ASCLS Today Volume 33, Number 6

ASCLSToday Masthead 680

Volume 33, Number 6


Cindy Johnson, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

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.

The ASCLS Board of Directors spent the last societal year revising the ASCLS Strategy Map and focusing on our “why” (our purpose) as a laboratory professional organization. It became evident that we need to find ways to advance the expertise of clinical laboratory professionals as stated in our unique critical objective above.

This can be accomplished by promoting our profession. Clinical laboratory professionals are the “heroes in lab coats,” impacting the lives of others as they often work behind the scenes. It’s time for us to break out of the basement, celebrate our contributions to patient care, and share our stories with our communities.

Strategies to enhance your professional visibility may include:

1. Share your knowledge. You are the expert in laboratory medicine. Interprofessional healthcare team meetings provide a great opportunity to show the value of your work. This professional sharing can be done through a case study presentation or discussion of new technology that may enhance laboratory test results.

2. Develop your “elevator speech.” You have a limited amount of time (15-45 seconds) to make a connection when you are walking down the hallway, standing in the elevator, or meeting someone for the first time. This is a perfect time to engage in an informal conversation that highlights the work you do. Make sure that your “elevator speech” is brief, interesting, and memorable.

For example: “As a medical laboratory scientist I have the opportunity to provide patient test results that helps the physician to diagnosis and monitor diseases.”

3. Become a mentor. Mentoring is about helping another person learn through a one-to-one relationship. This could be accomplished by training a new employee or teaching medical laboratory students. Mentors are extremely valuable as they have the ability to transfer vast knowledge and promote best practices. It is also an effective way to develop new leaders.

4. Speak at a health science career fair. Volunteer to talk with elementary school, middle school, high school, or college students about medical laboratory careers. ASCLS offers the Career Recruitment Tool Kit with a collection of recruitment materials and activities that can be used to assist in giving a presentation.

5. Participate in health fairs. One of the most recognizable forms of community-based health promotion are health fairs. Engaging with the public while performing laboratory screening tests can be an enriching experience. Provide the attendees with a laboratory fact sheet that explains their test results. The ASCLS Patient Safety Matters webpage has many resources, such as Patient Safety Tips Brochures for Patients and Providers.

6. Volunteer. There are many opportunities to utilize your expertise and skills. Dedicating time as a volunteer can build self-confidence while contributing to a worthwhile cause. Whether you are participating in a local charity walk, manning a water station at a local race, or representing the laboratory for a fundraising event at work, helping out with the smallest tasks can create a real difference in the lives of people and organizations in need.

Many of my colleagues have shared these strategies with me over the past 35 years of my laboratory career. I was encouraged to come “out of the laboratory basement” and promote the profession. It takes courage, but it is important to share your story because what you do DOES matter!

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


Maddie Josephs, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President-Elect

Q. What is missing within ASCLS or other laboratory professional organizations that limits our ability to recruit and maintain members?

A. While I would like to address this issue within ASCLS, I suspect the reasons for these limitations and solutions would be very similar across all laboratory organizations. Over the past several years, our profession has undergone rapid demographic and technological change that has transformed ASCLS and the nature of our work itself. But there is one thing that hasn’t changed since our profession began.

I would like you to consider one word: VISIBILITY.

Visibility is a noun that is defined as follows: The state of being able to see or be seen. For example, it can mean: The distance one can see as determined by light or weather conditions. It can also mean the degree to which something has attracted general attention or prominence.

Let’s consider our organization and our profession. We perform our duties, every day, all day, in a laboratory. We are out of the sight of vision of patients, physicians, other healthcare professionals, and frankly, out of the public eye. We can’t change the fact that we are the behind the scenes heroes. We need our laboratories to carry out our important work.

“ASCLS lives up to its mission of making a positive impact in healthcare, and our focus should continue on helping our committees utilize the tools necessary to increase our visibility and support the next generation of leaders, and in turn, to increase our membership.”

Fortunately, a number of initiatives and programs both within and outside of ASCLS has taken us out of the lab and already improved our visibility. But there is still work to be done.

Point of care (POC) testing has been impactful, but we cannot possibly do everything at the point of care, not to mention that all of testing is not always performed by laboratorians.

