ASCLS Today Volume 32 Number 7

ASCLSToday Masthead 680

Volume 32, Number 7


Jennifer Bushnell, MEd, MLS(ASCP)CM

Diversity is often interpreted as a complex web of issues involving individuals who differ in ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and many other types of attributes. Although some individuals may never agree upon certain topics or belief systems, an open mind and willingness to respect such differences can foster a refreshing atmosphere of comradery. No matter a person’s belief system or origin, most would agree we are more alike than different.

In one decade, McNeese State University’s Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Program will have graduated 36 international or first-generation students from 10 different countries, with Nepal representing more than half of these students. When considering percentages, 26 percent (36 out of 136 graduates) is indeed a significant number for any size city, especially for Lake Charles, Louisiana, whose population is just under 80,000.

McNeese State University
College of Nursing and Health Professions
Department of Radiologic and Medical Laboratory Sciences
Number of International or First-Generation MLS Graduates
May 2009-May 2019*

Columbia 1
India 1
Japan 1
Kenya 1
Mexico 1
Nepal 24
Pakistan 1
Philippines 2
South Korea 1
Vietnam 3

*All students are in good standing and are expected to graduate by May 2019.

For some, these statistics will no doubt necessitate a second glance; these numbers certainly made me look twice. Why would this many international students choose a small university in the southwest corner of Louisiana?

When presented with exit surveys and student evaluations of instruction, student comments remained the same year after year: “Small class sizes. Sincere. Helpful. Asks for class opinion. Very approachable. Encouraging and kind.” And my favorite: “Great stories. They help us remember!”

Surely, it wasn’t that simple. Was it really just kindness and going the extra half mile to help someone that attracted so many international and first-generation students?

We’ve all seen the inspirational quotes encouraging us to “be kinder than necessary, for everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about.” While these words ring true for each of us, consider being thousands of miles away from family and friends and adding a foreign language to your everyday problems. Most of us would throw in the towel after translating Enterobacteriaceae and catch the first flight home!

Last, but not least, let us consider the challenges of international student athletes. They’re away from home, perfecting a foreign language, working through early morning and late-night practices, and enduring miles of travel with their favorite earbuds. McNeese’s MLS program has witnessed firsthand the hard work put in by these athletes. We currently have four international athletes in our program, including two seniors: Cynthia Rivas, a basketball player from Guadalajara; and Anderson Yego, a cross country runner from Kenya. These students have a work ethic like none other, often attending two-hour practices before their 9:30 am lectures.

While we recognize the unique challenges of each of our students, including single parents and older students returning to school, our diverse student population has undeniably brought a distinctive learning environment to our program. Our faculty members have taken family photos with proud parents, danced at Nepali night while wearing beautiful saris, shared native recipes, cheered at sporting events, and even cried with a student who couldn’t attend her mother’s funeral. If we allow diversity to become a complex web of issues, it will most certainly indulge our choices. For McNeese State University’s Medical Laboratory Science Program, diversity continues to be a beautiful and enriching experience for all involved.


My name is Anderson Kimutai Yego; born in April of 1994 in a small village in Nandi County, Rift Valley Province in the Republic of Kenya. I grew up in a humble background and was brought up by a caring and hardworking parent. Perhaps her sacrifices and hard work motivated me to stay on top of my toes, to work hard, and to become successful in life.

Like any other child, I started my pre-elementary school in 2000 through 2001 at Koisolik and later in 2002 transferred to Lolkeringet Primary School. In 2007, I was then transferred to Kaiboi Primary School where I completed my primary school education and sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in 2009. I was then admitted to Kabiyet Boys High School for my Secondary school education.

While in high school, my enthusiasm in logically orientated subjects persuaded me to take up sciences and mathematics as my concentration subjects. As I progressed throughout high school, I developed a passion in acquiring knowledge in various fields, one of which was any medical related field.

During my freshman year in high school, I developed an interest in athletic activities and started running. Soon after I completed high school, I joined my friends who were training as runners in pursuit of their dreams. With the success of my elder brother, Joshua, I was very optimistic that my running career would eventually pay off. In spring of 2015, I was admitted to McNeese State University as a Nursing Major, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I changed my major to Medical Laboratory Science (MLS).

I am very happy and satisfied to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in this field. My experiences and skills in MLS have prepared me to become a better person in society. I appreciate the contribution and work of a medical laboratory scientist, not only within the health facility, but also in the community at large. I personally hold the view that at the end of this program I will have acquired the basic and necessary aptitude, skills, and knowledge to excel in medical laboratory science.

