Mary Ann McLane, PhD, ASCLS Past President
Back in 2017, when I received the ASCLS Lifetime Achievement Award, I commented that, “Retirement does not mean that I am dead. You haven’t seen anything yet!” Retirement became a true reality in January 2019, with no more paychecks, joining Medicare, and moving to a retirement community in Dover, Delaware.
Since then I have reflected a bit on, “How much will I really stay involved in ASCLS?” This usually followed thoughts of, “Can I afford that river cruise to Europe this fall?” and saying “No” to those at my retirement community who see me as their answer to re-energizing the local activity committees.
I truly do appreciate my increased “free” time, but I now find my 40-year-old mantra of “Provide the Face” surfacing in the most unique places. As my new neighbors get to know me, I discover I am starting from scratch with folks who have no idea who we medical laboratory scientists (MLSs) are. Yes, I have handled that question of, “So you are a nurse?” repeatedly. But that only emphasizes how much we all need to witness continually to the special nature of this profession and those who choose to journey with it.
“Ever since I passed the certification exam in 1976, it always bothered me that this career I loved so dearly was invisible to my family, other healthcare colleagues, and the general public.”
For Medical Laboratory Professionals Week this April, I placed a sign on the cabinet in the lobby of my apartment building. It generated questions and discussion, including the origin of the name of the week. You may not realize that the week used to be called “National Medical Laboratory Week.” Ever since I passed the certification exam in 1976, it always bothered me that this career I loved so dearly was invisible to my family, other healthcare colleagues, and the general public. It was true that we insulated ourselves behind the lab doors (for safety reasons, of course!) and had negligible contact with patients or clinicians. So why should I be surprised?
Nonetheless, in 2004 I challenged the ASCLS Board of Directors (and all the powers-that-be at that time) by insisting that week in April seemed, by title, to celebrate the room rather than the professionals. I wrote an article in ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals, calling on all of us in the field never to accept that nameless, faceless attitude and always be ready to describe, in an “elevator speech,” what our critical role is in healthcare. To this day, mine is: “I am one of over 300,000 professionals in this country who design, perform, and maintain the quality assurance of the billions of diagnostic lab tests done in this country every year.”
I count it as one of my own personal career achievements that the week’s name was soon changed to “Medical Laboratory Professionals Week.” I made the “Provide the Face” mantra the theme of my 2009-10 ASCLS presidential year and have given many seminars on the topic. My new neighbors here are excited at my proposal to give a talk on “Understanding My Lab Tests.” It goes to show that one person can make a difference … even now at age 70 and retired.
Mary Ann McLane is a retired professor from the University of Delaware, still providing the face of medical laboratory professionals, living in Dover, Delaware.