Licensure, which has proven to be a polarizing issue among many medical laboratory professionals, I believe, is essential. If we are to be considered healthcare professionals, then we should be licensed, as are all other healthcare professionals who exercise independent judgement every day. But only a fraction of states has licensure for our profession. As an organization, we need to re-examine our approach to licensure and provide resources to our states to help them pursue a professional license.

The Doctor of Clinical Laboratory Science (DCLS) model has brought our profession to the front lines of healthcare, and the formation of interdisciplinary teams makes us more prominent among other professionals.

But all of this still begs the question: in our professional organizations, how can we increase membership and retention?

I truly believe that the problem and the solution is two-fold. As laboratory professionals, we need to be visible to healthcare consumers; and as a professional organization, we need to be visible to all laboratory professionals. We are ASCLS members because we value the Society. We have value both as a profession and as a professional organization. We need to determine a mechanism to deliver that value to others.

ASCLS lives up to its mission of making a positive impact in healthcare, and our focus should continue on helping our committees utilize the tools necessary to increase our visibility and support the next generation of leaders, and in turn, to increase our membership. This begins with a commitment to mentoring, promotion, and communication.

Thanks to competent and thoughtful leaders before me, several projects and existing and new committees are poised to benefit our Society and address our limitations with recruitment and retention.

The Root Cause Task Force, through a comprehensive survey, provided our Board of Directors with some insight as to why we are recycling leadership and helped us to understand why some of our state constituent societies are struggling. And now, the Constituent Society Task Force will continue this important work.

The Promotion of the Profession Committee continues to bring the visibility we need to our profession as well as to ASCLS. Some important initiatives like our participation in the National Science Fair, thanks to Mary Ann McLane, have raised our profile as a profession.

The Mentorship Program was created to provide a supportive environment that fosters a feeling of value as a member of ASCLS. This year the program grew by 50 percent and paired up nearly 45 mentor/mentee partnerships, compared to 30 partnerships in 2018.

Lastly, our new Marketing and Communications Committee has drafted communication goals to bring our story to stakeholders like patients, laboratory professionals, and other healthcare professionals. I am excited to see the committee’s next steps.

The framework is in place and we have the tools. As president-elect, I will endeavor to help implement these tools and lead this organization by helping to fulfill the goals of these important committees.

I have been on the Board of Directors for the past six years. These years have been an incredible learning experience, and I have been so fortunate to collaborate with current and past leaders. I have had many opportunities for professional growth, and I have seen some momentous changes in our organization.

One of the things ASCLS Executive Vice President Jim Flanigan asked us to do as a board was to think outside of the box and consider all possibilities. For example, what if ASCLS had 30,000 members? What if we gained more prominence in the healthcare environment? What if licensure for laboratory professionals was required in every state? And most radically, what if we had a national campaign to bring recognition to both our profession and our professional organization? Because I don’t think we can raise our profile as an organization without raising the profile of our profession.

So really, nothing is missing in ASCLS. We have the tools at our disposal, and we can all work together with our committees and partners to use these tools. I believe that both increased recognition of our profession and increased recognition of our Society will result in increased recruitment and retention of members. This is our opportunity to work together to show our value to others, to make our organization strong and visible, and I am ready to lead that charge.

Maddie Josephs is professor/department chair of the Allied Health Department at the Community College of Rhode Island in Lincoln, Rhode Island.



ASCLS and AGT members who played critical roles in negotiating the NCA and BOR merger and who served on the initial Board of Governors of the BOC came together during the 2019 Joint Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, in June. Front row from left: Denise Anamani, Kathy Hansen, and Amy Groszbach. Back row from left: Linda Smith, Helen Bixenman, Scott Aikey, Susan Beck, and Kathy Doig.

Ten years ago, this October, the National Credentialing Agency and the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Registry (BOR) joined to form the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (BOC). The original three sponsors remain the BOC sponsors today—ASCLS, the Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT), and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). The 2019 inaugural Joint Annual Meeting of ASCLS and AGT in Charlotte, North Carolina, was the perfect opportunity to bring together individuals who played critical roles in negotiating the merger and serving on the initial Board of Governors of the BOC.

