ASCLS Today Volume 34, Number 6

ASCLSToday Masthead 680

Volume 34, Number 6


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

Maddie JosephsIt is an honor and a privilege to serve as the next president of ASCLS. During my candidate speech last year in Charlotte, North Carolina, I addressed the visibility of both our profession and our organization. As I assume this role, I will work hard to represent this organization well and will strive to increase our visibility among other healthcare professionals and the general public.

But first, I would like to tell you a little bit about myself and my journey to this point. I come from the great state of Rhode Island, whose motto is “HOPE.” While it is the smallest state in the union, to me, it is home with the most beautiful coastline, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else.

I grew up in a very loving and supportive family, the youngest of three children and the only girl. I met John, my husband and best friend, at a summer job. We married after college and raised three beautiful, smart, and successful children—Andrew; Lindsay, and her husband Noah; and Lauren, and her husband Brendan. I am so very fortunate to have their love and support.

It seems that everyone has a story about how they became interested in this profession, whether through a class they attended in high school or a teacher or mentor who encouraged them to pursue the field of laboratory science. I do not remember how I chose this career, but I knew in the eighth grade that this was the career I wanted. During high school, I volunteered two days per week in a lab at a small community-based hospital. This experience only served to enhance my love of the lab and this profession.

After graduating from high school, I attended Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. For my clinical year, which I still refer to as one of the best years of my life, I attended St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Medical Technology in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduation, I started my career at Roger Williams Hospital, in Providence, in the Chemistry Department. After one year I became the clinical instructor and coordinator at the hospital for the MLT students from the Community College of Rhode Island; this is where I discovered my love for teaching. To be able to combine my passion for this profession with teaching was a dream come true. Several years later, I was contacted by the community college program director and asked if I would teach Clinical Chemistry. I just completed 31 years at the college. I am currently the chair of the Allied Health Department, overseeing nine programs and the director for the MLT and HT programs.

One of my biggest regrets is that I was never encouraged to join ASCLS as a student or as a young professional. It wasn’t until I was at the college and I was asked to speak at an ASCLS-Central New England (CNE) spring meeting that I saw the magic that occurs behind the scenes. I joined ASCLS at that meeting. The next year, I was asked to join the Meeting Committee, and the year after that I was elected secretary of ASCLS-CNE. The rest, as they say, is history. As an educator, I now make sure that my students are aware of who we are and what we do, and I strongly encourage their participation.

Which brings us to today: Not to sound cliché, but no one could ever have imagined the challenges and changes this entire world has seen over the past six months. No one has been immune to this. We have been dealt a painful reminder that there is so much that we cannot control and to never take anything for granted. But through this unprecedented time, medical laboratory professionals have kept on going in their calm and confident manner and have continued to work, learn, educate, advocate, and to make a difference. I could not be prouder of my colleagues on the front lines who represent who we are and what we do.

And while it took a pandemic, the value of the medical laboratory professional has been highlighted. We saw our “laboratories in the news” because ASCLS Past President Jim Griffith suggested a letter writing campaign to local media highlighting the role of the lab, and many of our letters were published. In addition, ASCLS Executive Vice President Jim Flanigan has participated in interviews for the LA Times, the PBS News Hour, and National Public Radio (NPR) and made the role of the medical laboratory professionals quite clear from the start. ASCLS members and staff have participated around the country on state governors’ task forces, social media platforms, and on CDC webinars.

This is the momentum we need to keep going, and it takes all of us as ASCLS members and laboratory professionals to do this. The world around us has changed, as has ASCLS. Not just because of COVID-19, but because of our changing demographics and our evolving technologies. Professional organizations that don’t consistently look ahead and anticipate and facilitate change will be left behind. Fortunately, ASCLS will not be one of those organizations left behind because of the investments we have made in resources that will ensure our ability to deliver value to our members.

