Children holding sign that says Thank You Heroes in Lab Coats

Cindy Johnson, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Past President

Children holding sign that says Thank You Heroes in Lab CoatsWOW … what a year it has been! Last year I introduced you to the Johnson Bunch; never imagining that this extremely shy, youngest member of the family would serve as the 2019-20 American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science president. It has been an honor and privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated medical laboratory professionals. Thank you for your guidance and support during some challenging times.

Our unique critical objective states that:

ASCLS exists to advance the expertise of clinical laboratory professionals who, as integral members of interprofessional healthcare teams, deliver quality, consumer-focused, outcomes-oriented clinical laboratory services through all phases of the testing process to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease.

A year ago, I challenged you to find your “Why.” What is your passion as it relates to the practice of clinical laboratory science? Many of you did just that, displaying the reasons that you chose this remarkable profession.

The Society year started off with the ASCLS Board of Directors, committees, and task forces focusing on our three major strategic pillars of Community, Knowledge, and Advocacy, which support our unique critical objective. I encourage you, if you have not done so already, to spend time on the ASCLS website to see all the great work that these members have accomplished during this past year. Thank you to all of our volunteers, for without you, we would not have succeeded in achieving significant milestones outlined within our strategy map.

“[M]ost importantly, you have been a patient advocate … assuring that healthcare team members have the necessary laboratory information to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease.”

Hindsight is 20/20 sums up the past six months. At the end of February, many of us were able to spend time together learning and networking, as there was record breaking attendance at the 2020 Clinical Laboratory Educators Conference (CLEC) in Orlando, Florida. Little did we know that this may be the last time that we would be face-to-face as a laboratory community for who knows how long.

Yes, the Coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, and widely referred to as COVID-19, would disrupt both our personal and professional lives.

But you, my fellow laboratory colleagues, were up to the challenge throughout this pandemic. As the laboratory community was thrust into the spotlight, you continued to “share your story,” using social media and various other platforms to educate healthcare providers, the public, and our government officials on the essential work we do every day.

But most importantly, you have been a patient advocate … assuring that healthcare team members have the necessary laboratory information to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease. Remember, you do make a difference.

Our work is not done. Like many organizations, ASCLS has had diversity and inclusion at its core, but discussions and statements must lead to action.

As laboratory professionals, we see the dramatic socioeconomic and healthcare disparities in outcomes for some patient populations. We have reported the devastating and disproportionate effects COVID-19 has on people of color, but our work has also documented the scourge of chronic disease ravaging those same communities. We work in partnership with our colleagues in emergency medicine to save lives impacted by violence, which is another tragic outcome of discrimination.

ASCLS and the rest of the laboratory community have much work to do. Can we count on you to assist with this important effort?

I want to conclude by first thanking all the ASCLS leaders for your commitment to our profession. Whether you volunteer at the local, state, regional, or national level, together we will continue to strengthen our professional organization. We are ASCLS: One Voice, One Vision!

My laboratory family, you are my Heroes in Lab Coats! Thank you to those who work in the clinical and public health laboratories; to the laboratory leaders who continue to support and provide guidance to their teams; to those working in industry trying to get us much needed supplies; to the educators who continue in the mission of teaching the next generation of laboratory professionals; and to the students who have continued in your studies, for which many of you have graduated—CONGRATULATIONS … We Salute You!

I leave you with a tribute for the tireless work you do and the daily impact you have on others. Your work has not gone unnoticed. Thank you and be well!

Cindy Johnson is Senior Director of Laboratory Services at CentraCare in St. Cloud, Minnesota.