The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA) was formed in the late 1970s by ASCLS—then the American Society for Medical Technology—to offer certification that was not influenced by pathologists. Independent credentialing is a hallmark of an independent profession. The NCA tagline to convey this value was, “Certification for the profession, by the profession.” Sharing this philosophy, AGT joined later to credential cytogenetic and, eventually, molecular scientists. The NCA adopted best practices in certification including the expectation of continuing education to maintain an active credential; a practice that was not expected by the BOR.

Dr. Blair Holliday, current ASCP CEO, then BOR Executive Director, approached the NCA Board of Directors about a merger in the fall of 2005. Thus, began discussions that continued over four years, culminating in the formation of the BOC. The final agreement was signed in fall of 2009 with the NCA dissolving and the BOR morphing into the BOC. A year later, the BOC began certifying individuals as medical laboratory scientists (MLS). MT(ASCP) certificants were offered the opportunity to update to MLS. For a limited time, NCA clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) and molecular biology specialist (CLSp(MB)) certificants were offered the opportunity to transfer their credentials to the BOC as MLS and molecular biology (MB), respectively.

“The formation of the BOC has indeed achieved goals that were inherent from the beginning of the discussions. The smaller influence of pathologists on the BOC, as compared to the BOR, is in keeping with NCA’s original philosophy. In addition, the requirement for credential maintenance (CM) is consistent with NCA’s early expectation of continuing education.”

The formation of the BOC has indeed achieved goals that were inherent from the beginning of the discussions. The smaller influence of pathologists on the BOC, as compared to the BOR, is in keeping with NCA’s original philosophy. In addition, the requirement for credential maintenance (CM) is consistent with NCA’s early expectation of continuing education. Significantly, the main goal, to reduce confusion and complications regarding certification and credentials for students, other potential certificants, and employers, was certainly accomplished with the formation of the BOC.

It is fitting that we mark the 10-year anniversary of the founding of the BOC with appreciation and celebration. Thanks go first to the founders and stewards of NCA from 1978-2009, who carried the torch for “certification for the profession, by the profession.” Their vision led to a better and stronger BOC that is significantly different from the BOR. Thanks go also to the ASCLS and AGT members who have served on the BOC Board of Governors through the first transitional years to make the merger work. This was no easy task to blend two corporate cultures and modes of operation into one. As a result, we can celebrate together as the BOC enters its second decade, dedicated to setting and enforcing quality standards for entry to our laboratory professions and continuing credential maintenance.

Kathy Doig is professor emeritus, Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics, at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.


Janelle M. Chiasera, PhD, ASCLS Region III Director

Figure 1: The Golden Circle and The Human Brain

This past spring ASCLS provided a unique opportunity for members to participate in a leadership book discussion. The book selected for discussion was Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek. Participants were asked to purchase the book and to prepare for monthly discussions using Zoom. This article provides a recap of the salient points contained in the book and some additional information about how to apply Sinek’s “WHY” to discover your purpose.

As Sinek puts it, “the book is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting, and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them.” The funny thing is … this way of thinking is the complete opposite of the way everyone else thinks. The good news is, you can learn how to do this, and that is the purpose of this book.

Sinek says that it is all about inspiring people. Inspiring leaders can create a following of people who act not because they are swayed, but because they believe in acting for the good of the whole. They act not because they have to, but because they want to. Sadly, in today’s world, inspiration is not the norm.

“[P]eople do not buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

How Do Leaders Inspire?
So, how can you inspire others? You need to follow what Sinek describes as the naturally occurring pattern of thinking found in all inspiring leaders—they start with WHY. Sinek calls this, “The Golden Circle” (see Figure 1). The concept of The Golden Circle was inspired by the golden ratio, a simple mathematical relationship that offers evidence of order in the seeming disorder of nature. Sinek says that The Golden Circle finds order of predictability in human behavior. In other words, it helps us understand why we do what we do.

The Golden Circle is comprised of three areas, WHY, HOW, and WHAT. The inner most circle, the WHY, is your purpose, your belief, your cause. The HOW refers to the specific actions taken by you or your organization to help realize the WHY. The WHAT portion of The Golden Circle refers to what you do, and it is often a result of your why. When most people think, act, or communicate, they tend to do so from the outside of the circle to the inside of the circle (what, how, then why). In other words, they tell you what they do, how they do it, and then try to articulate their why.