Constituent Society Task Force

During this past year, the Board of Directors heard and learned much from the Constituent Society Task Force and has made the decision to make helping our state societies a priority. We have known for a very long time that many of our state societies were struggling with issues revolving around leadership and that they needed some guidance with procedural matters. Throughout our long-range planning process, we made the decision to develop guidelines and standards to assist our state societies, to ensure the smooth transition from one leader to another, and to help young leaders as they ascend to their new roles.

House of Delegates Task Force

The House of Delegates (HOD) Task Force, whose work will continue this year, has been charged with reviewing the roles and duties of the HOD. While their work is not yet completed, they have been very introspective and are taking this task very seriously.

Virtual Learning Steering Committee

Because the Society has invested in the resources and infrastructure necessary to support online continuing education, the newly formed Virtual Learning Steering Committee will lead the Society’s efforts in virtual learning, which includes webinars and webcasts, all delivered through, our learning management system. The new group will be responsible for coordinating with virtual learning initiatives already underway within other volunteer leadership groups and for developing curriculum that will identify educational gaps and topics.

Emerging Managers Conference

The ASCLS Emerging Managers Virtual Conference, which we are targeting for Fall of 2020, is another initiative that aligns with our strategic framework. As an entire generation of laboratory professionals retires, and as many younger and less experienced laboratory professionals are being asked to assume management positions, there is a need to help prepare these younger professionals for thier new roles. This conference, which will be guided by volunteers, will utilize the resources that ASCLS has in place to hold virtual conferences, just like the successful ASCLS & AGT Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) we held this summer.

Town Hall Meetings

During the 2020 Joint Annual Meeting, I heard a common theme from many ASCLS members that revolved around the implementation of a Town Hall. We know other organizations do this successfully, and I would like to work with the Board of Directors to institute a Virtual Town Hall to engage all ASCLS members, keep them informed, and give them a voice. I encourage participation by all.

CLS Journal

With regard to our journal, I, along with the Board of Directors and the journal’s editorial board, will do what is necessary to help get Clinical Laboratory Science into an acceptable format. We understand that publishing a journal is one aspect of being a professional society, and we want our members to continue to submit to Clinical Laboratory Science. To all those members who expressed concern, the Board hears you, we share your concern, and we will take action.

Addressing Social Disparities in Healthcare

And lastly, I want to assure you all that ASCLS will use the talents and skills of our members to identify and implement solutions to social disparities in healthcare. Our work begins now.


There was such great energy at the 2020 JAM throughout the entire week, and we need to harness this energy and positivity. The Board of Directors and I will do our part to keep this momentum going but we will rely on all of you to continue to spread the word, to spread the energy, and keep our profession and our professional organization visible.

Individually, we have many roles—professionals, educators and advocates, spouses, parents, grandparents, children, and much more. But collectively, we are all THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CLINICAL LABORATORY SCIENCE. I look forward to collaborating with you, and I thank you for having confidence in me to achieve our goals.

Maddie Josephs is Associate Professor/Director of CLT and HT Programs at the Community College of Rhode Island in Lincoln, Rhode Island.


Hassan Aziz, PhD, FACSs, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President-Elect

Hassan AzizQ. There is much to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and ASCLS is in a unique position to teach flexibility and resiliency to members who may be just starting in the profession, reinventing their career paths, or utilizing their expertise to help reimagine the delivery of patient care. How will you lead and support all ASCLS members through the significant changes and uncertainty laboratory professionals will continue to encounter during this rapidly evolving crisis?

A. Every generation has faced its share of challenges, and there is no doubt that these are challenging times for our profession, our Society, and our country. The world is experiencing a pandemic, a significant financial crisis, and levels of uncertainty most of us have never experienced. The setbacks we are facing today may take months or years to recover from.

A crisis typically plays out over three timeframes:

  • Respond, in which we manage continuity of operations and deal with the present situation.
  • Recover, where we learn and emerge stronger.
  • Thrive, where we prepare for and shape the “next normal.”

A leader has the substantial responsibility to nimbly consider all three timeframes concurrently and allocate resources accordingly. Within the framework of these broad frames, I plan to take tactical steps to elevate these qualities during the current crisis, to blunt its impact, and to help the Society emerge stronger. With the right approach, we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to move us forward and create even more value and positive impact, rather than just bounce back to the status quo.

