Cindy Johnson, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, 2019-20 ASCLS President

Who would have ever imagined that the extremely shy, youngest member of the “Johnson Bunch” would be your next president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science? I am truly honored to be granted this wonderful opportunity.

The Johnson Bunch grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, which is located on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior and fondly known for two seasons: the 4th of July and winter. With only four years difference between the oldest and youngest of the five Johnson children, our teachers knew our family quite well. And with “Mom” Johnson serving as PTA president in every school we attended, academics was a high priority.

Science interested me at a young age, but it wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school helping the junior and senior football and hockey players use their microscopes in biology class that my clinical laboratory journey began. I continued to take science and math courses throughout the remainder of my high school years, and my sister encouraged me to pursue my medical technology degree at the College of St. Scholastica.

After working as a generalist in our local hospital laboratory for seven years (primarily on the off shifts), it was time to expand my knowledge and attend graduate school at the University of North Dakota where I earned a master’s degree in clinical laboratory science. During my time in North Dakota I became actively involved in ASCLS.

As a new member to the organization, I was appointed to the Membership Development Committee as a regional representative that led to chairing the national Membership Development Committee a few years later. After serving on a couple other national committees I was encouraged to run for state president. In May of this year I achieved my 30-year anniversary with ASCLS and have been proud to be an active member for those three decades. I am fortunate to have had many mentors along the way which have developed into long-lasting friendships.

The Foundation of ASCLS: Our Constituent Societies

We have heard from numerous constituent societies for several years that “we cannot fill our leadership positions.” The practice of “recycling” our leaders has been a key concern for ASCLS leadership, and recently several steps were taken to address this concern with the work of appointed taskforces.

The foundation of ASCLS is our constituent societies, our grassroots members—all of you. It is imperative that we provide the resources and tools to keep our foundation strong. How do we accomplish this?

The ASCLS Board of Directors spent the past year taking deliberate steps to revise the ASCLS Strategy Map. We first had to address “what is our why” (our purpose) as a laboratory professional organization.

Simultaneously, an expanded group of ASCLS leaders where given the opportunity to participate in our first ASCLS book club with Start with Why, by Simon Sinek. Through five sessions our book club leaders, ASCLS Executive Vice President Jim Flanigan, and ASCLS Region III Director Janelle Chiasera, challenged us to articulate our “Why,” which was not an easy task. We also discussed the other elements of The Golden Circle outlined in the book: Why (Purpose); How (Processes/Methods); and What (Results/Outcomes).

Utilizing resources from ASAE ForesightWorks, ASCLS Executive Board members reviewed 41 key trends driving change within organizations. This information, in addition to the feedback provided by the book club participants, was instrumental in developing our Society’s “Why”—our unique critical objective.

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.

It became apparent that our purpose (Why) is to advance the expertise of clinical laboratory professionals to deliver quality, consumer-focused, outcomes-orientated clinical laboratory services.

Further discussion by the Board of Directors resulted in identifying three pillars that support our unique critical objective.

ASCLS is a community that supports current and future laboratory professionals as they advance in the profession, and it advocates on behalf of the profession for the good of the public and holds the profession accountable to a Code of Ethics.

Through its governance structure, ASCLS members coordinate efforts to achieve their profession’s goals and provide the resources to support those efforts.

Through membership, the Society develops resources via dues and the development/monetization of programs and assets (e.g., intellectual property).

ASCLS provides a structure for the profession to collaborate with other professions or for the membership to collaborate with other stakeholder groups within the profession.

The Society is a mutual support structure for those working to advance the profession and the Society.

ASCLS defines appropriate professional knowledge and develops and delivers educational programming to assure the profession possesses that knowledge.

Within the context of life-long learning, ASCLS prepares laboratory professionals to fully participate in and lead in an interdisciplinary and dynamic healthcare environment by expanding scientific knowledge and clinical laboratory skills.

ASCLS instills in laboratory professionals the skills to lead and take management or leadership positions within and outside the laboratory and prepares laboratory professionals to understand and speak the languages of quality with other professionals with whom they interface (e.g., nursing, pharmacy, and medicine).

P.A.C.E.®, collaboratively with hundreds of providers, assures that high-quality opportunities for life-long learning are available specifically for laboratory professionals.

ASCLS utilizes a variety of modes and forms to meet the needs of the widest-possible number of laboratory professionals, including virtual and live meetings and other innovative ways, both for credit and to simply deliver knowledge.

As an advocate, ASCLS will actively shape the environment for laboratory professionals to maximize the efficacy of their efforts on positive patient outcomes. Volunteer leadership defines how the Society aims to shape that environment.

In collaboration with other like-minded stakeholders, ASCLS will ensure the public policy environment (both legislative and regulatory) is conducive to laboratory professionals working fully within their scope of practice and working to expand that scope of practice where it will improve patient outcomes. This includes pressing for high standards that include state licensure and stronger rules on certification.

How a profession is perceived by patients, other healthcare providers, and policymakers impacts the capacity for laboratory professionals to achieve their desired purpose to themselves, to other healthcare providers, and to the public. ASCLS will actively shape public perceptions of laboratory professionals and their contributions to the healthcare system.

An Evolving Map
The Strategy Map is a document that is dynamic and will continue to evolve as our committees, forums, councils, and taskforces focus on our purpose to:

1. Advance the expertise of clinical laboratory professionals. It is imperative that we identify and mentor emerging leaders to prepare them for new roles. We can accomplish this by utilizing current resources and developing new ones.

2. We are the voice of the profession. Each of us has the responsibility to tell our story. We are the experts in laboratory medicine and have vast knowledge to share. Become involved, promote our profession—go to local schools, participate in laboratory tours and science fairs, and ask to be part of health fairs. But most importantly be a patient advocate … you do make a difference.

The Rest of My Story
After graduate school, I went back to the laboratory in my hometown and was the general laboratory manager for the next eight years. I had the ideal job as I worked “on the bench” and taught the senior medical laboratory science students laboratory management principles in addition to my other responsibilities.

Twenty years ago, I moved to Central Minnesota to become the laboratory director, and my role continues to evolve as our organization has grown significantly during this time. Through all the changes I have seen in my career I have never regretted the decision to become a laboratory professional back in high school.

I want to challenge you to find your “Why.” It is an honor and a privilege to work with dedicated colleagues who continually strive to advance our profession. Thank you for the difference you make in the lives of others.

Cindy Johnson is senior director of laboratory services at CentraCare Health in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

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President Cindy Johnson’s Acceptance Speech at the 2019 House of Delegates Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina

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