For example, if the company Apple thought from the outside in, they might sound like this:

We make great computers. (WHAT)
They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. (HOW)
Do you want to buy one?

Sinek claims that this is uninspiring. Inspiring leaders and inspirational organizations think, act, and communicate from the inside out. To use the Apple example again, it would sound like this:

Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. (WHY)
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. (HOW)
We just happen to make great computers. (WHAT)
Do you want to buy one?

It’s a completely different message. Apple is selling you on their why, their purpose, their belief, not on what they do. Sinek says that this distinction is important because people do not buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. This is what creates brand loyalty because people get inspired by your WHY.

The Biology of WHY
The interesting thing about this is that it is not opinion, it is biology. The principles of The Golden Circle are deeply grounded in the evolution of human behavior. As you see in Figure 1, the three portions of The Golden Circle correspond with the limbic brain or the neocortex. The portion of the brain known as the neocortex corresponds to the WHAT level of The Golden Circle, and is responsible for rational thought, analytical thought, and language. The middle two sections comprise the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for our feelings (trust, loyalty), for our behavior, and for our decision-making. The limbic brain has no capacity for language and because of this, it makes putting our feelings into words so hard for us sometimes. This is where the term “gut decisions” comes from. Gut decisions just feel right.

There is no part of the stomach that controls decision-making—this is all happening in the limbic brain. This is why Sinek says that we need to learn how to think, act, and communicate starting from the inside of The Golden Circle—The WHY. It targets our limbic brain and that portion of our brain is powerful enough to drive behavior that sometimes contradicts our rational and analytical thought.

I challenge you to try this for yourself. Try to articulate this for ASCLS. Why does ASCLS do what we do (our cause, our belief), how does ASCLS do what it does (our actions), and what does ASCLS do? Remember, nothing worthwhile is easy.

Janelle Chiasera is dean of the School of Health Sciences and professor of biomedical sciences at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.


During an ASCLS constituent society leadership development workshop at the 2019 ASCLS-AGT Joint Annual Meeting, book club participants shared some of their key take-aways from the experience.

Toula Castillo, MLS(ASCP)CM, 2018-19 ASCLS-IL President

Three main items from Start with Why stood out for Toula.

1. The Concept of Engineering. In his book, Simon Sinek gives an example of two different approaches to engineering. American auto engineers fixed imperfections in car doors at the end of the assembly line by hitting the doors with a mallet. In Japan, auto makers fixed imperfections in the design room before the cars hit the assembly room floor. This anecdote made Toula think about the ways medical laboratory professionals approach problems.

“Having been in the profession and ASCLS for over 20 years,” said Toula, “I know with every fiber of my being that we know how to fix problems. It’s what we do. And we are good at it. But maybe we need to change the lens on how we fix the problem. Rather than focusing on every detail to figure out what went wrong after the fact, we instead engineer the outcome we want by asking, why are we here in the first place?”

2. Trust and Value. Sinek explains in his book that, “Trust is a feeling, not a rational experience.” It can’t be achieved with checklists or by simply fulfilling all your obligations. You also have very little time to establish trust.

“Trust begins with that first impulse,” Toula said. “If you meet someone for the first time, or the second time—and it’s been a year since you saw them at a national meeting, perhaps—maybe instead of looking at their name badges, look at their eyes, smile, and ask their name.”

As for value, Sinek believes that, “Value is the transference of trust.”

Toula said, “When we say, people don’t value what we do, what we are really saying is that we don’t feel that people trust us. But why don’t they trust us? Is it because we aren’t licensed? Is it because they don’t see us and what we do? We know what we do. And for me that’s enough.”

3. Innovation. “Real innovation changes the course of industries or even societies,” according to Sinek. However, many “innovations” can merely be shiny objects designed to attract people to try something new. A new gimmick might work, but rarely does it cement a loyal relationship.

“Rarely do people join our organization because they’ve received a free membership,” Toula said. “Kate Bernhardt, president-elect for ASCLS-IL, wrote, ‘I firmly believe that your ASCLS membership becomes more meaningful the more involved you get,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”

Jessica Lawless, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Ascending Professionals Forum Vice Chair

A self-described “hard truth kind of girl,” Jessica found one of the most interesting concepts of the book to be what Sinek calls, “the split.” A split happens to successful companies when the clarity of their WHY starts to go fuzzy. A common time for this to happen is when a longtime leader who embodies the company’s WHY leaves.