“While leading the Society, my philosophy will be to discern how the changes we are experiencing can be harnessed to yield meaningful results for all members of the Society.”

My Plan Leading ASCLS

An essential focus in a crisis is to recognize the impact that uncertainty is having on the members of the Society. At such times, a leader must express empathy and compassion for the human side of the current calamity. Yet amid the crisis, our purpose as a Society should remain steadfast: It’s never negotiable. Purpose is to design from the heart and the head.

In the middle of a crisis, we are faced with a flurry of urgent issues across what seems like innumerable fronts. As a leader of the Society, I will put the mission first and zero in on the most pressing of these, establishing priority areas that can quickly cascade.

During a pandemic, there will be many “known unknowns.” A leader collects as much data as possible to reach an informed decision when prompt action is required. When the crisis is over, we will have the opportunity to conduct a thorough review to see how to improve information quality in future crises. Setting regular, shorter, and more frequent communications to ASCLS members is critical. Incomplete or conflicting communications can slow our response rather than provide better guidance.

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must embrace the long view and take a more assertive and longer-term approach that can spark innovations that will define the “next normal.” COVID-19 is likely to accelerate fundamental and structural changes that were inevitable in any case but are now likely to occur far faster than they would otherwise.

Consider that the “virtualization” of work has been evolving steadily. Today, all around the world, we are learning to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate on virtual platforms, and understanding the increased efficacy and efficiency such modalities of work and meetings can provide. Virtual collaboration tools are likely to create new opportunities to ASCLS and the constituent societies.

A Test of Resilient Leadership

COVID-19 is a test within which resilient leadership is refined and enhanced. Acting without perfect information and minimal amount of time, a leader must guide the Society through myriad decisions and challenges, with significant implications for the whole organization.

As a leader of ASCLS,

  • I certainly exhibit the clarity to lead from the heart and the head
  • I will inspire the membership to persevere through this crisis
  • I will work hard to position us to thrive and emerge in a better place

Crises like these, with deep challenges to be navigated, will also lead to opportunities for learning and deepening trust with all stakeholders, while equipping ASCLS for a step change that creates more value for the Society as a whole. The essence of an association is the ability to involve its membership and provide a forum for the exchange of information. Thus, I view ASCLS as an “organization of professionals” not simply a “professional organization.” While leading the Society, my philosophy will be to discern how the changes we are experiencing can be harnessed to yield meaningful results for all members of the Society.

In closing, I want to thank all laboratory professionals for their commitment to and passion for the profession. Thank you for the heroic frontline role you are playing in the fight against this pandemic.

Hassan Aziz is Executive Associate Dean for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs and Professor of Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.


Kim Von Ahsen, MHA, MLS(ASCP)CMSLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region VI Director

Colorful hands clasped
Photo by Tim Mossholder, Unsplash

2020 has been a year of extraordinary challenges—a global pandemic, social unrest, and political uncertainty; however, I believe that it’s also brought a positive focus to the laboratory profession, diversity, and advocacy.

Steve Jobs, when speaking about Apple in the late 1980s, said, “Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” There is a sense in the world right now that we are in one of those moments, a moment where WE can influence the future, either collectively through our efforts in ASCLS or individually.

At the 2020 Joint Annual Meeting, ASCLS embraced the moment to influence the future by ending the meeting with the Closing Keynote by Leonard Egede, MD, MS on “Understanding Health Disparities and Social Determinants of Health: A New Era for Health Care Professionals.” In addition, the Board of Directors expanded its efforts to ensure representation on key committees such as the Virtual Learning Steering Committee and the Marketing and Communication Committee with the addition of representatives from the Diversity Advocacy Council.

Witnessing this momentum from a professional standpoint, I wondered what I could do to ensure that as a leader, but more fundamentally as a human, how I could be more mindfully diverse in my actions. Here is what I’ve been working on that I hope will help anyone looking for their own journey to be more mindfully diverse.

