Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCP has continued to work hard to provide pathologists and laboratory professionals the necessary resources to take a leading role on the medical team. The Society hosted Dr. Anthony Fauci—who has played a leading role on the U.S. Coronavirus Task Force— for a Virtual Town Hall on September 23. ASCP CEO, Dr. Blair Holladay, led an informal conversation with Dr. Fauci, who answered questions about his experience leading the country through the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recording of the Town Hall discussion with Dr. Fauci can be accessed at www.ascp.org/townhall and is CME/CMLE eligible.
Meanwhile, medical laboratories are already preparing for an increased demand of testing supplies to prepare for this latest surge of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). “You hope for the best and plan for the worst,” said Gary Procop, MD, MS, MASCP, Chair of ASCP’s Commission on Science, Technology and Policy, and the Belinda Yen-Lieberman, PhD, and James M. Lieberman, MD, Endowed Chair in Clinical Microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Laboratories need to forecast by monitoring trends so they can work with vendors to secure allocations, such as testing materials, swabs, transport media, and other supplies,” he added. “The idea is to gear up on-site testing so results can be turned around in a timely manner to be clinically useful.”
Healthcare institutions’ medical leadership needs to be brought into the conversations to determine who will be tested. Early on in the pandemic, testing for COVID-19 became so widespread that it created an enormous backlog of test results, which lost their utility.
Another factor to consider: How will the influenza virus affect laboratories’ ability to respond during the pandemic? “There needs to be a thoughtful approach regarding how to test for influenza, and laboratories will have to prepare and get testing ready,” Dr. Procop said. “We need to monitor, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other avenues, the frequency of influenza and work with a hospital’s medical leadership to determine who to test for influenza.”
Laboratories can use these recommendations to continue to address the needs of the patients they serve, while preparing for to handle the next wave of COVID-19, in conjunction with flu season.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, ASCP is tapping into the Society’s pathology and laboratory professional members’ insights and knowledge to help improve patient care. A continually updated collection of journal articles, new research, Town Hall videos and other materials can be found on the ASCP COVID-19 Resources web page at www.ascp.org/COVID-19.
ASCP members came to the ASCP 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting, September 9-12, thirsting for knowledge. They were treated to a vast array of education on the state of COVID-19, how laboratory testing is changing the way healthcare professionals respond to pandemics and cutting-edge science that participants could immediately apply in their practices and laboratories. Without missing a beat, the virtual meeting provided new forms of networking, round table discussions and much more.
More than 11,000 pathologists, residents, laboratory professionals and many others registered for the Society’s first virtual annual meeting, a necessary adaptation in this social distancing era mandated by a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. A focus on how laboratories across the country were grappling with the impact of COVID-19 took center stage.
During the Opening General Session, participants heard the personal story of actress, singer/songwriter Rita Wilson, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last spring and spoke about her experience with the virus and the role that the medical laboratory played in her recovery. CNN journalist Chris Cuomo, son of the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo and brother of current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also spoke during the General Session and talked about his own experience with the virus last spring and why he continued reporting live from the basement of his home each night. Cuomo emphasized the urgent need for a national COVID-19 testing strategy—something that ASCP has strongly recommended be adopted. Their keynotes can be found by visiting www.ascp.org/2020.
Both Rita Wilson and Chris Cuomo have been very prominent in their efforts to get the word out about the life-saving work that medical laboratory professionals and pathologists have been doing to save patient lives.
Noting the critical role that diagnostic testing has played in the COVID-19 pandemic, Gary Procop, MD, MS, MASCP, spoke of lessons learned from the clinical and public health laboratory community during 2020 in his presentation State of the State: The COVID-19 Pandemic (DMT176-20). Dr. Procop also explored testing capacity; testing protocols and guidelines; turn-around time; the role of pooled, serology and antigen testing; scarce medical resources; the pathology and laboratory medicine workforce; and the status of efforts at the federal level to provide assistance to states. He also described how the Cleveland Clinic is managing its laboratory operations in order to provide efficient turn-around times and deal with patient demand during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In another session, Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on Pathology: Where We’ve Been and How to Prepare for the Future (DMT171-20), Gregory N. Sossaman, MD, FASCP, and Alexandra Brown, MD, FASCP, ASCP Chief Officer of Medical Quality, talked about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how clinical laboratories, pathologists and medical laboratory professionals can better prepare for the future.
For members who missed these sessions during the virtual annual meeting, they can still access any of them, as well as the entire offering of Annual Meeting education, on demand for free through March 31, 2021 at www.ascp.org/2020. Make sure to claim credit for the sessions upon completing them.
Mark your calendars for Oct. 27-29, 2021, and plan to take part in the ASCP 2021 Annual Meeting in Boston!