Modernizing the Medical Laboratory Profession to Meet the 21st Century Challenges

April 9th, 2010 admin Posted in obama healthcare cost Comments Off

The field of medicine is one which is very crucial to humanity and must be devoid of egocentrism, monopoly and similar sentiments and dogmatism that at the long run will transpire into an inimical and detrimental outcome which will negatively impact on the primary beneficiary- the patient. The fundamental goal of any healthcare delivery system should be how to meet the challenges of providing the best possible healthcare services that is pragmatic, efficient, proficient, timely, and accurate, and at the same time less expensive.


Consequently revisiting the Medical laboratory science profession and trying to reposition, rejuvenate and restructure its current curriculum to meet and if possible surpass the currently achieved standard of healthcare services is very crucial and almost nearly indispensable if the country hope to modernize and achieve the primary goals of the medical and healthcare profession and aspirations.

Without an iota of doubt, this noble profession is as complex as humanity itself and any approach thereof in trying to elucidate the best way to uplift the field must definitely take into cognizance such complexity and diversity. Medicine as we used to know has evolved a great deal and today represents greater diversity than seen in the 19th and even the 20th century. From a general perspective when link with the healthcare profession as a whole, this laudable and very imperative field can be broadly divided into Clinical and Laboratory with specialty such as diagnostics falling into the later even when they might not be directly related, while on the other hand nursing and pharmacy among others may fall into the clinical aspect of the medicine.  

The fundamental inclination to this brief summation is essentially related to how does the status quo hope to modernize the medical and allied healthcare profession in such a way that the medical laboratory technology discipline is allow to reach its full potential in becoming the true corner stone of modern medicine and its professionals are given the due recognition by the state? I wish to reiterate the fact that my perspective may vary from some of my colleagues principally as a result of my background training which by omission or commission imbibe in me the mentality of seeing my profession from a noble and pragmatic angle in terms of its usefulness, necessity and indispensability in the provision of a comprehensive healthcare services.  

Consequently the call for modernization of the profession is not in any way one which blatantly request for a synonymous training scope with that of physician or pathologist, instead it is a call for the incorporation of curriculum that will enable the medical technologist to be able to professionally and legally interpret, aid in the diagnosis, therapy, management and prophylaxis of a given medical condition without compromising either the patient or the primary healthcare provider. This again raise the concern about why it is necessary for the field to determine that monopoly and egocentrism within the multi-complex discipline should be relegated to the background and instead focus and emphasis must be on providing the best healthcare delivery system.  

I am very quick to point out that as a consequence to the emergence of varieties of complex scenarios which cloud the easy elucidation of the causative organisms or agents implicated in diseased conditions, the role of the medical laboratory scientists have changed dramatically from that of primarily responding to just the healthcare provider,  to now include the determination of the exactness, that is the accuracy and that the same time the best possible treatment and prevention of the cause as necessitated by the contemporary curriculum. Medical Laboratory Scientist are therefore evolving to become more independent in decision making and in some cases have tremendously helped to reduce both cost and waste as a result of their timely intervention, a fact that has been widely recognized within the status quo but never allowed to be publicize for reason beyond imagination.  

The modernization of the medical laboratory profession should be able to make an average graduate to be capable of comprehensively utilizing the new curriculum to assist in the interpretation, diagnosis and treatment recommendation of the condition(s) as it relates to the laboratory test(s). This in my opinion can be achieved with the help of adopting a scheme of studying that may be similar to that of the Physician Assistance training, in respect of pragmatically understanding the clinical implications of laboratory data, but with less emphasis on clinical and invariably greater inclinations to the laboratory management of diseases and other medical conditions.  

In order for the field of medical laboratory profession to pragmatically achieve such goal of making it to become a 21st century specialty, which will be responsive to primary healthcare providers and the patients, there is no doubt that Physicians and Pathologist must buy into the idea of allowing what is best for the patient to become a reality rather than becoming sentimental- which is understandable. Relying on the conviction that the patient comes first, I do believe that the prevailing status quo can work itself out and aid the field to become ready.  

At this juncture I wish to briefly but modestly narrate an incident that happened during a flight from Frankfurt Germany to Washington Dulles Airport in which a passenger on board developed symptom of acute fatigue and thirst leading to fainting. The flight attendance immediately announced that there was a medical emergency on board and seeks the intervention of any medical personnel. Without giving the credit to myself alone, I recognize among other things that the pulse rate and the blood pressure was okay and the dry mouth might be sequel to dehydration and or anxiety. The passenger had to lie on the floor with the head slightly down in comparison to the leg in order to allow for greater blood flow to the brain. With the vital signs okay and the patient having regain consciousness I advice that he should given as much fluid as possible and in the absent of pure glucose-D drink the juice on board did suffice for this purpose. Fortunately there was no need for fluid infusion and by the end of the day it all went well.  