  • Seek to provide staff education in diversity and inclusion. This education is not only focused on laboratory medicine and diversity impacts but also education to staff about respecting the unique differences of their patients and peers.
  • Participate in and encourage, if not already available, employer diversity and inclusion initiatives.
    • Identify staff to serve on organizational Diversity and Inclusion Committees.
    • Support staff use of pronouns in email signatures and other position title documents, such as business cards.
    • Implement indicators of allyship to patients. For example, our organization has the Diversity Rainbow as a choice on a hospital-provided badge reel to identify to patients and staff as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Engage in uncomfortable conversations with colleagues and peers to highlight bias and educate on social determinants.
  • Seek diversity in hobbies such as books, podcasts, music, and movies. Actively introduce new and different voices.
  • Support local businesses that have a diversity focus/mission or have diverse ownership.
  • Participate in learning opportunities, such as cultural fairs or other community events.
  • Show allyship in social media profiles, such as pronouns.
  • Question without self-judgement and self-criticism of one’s own thoughts, assumptions, and prejudices. Ask yourself why you had that thought and how you can learn and grow with empathy and respect.

Mindfulness, as an individual and as an association, is how we will influence the future of laboratory medicine and, most importantly, elevate and celebrate the unique, diverse, and vital individuals who comprise our profession and our world.

Kim Von Ahsen is Client Services Manager, Clinical Laboratory, at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa.


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

Children holding sign that says Thank You Heroes in Lab CoatsWOW … what a year it has been! Last year I introduced you to the Johnson Bunch; never imagining that this extremely shy, youngest member of the family would serve as the 2019-20 American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science president. It has been an honor and privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated medical laboratory professionals. Thank you for your guidance and support during some challenging times.

Our unique critical objective states that:

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.

A year ago, I challenged you to find your “Why.” What is your passion as it relates to the practice of clinical laboratory science? Many of you did just that, displaying the reasons that you chose this remarkable profession.

The Society year started off with the ASCLS Board of Directors, committees, and task forces focusing on our three major strategic pillars of Community, Knowledge, and Advocacy, which support our unique critical objective. I encourage you, if you have not done so already, to spend time on the ASCLS website to see all the great work that these members have accomplished during this past year. Thank you to all of our volunteers, for without you, we would not have succeeded in achieving significant milestones outlined within our strategy map.

“[M]ost importantly, you have been a patient advocate … assuring that healthcare team members have the necessary laboratory information to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease.”

Hindsight is 20/20 sums up the past six months. At the end of February, many of us were able to spend time together learning and networking, as there was record breaking attendance at the 2020 Clinical Laboratory Educators Conference (CLEC) in Orlando, Florida. Little did we know that this may be the last time that we would be face-to-face as a laboratory community for who knows how long.

Yes, the Coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, and widely referred to as COVID-19, would disrupt both our personal and professional lives.

But you, my fellow laboratory colleagues, were up to the challenge throughout this pandemic. As the laboratory community was thrust into the spotlight, you continued to “share your story,” using social media and various other platforms to educate healthcare providers, the public, and our government officials on the essential work we do every day.

But most importantly, you have been a patient advocate … assuring that healthcare team members have the necessary laboratory information to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease. Remember, you do make a difference.

Our work is not done. Like many organizations, ASCLS has had diversity and inclusion at its core, but discussions and statements must lead to action.

As laboratory professionals, we see the dramatic socioeconomic and healthcare disparities in outcomes for some patient populations. We have reported the devastating and disproportionate effects COVID-19 has on people of color, but our work has also documented the scourge of chronic disease ravaging those same communities. We work in partnership with our colleagues in emergency medicine to save lives impacted by violence, which is another tragic outcome of discrimination.

ASCLS and the rest of the laboratory community have much work to do. Can we count on you to assist with this important effort?

I want to conclude by first thanking all the ASCLS leaders for your commitment to our profession. Whether you volunteer at the local, state, regional, or national level, together we will continue to strengthen our professional organization. We are ASCLS: One Voice, One Vision!

