it ends.

The question we face now is, “What does that other side look like?” Unfortunately, we can’t know what the world will look like six months – or even one month – from now. What we do know is that we, as pathology and laboratory professionals, are the ones who can shape how the COVID-19 pandemic is handled and, ultimately, how it ends. As testing increases, we have the data that informs health systems and government officials about the crisis and directs care for both individual patients and the population as a whole. And we know that the research we discover and share during this time is essential to moving off the precarious path that COVID-19 has set before us and onto safer ground.

It is medical laboratory scientists’ skills and expertise that make us critical to the fight against COVID-19. And it is on behalf of the urgent and demanding work being done by the labs across the country that we at the American Society for Clinical Pathology are pushing the laboratory into the spotlight, emphasizing the integral role the lab plays before, during, and after a crisis.

Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to promote and advocate on the behalf of the medical laboratory community. We’ve sent Action Alerts urging the federal government to expand testing capacity and allow for remote pathology services. We’ve called for a national testing strategy. Our subject matter experts have given countless interviews for print, radio, and television discussing the essential nature of the laboratory. We have published multiple editorials around COVID-19 discoveries in our journals. When I visited the medical centers in those early days of the outbreak, we were lucky enough to film people hard at work; from that, we created a docuseries that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the work our laboratories are doing to fight this pandemic. I invite you to see for yourself just how much dedication the laboratory is pouring into the fight against the coronavirus pandemic at ascp.org/COVID-19. We continue to update this page as more resources become available, so we can keep the laboratory community informed.

We are working in challenging times with many unknowns. But we do know this: the pandemic will end. The laboratory will not.

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About the Author

E. Blair Holladay

CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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