Volume 37 Number 2 | April 2023

Kim Von Ahsen, MHA, MLS(ASCP)CM, SLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

Kim Von AhsenIn the opening scene of Act III of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet ponders a question, albeit one of the most serious of matters. It’s the use of literary devices like antithesis of “To be or not to be” or the antimetabole of John F. Kennedy’s “Do not ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” that invokes through a simple structure of words two sides of an argument for the listener to consider. President Kennedy was known to use these types of rhetorical devices because it allowed him to persuade the audience with the impact of his words and created quotes that are memorable today.

How does a lesson on rhetoric have any relationship to the laboratory profession, let alone Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (MLPW)? Because, like Hamlet and John F. Kennedy, each year it seems a question arises:

… is MLPW about celebrating the laboratory profession(al) or for the profession(al) to celebrate?

ASCLS describes Medical Laboratory Professionals Week as a week that “provides the profession with a unique opportunity to increase public understanding of and appreciation for clinical laboratory personnel.” Every year, if you spend any amount of time on social media, you see the struggle around the desire to be recognized by those external of the laboratory—be it by the public, healthcare leaders, or colleagues—versus an aspiration to be the voice of awareness and advocacy.

Ask not what Lab Week can do for you; ask what you can do for Lab Week.

We know that how we spend our time has changed. We want (and should) spend time where it adds value to our life. I believe that for Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, our time is best spent focusing on local efforts or celebrations that foster interpersonal relationships and raise awareness within the workplace of the work done by our professionals, and we are the best ones to tell our stories.

  • Plan the potluck, and ask a member of the C-Suite to vote on the best dish.
  • Hold a theme dress-up day, and ask your public relations or marketing department to share pictures in your organization’s newsletter or on their social media accounts.
  • Host fun games, and consider creating one that educates non-laboratorians about the laboratory.
  • Above all else, open the doors to your laboratory to your colleagues in other departments and show them what you do.

The answer is to be. Be unafraid to call attention and demand attention to the vital and critical care provided by the laboratory and those that make that care possible. Visit ascls.org/labweek-mlpw for more resources for Lab Week celebrations.

Kim Von Ahsen is the Laboratory Quality and Safety Specialist at UnityPoint – Health Des Moines, Iowa Methodist Medical Center, in Des Moines, Iowa.