Hassan Aziz, PhD, FACSs, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President-Elect
Q. There is much to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and ASCLS is in a unique position to teach flexibility and resiliency to members who may be just starting in the profession, reinventing their career paths, or utilizing their expertise to help reimagine the delivery of patient care. How will you lead and support all ASCLS members through the significant changes and uncertainty laboratory professionals will continue to encounter during this rapidly evolving crisis?
A. Every generation has faced its share of challenges, and there is no doubt that these are challenging times for our profession, our Society, and our country. The world is experiencing a pandemic, a significant financial crisis, and levels of uncertainty most of us have never experienced. The setbacks we are facing today may take months or years to recover from.
A crisis typically plays out over three timeframes:
- Respond, in which we manage continuity of operations and deal with the present situation.
- Recover, where we learn and emerge stronger.
- Thrive, where we prepare for and shape the “next normal.”
A leader has the substantial responsibility to nimbly consider all three timeframes concurrently and allocate resources accordingly. Within the framework of these broad frames, I plan to take tactical steps to elevate these qualities during the current crisis, to blunt its impact, and to help the Society emerge stronger. With the right approach, we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to move us forward and create even more value and positive impact, rather than just bounce back to the status quo.
“While leading the Society, my philosophy will be to discern how the changes we are experiencing can be harnessed to yield meaningful results for all members of the Society.”
My Plan Leading ASCLS
An essential focus in a crisis is to recognize the impact that uncertainty is having on the members of the Society. At such times, a leader must express empathy and compassion for the human side of the current calamity. Yet amid the crisis, our purpose as a Society should remain steadfast: It’s never negotiable. Purpose is to design from the heart and the head.
In the middle of a crisis, we are faced with a flurry of urgent issues across what seems like innumerable fronts. As a leader of the Society, I will put the mission first and zero in on the most pressing of these, establishing priority areas that can quickly cascade.
During a pandemic, there will be many “known unknowns.” A leader collects as much data as possible to reach an informed decision when prompt action is required. When the crisis is over, we will have the opportunity to conduct a thorough review to see how to improve information quality in future crises. Setting regular, shorter, and more frequent communications to ASCLS members is critical. Incomplete or conflicting communications can slow our response rather than provide better guidance.
In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must embrace the long view and take a more assertive and longer-term approach that can spark innovations that will define the “next normal.” COVID-19 is likely to accelerate fundamental and structural changes that were inevitable in any case but are now likely to occur far faster than they would otherwise.
Consider that the “virtualization” of work has been evolving steadily. Today, all around the world, we are learning to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate on virtual platforms, and understanding the increased efficacy and efficiency such modalities of work and meetings can provide. Virtual collaboration tools are likely to create new opportunities to ASCLS and the constituent societies.
A Test of Resilient Leadership
COVID-19 is a test within which resilient leadership is refined and enhanced. Acting without perfect information and minimal amount of time, a leader must guide the Society through myriad decisions and challenges, with significant implications for the whole organization.
As a leader of ASCLS,
- I certainly exhibit the clarity to lead from the heart and the head
- I will inspire the membership to persevere through this crisis
- I will work hard to position us to thrive and emerge in a better place
Crises like these, with deep challenges to be navigated, will also lead to opportunities for learning and deepening trust with all stakeholders, while equipping ASCLS for a step change that creates more value for the Society as a whole. The essence of an association is the ability to involve its membership and provide a forum for the exchange of information. Thus, I view ASCLS as an “organization of professionals” not simply a “professional organization.” While leading the Society, my philosophy will be to discern how the changes we are experiencing can be harnessed to yield meaningful results for all members of the Society.
In closing, I want to thank all laboratory professionals for their commitment to and passion for the profession. Thank you for the heroic frontline role you are playing in the fight against this pandemic.
Hassan Aziz is Executive Associate Dean for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs and Professor of Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.