My laboratory family, you are my Heroes in Lab Coats! Thank you to those who work in the clinical and public health laboratories; to the laboratory leaders who continue to support and provide guidance to their teams; to those working in industry trying to get us much needed supplies; to the educators who continue in the mission of teaching the next generation of laboratory professionals; and to the students who have continued in your studies, for which many of you have graduated—CONGRATULATIONS ... We Salute You!

I leave you with a tribute for the tireless work you do and the daily impact you have on others. Your work has not gone unnoticed. Thank you and be well!

Cindy Johnson is Senior Director of Laboratory Services at CentraCare in St. Cloud, Minnesota.


Kate DeAngelo, MLS(ASCP)CM

Chocolate Cage Cake
COVID-19 Cake
Cord Blood Cake
Maui Cake

Being a graveyard employee has many pros and cons. The biggest pro is the glorious seven days off after seven days on. However, overhauling my sleeping schedule from days to nights and back again is undoubtably the biggest con. When I first started my career as a medical laboratory scientist, staying awake between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 am plagued me during the switch. I burned through hours of TV and social media, which I realized wasn’t sustainable and an utter waste of time. I challenged myself to find a hobby that could fit in my small apartment to combat those heavy-eyed nights.

In an effort to tap into my artistic side, I started baking. Nervously, I brought my creations to the break room and anxiously waited for feedback. After hearing positive responses from my coworkers, this became a bi-monthly tradition. Each baking opportunity provided me with a chance to expand my culinary skills and work with different ingredients. Before I knew it, a simple cake became a canvas for me to practice decorating techniques; looking up Pinterest recipes became a second job, and I was hooked on creating delicacies for others to enjoy. Baking evolved into a constructive pastime that prompted me to build my sugar-based repertoire, greatly assisted me with shifting my days to nights, and most importantly, boosted lab morale.

I don’t intend for this article to inspire you to master blueberry scones. I hope to encourage you to find a hobby that challenges you.

When COVID-19 came to Idaho and our lab, I decided to make lemonade—rather, lemon cake—out of lemons. I was inspired by some of the visual representations of the virus and decided to challenge myself to make a cake that resembled it. I filled two hemisphere pans with cake batter, secured the finished hemisphere cakes together with raspberry filling, and covered the sphere with vanilla buttercream frosting. I decoratively piped grey frosting to provide a flare on the membrane, plus orange and yellow frosting to highlight the proteins. Because no detail is too small, I used Red Vines to represent the virus’ spike proteins. My coworkers were in awe by the COVID-19 cake masterpiece and were hesitant to disturb its untouched appearance.

The pandemic aside, I’ve been baking for over three years for the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Laboratory in Twin Falls, Idaho. I’ve baked cookies, specialty cakes, pies, tarts, pastries, you name it. Notably, one of my favorite creations was concocted for Lab Week a few years ago. The theme of the dessert competition was “Bring Your Favorite Lab Specimen.” After pondering the theme for a while, I decided to create a “Rh Incompatibility in a Cord Blood” cake. It was a red velvet cake rolled with whipped cream and topped with cherry pie filling to give it the appearance of being bloody with the cherries serving as agglutinated cells. I garnished the cake with a steak knife stuck in the middle, because again, no detail is too small. My coworkers were equally disgusted and intrigued by my creation, which meant more to me than winning the competition.

I don’t intend for this article to inspire you to master blueberry scones. I hope to encourage you to find a hobby that challenges you. Don’t let a seemingly daunting appearance prevent you from taking that first step; start with manageable pieces and build from the ground up. And, as always, don’t beat yourself up for failing. Google, “Pinterest baking fails,” and you will probably see many things that went wrong in my kitchen. Take the leap, try something new, and turn it into something that makes others smile.

Kate DeAngelo is a Medical Laboratory Scientist at St. Luke’s Magic Valley in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Baking, for author Kate DeAngelo, has allowed her to tap into her artistic side, helped her shift her days to nights, and boosted lab morale as she shares her delicious creations with co-workers.