When Jessica read this, she thought, “That’s interesting. These companies had their leader for a long time. ASCLS has a very liquid leadership.” Leaders at local, state, regional, and national levels can change every year. This can affect the clarity of our message and, in turn, our ability to recruit new members and retain members in the Society.

“So, we all know why we are here,” Jessica said. “We know what we want. We know we’re passionate. But maybe that [ASCLS] WHY has gotten a little watered down, or a little fuzzy. And I’m speaking as a new person. I know that I’m passionate about this, but sometimes even as a new person it’s really hard to recruit because of that fuzziness. ... It may be as simple as going back to why we’re all here and clarifying that WHY, so we can all rise with one voice.”


Eykka Gundlach, Chair
I am a student at the University of Minnesota and currently in clinical rotations. I’ll graduate with my BS in medical laboratory science in December. When I’m not focused on schoolwork, I enjoy knitting and spending time with my fiancé and our cats—Heisenberg and Rosalyn.

I got involved with ASCLS in 2017 after asking one of my professors about our campus MLS club. From this conversation, she knew I was passionate about laboratory science and recommended me for Minnesota’s student representative when this position was vacant. My role as student representative allowed me the chance to attend the 2018 ASCLS Annual Meeting in Chicago. I was blown away by the networking opportunities, education offered, and how great the trip was! This summer I attended the Joint Annual Meeting in Charlotte and had a blast again. I am thrilled that I was elected Developing Professionals Forum chair, and I look forward to promoting medical laboratory science and ASCLS this year through my new position.

Contact Eykka.

JD Hollowell, Vice Chair
My name is James Hollowell, but I have always gone by JD. I hail from the small town of Vidalia, Louisiana. I’m a senior at the University of Louisiana-Monroe in my second year of our medical laboratory science program. I am just finishing up my very first clinical rotation, which is hematology at Oschner LSU Health here in Monroe. Next I will be traveling to LifeShare Blood Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, for my blood bank rotation.

Our program is led by an amazing group of professors who have always encouraged us to become involved in our professional society. Last year, we hosted the annual LSCLS/ASCLS-MS Bi-State Meeting, and I saw firsthand what it is like when professional society members come together. I saw old colleagues and former classmates reunite, new friendships form, and an amazing gathering of people who share many of the same interests. The most important shared interest was having a passion for our profession.

At the LA-MS Bi-State Meeting I was inspired to run for secretary of the Developing Professionals Forum for LSCLS. After I was elected, I knew that I wanted to become involved at a national level, so I started planning to attend the ASCLS-AGT Joint Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Many of our state society members are heavily involved with ASCLS, and I heard so many of them talk about their experiences at national meetings. I knew this was an opportunity I could not miss!

My time in Charlotte absolutely solidified my passion for ASCLS and provided me with the tools I need to spread that passion and encourage others in our incredible field to join in on the fun. I love being outdoors and spending time with my friends and family. My favorite thing in the whole world is making other people laugh. I think if I wasn’t a medical laboratory scientist, I would be trying to land a role on Saturday Night Live. My big post-graduation goal is to adopt my own dog, because I never could do that growing up.

Contact JD.

Rebecca Wagner, Secretary
Originally from the Houston, Texas, area, I graduated from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi on August 10, 2019, with my BS in clinical laboratory sciences. On August 29 I passed my MLS(ASCP) certification exam. I am very excited about both of these huge milestones, and I cannot wait to start my career in the medical field.

I learned about ASCLS through my professors and became interested in becoming a member. I attended the ASCLS Joint Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, this year where I presented research that I had worked on with a few of my classmates. At this meeting, I was able to connect and interact with others in the clinical laboratory science field and create new lifelong friendships with people from all across the country. It is an honor to be the Developing Professionals Forum 2019-20 secretary, and I look forward to helping in any way I can this upcoming year.

Contact Rebecca.

The Developing Professionals Forum is open to all ASCLS Developing Professional (student) members.