Upon arrival in the USA I was later presented with an American Express gift certificate and a thank you letter from the medical director of the airline in addition to the many on board gifts and appreciation. The above narration is not about wanting anybody to thank me further, but rather as an example of how knowledge if well utilized can save life! I had a background training that to a greater extent recognize the essentiality of first aid and being a part of the primary healthcare delivery system. I am not a doctor or physician, but rather a medical laboratory scientist whose professors recognizes the fact that during the course of our training we must know how to deal with some situation without compromising life and at the same time impersonating.   Is it therefore possible to train medical laboratory scientist in such a way that they too can have the knowledge base to intervene if need be in a medical situation to the extent that life can be preserve as far as it depends on that knowledge?  

There is an absolute necessity of training the modern medical laboratory scientist in the fashion that they are vastly knowledgeable in the area of physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and pharmacology and some basic clinical maneuvers in addition to the most fundamental essentiality of performing diagnostic and or laboratory tests.   We all cannot be a nurse, pharmacist or Genetics, nevertheless we can lend a professional helping hand by being able to assist in the most comprehensive manner the bone of contention and by so doing elevate the practice for the benefit of the patient and the system at large.  

By and large, any curriculum that hopes to accommodate the tentative modernization that I am asking for may take a minimum of 3 years post graduation from the medical laboratory technology program. During the 3 years period, the prospective student shall receive the necessary educational and professional training needed to enhance his or her capacity to midwife in the most qualified manner the laboratory results, the clinical interpretation from a laboratory management perspective and recommend if need be further test(s) or elimination of some already ordered ones.  

Two years shall be spent on correlating clinical and laboratory studies in relation to patients through the thorough studying of the physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and pharmacology, and also pathology. The last year of study should be concentrated in a given area of the clinical laboratory discipline namely; clinical biochemistry (chemical pathology), hematology, microbiology, immunology, coagulation study, urinalysis and instrumentation (automation), laboratory information services (LIS), genetics, among others.  

In a nutshell in order to reposition the field of medical laboratory science to become better equip to deal with the challenges of the 21st century medical and health concerns, there is an absolute necessity to upgrade or modernize this area of healthcare that is very crucial and in some cases nearly indispensable as far as the diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of a medical condition is concerned. Its professionals who are involved in the carrying out of diagnostic tests in order to generate results that is use to substantiate or refute a given provisional diagnosis and or in adequately and scientifically managing the conditions must be treated with respect and be given due sue place of honor among the committee of professions.  

The patients stand to gain the most if we can allow our selfish interest or desire for monopolistic inclination to be sacrificed in order to move the United States of America healthcare delivery system forward in order to become second to none in the world and by so doing once more provide the kind of leadership that mankind is expected of the country. As the saying goes necessity is the mother of invention and the medical laboratory profession is in itself a child of necessity that should be allow to grow, rather than being truncated or marginalized at the detriment of the patients.  

Ours is the generation that has the pragmatic potential for change as epitomized by the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America in President Barack Obama which some cynic pundits have concluded will never happen in the country. The attestation to the pragmatism, broadmindedness and the desire for concrete actions and solutions to the nefarious problems facing the nation especially in context of the economic maladies has been one of the fundamental reasons why the president defeated his opponent in the November 4th 2008 general election.

Physicians, Pharmacists, Nurses and the other allied healthcare professionals could be making history and changing the spectrum of the profession for the best if only they are willing to support the aspiration of the medical laboratory scientists in orchestrating the necessary modalities that will bring about a lasting and durable change and career progression with the ultimate goal of positively impacting on the healthcare delivery system and further leading to a reduction in the cost of doing business.  

It has never been my dream to train as a physician as epitomized by my aspiration to pursue the medical laboratory science profession during my undergraduate studies at the University of Calabar College of Medical Sciences. However I was also made to understand within my professional and academic training that I will be very useful and respected as a medical laboratory scientist especially based on my job discretion, performance and potential to make a pragmatically positive difference. In the United States of America the above conviction seems to be a mirage and consequently it may not be good enough for those who aspire to be like me.

We must change, since the later is just inevitable; life without change is not worth living and that is why I do hope that somehow the healthcare profession and its professionals can help the medical laboratory profession to transition from its current status to that which will enable the citizenry to better utilize their profession at full capacity rather than the prevailing circumstances in which the job and responsibilities are more or less haphazardly distributed in context of how laboratory data are generated and yet the generators have little or no input as to how these results are consequently utilized to bring about the diagnosis, treatment and management of the conditions that might have necessitated the request in the first place.

I am proud of being who I am and look forward to achieving the peak of my career which based on my mentors may culminate in the award of a doctorate degree in the field of medical laboratory profession in addition to the capacity to touch lives through researches and other veritable tools that will help bring about further progress, innovation and discovery in the health and medical profession.

May God bless the noble professionals in this field of healthcare, who have continued to give their best with little or no recognition at all for their indispensable services that have been miniaturized into the generation of laboratory data as against the real values and capacity that abound in this very noble profession, amen.

Peter Odeh

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