Join the ASCLS Diversity Advocacy Council at


Wael Hassan, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM

Anytime informatics is mentioned in the laboratory environment, laboratorians think about the Laboratory Information System (LIS) and relate the word to IT and technical support that is beyond the laboratory scope of business. Although informatics is related to the laboratory information system, the word encompasses a lot more.

Informatics is the science that deals with data mining, processing, and extracting significance from the data. Simply put, informatics is the science of turning data into information and knowledge.

The laboratory is an evergreen source of data. It generates thousands of data points on an hourly basis; that data is turned into information in the laboratory information system that then transforms it into knowledge to healthcare providers.

Increasing Lab Data
Collecting data in the laboratory depends heavily on knowledge about chemistry, microbiology, and hematology techniques. Knowledge about chemical reactions, cell structures, and biochemical reaction shaped the laboratory product in the past.

Advances in molecular diagnostics and the human genome project produced a large volume of data. Informatics was able to provide scientists with the appropriate tools needed to process such a large volume of data and to extract helpful information in a timely fashion.

Medical laboratory scientists can now remotely access microbiology plates, choose a colony to isolate, or run a biochemical test. The physicians can access hematology/pathology slides remotely from anywhere to identify cells and make a diagnosis.

Affects on Lab Staffing
In the past, the presence of knowledgeable and welltrained individuals was a crucial factor to the laboratory success. The lab depended heavily on qualified, welltrained staff to succeed in providing the community with the quality service they need.

Human factors are a significant contributor to errors in the laboratory environment. Quality in the laboratory environment comes with a cost; at the same time quality can drive the cost of laboratory testing down.

The cost of staffing the laboratory contributes to the high cost of tests. Instrument manufacturers understand the need of their clients to decrease the cost while maintaining quality. They are trying to accomplish that by utilizing advancements in technology.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques became a crucial part of the laboratory. Image analysis techniques are being used in hematology and pathology. These techniques provide the laboratory with highly accurate results with minimal staffing.

“As advances in technologies continue to flourish and make their way to the different clinical laboratory disciplines, the need for staff members that understand the concepts of informatics will rise.”

Informatics in Clinical Laboratory Education
As advances in technologies continue to flourish and make their way to the different clinical laboratory disciplines, the need for staff members that understand the concepts of informatics will rise. Currently, laboratory education programs do not support or include informatics as part of the curriculum. Courses in statistics, image analysis techniques, and data analysis are needed to provide students with the tools for the future and the ever-changing landscape of the industry.

In my opinion, clinical laboratory educational programs need to be overhauled to match the rapid changes in the clinical laboratory field. Although basic sciences remain the heart of the industry, informatics is now the brain and the main driver that controls the outcomes of the clinical laboratory.

Join the Informatics Community at


Pat Tille, PhD, MT(ASCP), FACSc

Health insurance costs are rising. Reimbursement rates are falling. Clinical laboratories are facing critical workforce shortages. There is no time like the present to remember what ASCLS does and why it’s important to be a member.

Advocacy: ASCLS is our voice when there are professional challenges and opportunities to move the profession forward. Advocacy begins with your local state society in venues such as legislative symposiums with your senators, representatives, and governors. Beginning with advocacy at the local level allows everyone’s voice to be heard. This continues every spring when ASCLS takes our issues to Congress in Washington, D.C. This annual event partners ASCLS with other professional laboratory organizations on key issues affecting laboratory testing, education, billing, and reimbursement.

Service: ASCLS promotes the profession as an indispensable and necessary component of healthcare around the world. ASCLS is here to provide services to the membership, and the membership provides services to others. ASCLS offers networking opportunities, continuing education, and the chance to make a difference in the profession. In addition, laboratory professionals are active throughout education, healthcare, and industry, servicing the multifaceted levels of healthcare needs in all areas.

Collaboration: ASCLS promotes collaboration across the healthcare industry and with other professional organizations and industry partners. This is evident at local, regional, and national meetings where members and non-members witness the presence of vendors at all levels to support and promote laboratory science. With the professional partnerships and collaboration fostered in ASCLS, the voice of the laboratory profession can be heard.

Life-Long: As a 25-year member of ASCLS, I have never doubted the commitment the organization and the membership have to quality healthcare and clinical laboratory education. Throughout my participation in ASCLS, from a state student forum representative to a national member of the Board of Directors, I continue to develop friendships at every level of our membership. These friendships provide support during times of personal crisis, support for professional development, and more importantly, another laboratorian that thinks like I do.

