When we started 2020, we expected the laboratory to be great. We expected pathologists and medical laboratory scientists to further cement their place as the cornerstone of healthcare, and to contribution an exponential amount of insight into patient care.
We did not expect to be hit with a pandemic that would upend the global healthcare landscape. Despite that, however, all of our expectations about the laboratory, pathologists, and medical laboratory scientists have been actualized. It is thanks to the committed leadership from pathology and laboratory professionals across the country that our profession has become well-known as a critical element in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
To say that laboratories have been under pressure the past six months would be too simple a construct; rather, laboratories have endured month after month of challenge after challenge, and still, pathologists and medical laboratory scientists persist. Every day, our profession goes above and beyond to share the knowledge needed to fight the pandemic, and be a part of the solution. When we lead from the lab, patient care improves.
In this issue of Critical Values, we explore the myriad ways people—past and present—lead through this pandemic. Dr. Guarav Sharma explores history to foster a better understanding of how we should handle our current challenges. He notes in his article, “Stoicism in the Times of SARS-CoV-2, Laboratory Leadership Lessons from the Antonine Plague” that we can look to history books for answers on how to navigate these challenging times. After all, he writes, “In a public health crisis, healthcare leaders (especially laboratory leaders) hold an elevated position in the public discourse. We must possess the right mental fortitude, an up-to-date knowledge base, as well as the ability to provide a reasonable assessment of a rapidly changing situation. Alas, for most of us, a raging pandemic was never a part of our medical training or our clinical practice.”
As the pandemic started gathering steam this past spring, Dr. Jennifer Kasten recognized an urgent need to change the climate of fear and misinformation she saw spreading across the country. She decided to do so by launching a public Facebook page to dispel myths and fiction about the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In her article “What I did on my COVID Vacation,” she writes: “The whole point is science communication, pure and simple—collating, parsing, synthesizing, translating and passing on important advances in our understanding of COVID-19.”
This issue also celebrates the 2020 40 Under Forty honorees. Now in its seventh year, this program honors the brightest emerging leaders and innovators in pathology and laboratory medicine from around the world. While in past years we’ve highlighted the Top 5 of these 40, this year we have six distinguished emerging leaders to hold the honor.
Strong leadership, particularly in times of unprecedented challenges, is also about being prepared. In her article, “COVID-19, Laboratory Safety, and You,” Lab Medicine Online Managing Editor Kelly Swails writes that the challenges faced by laboratories during this pandemic are not entirely unlike the challenges faced by other public health events in recent past. “For the wider medical laboratory community, the safety questions we asked mirrored the ones we asked in 2014 when the Ebola virus hit the United States,” she writes, and the questions weren’t entirely unexpected. Ms. Swails gathered insight from experts who shared their experiences on how to keep laboratories, and pathology and laboratory professionals, safe during these times.
We don’t know what the rest of this year will look like, or what 2021 will bring, but we do know that when we lead from the laboratory, we are able to provide the knowledge that is needed for better patient care. We know that as leaders in the field of pathology and laboratory medicine, we are STRONGERTOGETHER, and because of that we will be better able to change the course of this pandemic.
Thank you for your continued support of ASCP. Please send me your comments and suggestions at Blair.Holladay@ascp.org. My very best to each of you.