Volume 36 Number 3 | June 2022

Hassan Aziz, PhD, FACSs, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

Hassan AzizA former student of mine and a current colleague posted a photo of her new vehicle on social media. It was a very nice vehicle. I posted, complimenting her new ride. She replied, “Lab has been good to me.” I was impressed. Here is a person who is satisfied with her profession, despite several opportunities to do other things. She is happy to be part of a health profession team where she can serve her community. At a personal level, she believes the profession rewarded her professionally and financially.

This former student is not the only one who “likes” her profession. Several other graduates and colleagues shared with me similar experiences and feelings. On the other hand, I am confident there are a few professionals who are unsatisfied and waiting for an opportunity to leave the laboratory. That is fine, but do not bad mouth it.

Negativity is a serious and a devastating problem in the workplace. For some, negativity is a habit and a way of life. These individuals do little but complain, air grievances, and predict doom. Negativity can definitely affect the morale of the entire group and lead to a toxic work environment.

Individuals can express their negativity in many ways, but it should not be tolerated and must be confronted immediately. If we do not do this, we give a clear message that negativity is acceptable. There is no magic formula that works in all situations, and it may take several approaches to rectify the situation. Start by identifying the negative behavior and discuss it directly with the person. Oftentimes, these individuals may not realize that they are coming across negatively. Allow them an opportunity to own up to their behavior or to explain the reasons for the negative behavior; they may have legitimate reasons for their actions. Last but not least, work with the individual in identifying an alternative and more positive way to behave.

Negativity is a virus that can spread from person to person. We often recognize the issue, but we do not know how to handle it. We must prevent it before it gets out of control. Those in leadership roles must be exemplary models in exhibiting a positive attitude and be immune against this contagious virus.

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the journal, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, which caught my attention. The article was a compilation of 160 studies of human and animal subjects. Researchers found clear and compelling evidence that happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.

I was surprised that we needed scientific evidence to prove a link between happiness and health outcomes and longevity. However, the article demonstrated very interesting aspects of our lives with an amazing consistency of the data. The study was led by a pioneer professor at a prestigious university, and he concluded that our subjective well-being—that is, feeling positive about life, not stressed out, not depressed—contributed to both longevity and better health among healthy populations.

The authors followed nearly 5,000 university students for more than 40 years and found that those who were most pessimistic as students tended to die younger than their peers. Anxiety, depression, a lack of enjoyment of daily activities, and pessimism all were associated with higher rates of disease and a shorter lifespan. Laboratory experiments have found that positive moods reduce stress-related hormones, increase immune function, and promote the speedy recovery of the heart after exertion.

The article cautioned that happiness, by itself, would not prevent or cure disease, however, there was stronger evidence that positive emotions would contribute to better health.

We choose to be unhappy and worry about everything. If ever there was a waste of energy, it is worry. We are worried about the future that we have no control over anyway. Instead, we should focus our energy on our actions, something we can control. We worry because we fear the outcome. Fear is not a motivator. Although it can work for a short period of time, fear can leave devastating effects on our emotions and intelligence. Know that fear is a choice. You can control your emotions and you can definitely choose to take action (or not) or shift your focus. Focus on the present time and do not get drawn into “what if.” Personally, this profession rewarded me with many tangible achievements from name recognition to a comfortable lifestyle to opportunities to build friendships and professional relationships across the world.

So, to answer my own question, do I like my profession? The answer is a definite YES!

Hassan Aziz is Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.