Safety: And lastly, but most certainly not the least important, is the commitment of the membership and the organization to patient safety. It is sometimes difficult for other health profession practitioners to understand how a laboratory professional can make a difference when it comes to patient safety. From the pre-analytical phase, where most diagnostic errors are made; to the analytical phase, where the least amount of errors is made; to the post-analytical reporting phase, laboratory professionals constantly review, evaluate, and improve on areas that advance diagnostics, resulting in improvements in patient care.

As our profession moves through these challenging times it is important to remember our commitment to each other, the profession, and the patients. ASCLS provides the opportunity to ensure the future of the profession and quality health care. It is important for everyone to maintain their professional membership, support the organization, and work to meet these challenges head on. Remember what ASCLS can do and find your niche in the organization. It will pay you back 1,000 times more!



Susan Leclair, PhD, Consumer Information Response Team Chair

Knowledge is power. Patients who understand their laboratory results are more likely to participate in their healthcare from a position of knowledge. The Consumer Information (CI) Response Team is a group of ASCLS members who provide this vital service to patients, healthcare providers, and the public by answering their questions about laboratory diagnostic testing.

How it all Began
In the mid-1990s patients began searching for information about their conditions, medications, or how to continue their quality of life with serious illnesses. The Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR) formed with the initial purpose to provide a group for those with cancer to meet and not feel alone. However, this focus expanded with increased questions about tests and treatment.

As ACOR members increased, disease specific subgroups formed. An initial member of the Hem-Onc listserv, I began to answer questions related to laboratory diagnostic tests.

At the 1999 ASCLS Annual Meeting, a group of ASCLS colleagues (the late Joyce Behrens, Nancy Brunsel, Kathy Doig, Lynn Maedel, Tim Randolph, the late Bunny Rodak, and Kathy Waller) gathered and discussed the ACOR and the need for understandable and pointed answers to laboratory test-related questions. The group agreed that ASCLS was the professional organization that could fill this need.

We requested that the ASCLS website have a laboratory test information site that also included a “submit your question” function. This site was provided by ASCLS-PA. The site was not publicized. The first week an average of three questions per day were submitted. By the end of November—only four months after the group formed—the number of questions submitted exploded and the response team requested assistance from the ASCLS Scientific Assembly-Chemistry, Hematology, Immunology, and Microbiology. This expanding community service to the consumer prompted a three-day retreat sponsored by ASCLS to clarify the purpose; strategies for improved implementation of the service; and legal counsel.

In 2000, several laboratory organizations collaborated to form the Lab Tests Online website. Laboratory industry partners provided financial support to develop the site, the other organizations provided web expertise, and the group collaborated to develop the content information about laboratory tests. ASCLS asked the CI to work with Lab Tests Online and answer questions submitted on that site.

What’s Happening Now
Since 2000, more than 75 ASCLS members from across the United States have volunteered for CI, with many of the original members still active. From an average of three questions per day in 1999, a breaking point was reached in 2005 with a little over 200 questions per day.

With insufficient CI members to handle this question load, a cap of 75 questions per day was implemented and is still in effect today. Questions are sent from patients, parents, physicians, nurses, other healthcare providers, lawyers, students, and more. Since its inception, more than 250,000 questions have been answered by the ASCLS CI volunteers.

Over the years the team recognized the critical need for someone to take the time and explain laboratory values. Static information pages are informative, to a point. People want to know what is happening to them, what the test results mean, and that requires a specific “personalized” response.

The CI volunteers do not diagnose; they explain and advise on additional questions that patients can ask their physicians. Patients who want to be active in their healthcare need information. The CI offers a unique and informative service to patients across the world who, maybe for the first time, know there are professionals who work in a clinical laboratory and who produce and explain valuable information.

How it Works
Discipline specific teams—chemistry, hematology, immunology, and microbiology—answer the questions. Volunteers select a discipline and a day of the week to respond. For example, there might be four CI members who selected chemistry and Monday, and each would select one Monday per month.

Training begins with the signing of a formal confidentiality form. An experienced CI member is assigned to mentor and guide new volunteers as they develop their “voice” in answering questions posed by a variety of consumers. Some members have a formal style, while others are more informal. What matters is that the truth be seen in the replies.

Once a new volunteer is comfortable with responding to a variety of types of questions, they select a day of the week and are placed on the rotation schedule. Volunteers are never alone and can reach out to all CI members for advice. In return for the hours of work on the CI, members receive 10 hours of CEUs. The real reward is the responses from the consumers.

