The Bench Connection

This blog is provided on behalf of the ASCLS Promotion of the Profession Committee (PPC).

Promoting the Profession to Legislators

Donna J. Spannaus-Martin, PhD, MLS(ASCP)CM, Professor, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty Legislative Liaison, University of Minnesota

CherryBlossomsNext week, I’ll be headed to the Laboratory Legislative Symposium. I hope the cherry blossoms will be in bloom while we’re there this year, but I don’t go just for a trip to Washington, DC, and a chance to see the sights. This meeting gives me the opportunity to learn about issues that impact the laboratory, and to meet with the people that can help us create policies that will make a difference to the medical laboratory. For example, one of the issues that we have talked about with legislators in previous years is the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA), and the method the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) used to set the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule. This past year, the efforts of medical laboratory professionals across the country resulted in an extension and re-examination of how CMS gathers their data. Our legislative efforts make a difference!

During the time I have been a member of ASCLS, I have learned that personal visits to a legislator are the most effective way to communicate your concerns to them (phone calls are next, and emails and snail mail letters are last), so going to Washington, DC, or even going to their local office, will have the biggest impact. At the Legislative Symposium, we spend the first day learning about the issues. When possible, a legislator or someone from their office will give a presentation. At the end of the first day, those of us who have attended the symposium in the past will role play with those who are attending for the first time in order to give them a chance to practice what they would like to say to their legislators. We are provided with all the information in “leave-behinds,” so we are well prepared. The next day, we head to “the Hill” to meet with our senators, representatives, or their aides. Their aide is usually responsible for healthcare issues, and most of the time there are several of us in the same meeting so it’s not that intimidating!

I hope you will consider going to the Legislative Symposium in the future. It’s a terrific experience, and a great opportunity to get to know other practitioners from your state and across the country. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot, see some amazing sites, and have a wonderful time!

Welcome to The Bench Connection!

Welcome mat 2Greetings! I’m your host, Eric Stanford, and on behalf of the Promotion of the Profession Committee, I wanted to welcome you to the ASCLS Bench Connection. The Bench Connection is a new way to share stories, ideas, and spark discussion amongst likeminded peers. Do you remember the ASCLS articles in the Advance for Laboratory Professionals magazine? The Bench Connection aims to continue that tradition in an online, blog-style format.

What makes this different from the ASCLS Connect communities, or the CLS journal? The ASCLS Connect is driven by community input, directed towards information sharing and answering questions from fellow members. The CLS journal is a peer reviewed, scientific-based repository of research and best practices. The Bench Connection strives to be a middle ground, to be a place where individuals can submit more formal writing than a forum post, but less rigorous than a journal article. Think of the Bench Connection more as a magazine (our Advance roots!).

Each month, we’ll have a theme – mostly to be used as a writing prompt. For example, if one month our theme is, “How have you given back as a laboratorian?” someone might write about how their laboratory formed a team to raise money for a heart walk, using the opportunity to spotlight the vital contributions of the laboratory to the health care team. Someone else might want to detail how their laboratory donated unused coats to a children’s hospital coat drive – and what it meant to the team to participate. How did you come up with the idea? Who did you contact to get it started? Wouldn’t it be great if this sparked someone else’s imagination to bring these ideas back to their lab? That is the mission of The Bench Connection.

How will we accomplish this? The Promotion of the Profession committee will develop a calendar of themes to spark your creative writing. Once submitted, posts will be reviewed posted to the blog for ASCLS members to read. Discussions can branch off from the blog to the community forums. We’ll begin soliciting writers from all corners of the country in every constituent society. What if you don’t want to write about the monthly theme but you have a great article you’re dying to share? Send it, we want it!

We’ll share more information soon on the mechanics of the blog, but for now – WELCOME! Get those creative writing juices flowing!

Our first theme is: Advocacy. How does this apply to you and your lab? What ideas can you share with your colleagues across ASCLS?