“Am I impressed or what! Here I was, alarmed at home, and there you are—right on time with reassurance that nothing that is happening inside my body should keep me pacing the floor at night. What a service! I send you my gratitude. I must tell everyone I know about this service. I have already emailed my own physician. Whoever is funding you may I just say: Money well spent. Keep up the good work. Blessings.”

“Thank you very much for your prompt reply. The service your profession provides is truly remarkable. The fact that you work ‘behind the scenes’ is immaterial to a person who has received correct treatment due to the initial accurate work done by professionals like yourself. God bless you all.”

“You guys are awesome. I found this site about two years ago and have used it about four times. For those of us that seek knowledge, since knowledge is power, I love this site.”

We Need You—Join the CI
Currently there are 51 active CI members. Thank you to our volunteers for their dedication and commitment to providing a critical service to consumers, for promoting the profession, and for putting “A Face to the Name.”

If you are interested in joining the CI, please contact Susan Leclair. Learn more on the Volunteer Opportunities page.


Maddie Josephs, MLS(ASCP)CM, Region I Director

Last year, the ASCLS Board of Directors assembled the Root Cause Task Force to determine the cause of the “lack of leadership—either in experience or volunteers—that leads to vacancies or recycling of individuals.” The charge to the committee did not include an expectation for resolution of this issue. Rather, it was simply to determine the cause.

A survey sent to constituent society leadership revealed results that most would not find surprising. In addition to the recycling of leaders, the survey also revealed an overall lack of activity among members.

Some of our constituent state societies are very healthy, while others are not. Sometimes members get involved to address issues that impact our profession, such as Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) or licensure. While getting involved because of a cause is great, remaining active and volunteering can offer so much more. Learning, camaraderie, and networking provide much gratification for many of us. Still, what is the solution to a lack of leadership and inactivity?

Bi-Modal Membership
The bi-modal age pattern we see in our profession is reflected in our membership. We have many members (professionals) who are in the twilight of their careers (ready to retire). On the other end, we have young professionals who are just starting out. While we have many members whose ages fall in the middle, in exploring some of the root causes to inactivity, a lot of reasons can be attributed to the bi-modal age pattern.

Many of our seasoned members deserve our thanks and admiration for all they have done for our society. But now they are looking forward to days of rest, relaxation, travel, and more. Many are at a point in their lives where they do not want to take on additional responsibilities in ASCLS.

As for our young professionals, this is an exciting time for them as they find their way in the world. They are just beginning their careers, continuing their education, and working, along with developing relationships, perhaps marrying and having children and purchasing homes. They are balancing work with so much more in their young lives. Unfortunately, professional society duties frequently get pushed aside.

I must note that fortunately for ASCLS, there are many recently retired members who have taken on leadership roles in our society as regional directors, committee chairs, mentors, and more. And we have many active and productive young professionals in our society whose contributions are immeasurable. ASCLS is very grateful for all their contributions, but we still have a need for more volunteers in leadership positions.

Nurturing Our Future
The future of ASCLS lies in our members, particularly our younger members. Mentorship and encouragement are integral to our future. Our Leadership Academies have been successful; our Developing Professionals Forum is strong and active; and our Ascending Professionals Forum shows much promise. It is up to more seasoned members to reach out to these young professionals to engage them, yet not overwhelm them.

ASCLS-Central New England recently engaged with an Ascending Professional member for help with developing an app for its Annual Convention, with much success. It was likely a time-consuming task but still a critical part of all the work that goes into planning and executing a large meeting. This young professional now had ownership and pride in a new initiative for the state constituent society. It was a win-win situation.

Last October, Region I and Region II began a regional Leadership Academy. The members of the academy meet once per month via conference call, using a great model for introducing young professionals to the intricacies of ASCLS. Our society members present one topic each month with time for questions following the call. If a Leadership Academy member cannot call into the conference, the sessions are recorded so they can listen at their convenience.

This model has so far introduced new professional members to the history of ASCLS, leadership and goal setting, and team building. This generous investment in time by leaders in our society is providing a wonderful resource that will hopefully develop these new professional members into our future society leaders.

It’s an exciting time for ASCLS, with changes on the horizon. Mentoring, teaching, and engaging new professionals is vital to the future of our society. But all these initiatives take time, and time, or lack of it, seems to be an underlying reason why so many of our members are inactive in ASCLS.

It’s time to break this cycle and work together to ensure the healthy future of our organization. Leaders need to reach out to inactive members to engage them. Maybe they can be assigned to just one task. Lastly, it is important to recognize their contributions.