A year ago, we were in the beginning waves of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that would grip our lives. Now, a year later, we have turned a corner and are slowly but surely taking the necessary steps to bring our country, our patients, and ourselves back to a place of health. As we forge this new path, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t take a moment to look back on where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come.
If there is a silver lining that has come out of this pandemic, it is that we, without a doubt, are STRONGERTOGETHER. It has been made crystal clear that the laboratory is the powerhouse of healthcare. We cannot stay in the corner of healthcare—we are the cornerstone, essential, foundational. Without pathology and medical laboratory professionals, healthcare would be little more than a guessing game of ailments. Throughout this pandemic, the laboratory was asked to step up to challenge after challenge, and delivered time after time. From changing protocols to demanding schedules, all while working under challenging conditions, the men and women of the laboratory are to be lauded for their work.
In this issue of Critical Values, we look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the laboratory, now one year later. In his article, “A Pandemic and Some Pandemonium in Retrospect: What Have We Learned?” Dr. Gary Procop reflects on advocacy efforts over the past year, as well as on the shortfalls experienced in response to the pandemic that can help us plan better for the future. “Many missteps have been made in the response to this pandemic. This is an opportunity not to make another, by effectively testing for, thoroughly monitoring, and appropriately responding to the genomic changes in this virus,” Dr. Procop writes.
This issue also features a summary of the ASCP 2019 Wage Survey Report. Data from the survey, which was collected pre-pandemic, shows that the average growth rate for medical laboratory professions is 7 percent over the next decade, which is double what other professions can expect. The data also show that wages for most laboratory professionals are increasing, though they also exposed areas of concern that need to be addressed within the profession. This includes the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly increased the amount of testing needed, and pressures on the current laboratory workforce are reaching untenable levels.
In their article, “Medical Laboratory Scientists: The Central Yet Unsung Heroes of COVID-19,” Dr. Gaurav Sharma, Dr. Kanika Arora, and Mr. Rajkamal Bhatti pay homage to the dedicated and tenacious pathology and medical laboratory professionals who have manned the frontlines of healthcare throughout the pandemic. Their agility and courage, the authors note, are what has kept our country moving forward in the fight against SARS-CoV-2.
Not only have we been battling the coronavirus for the past year, we have also been dealing with social injustices, and pushing forward on hard conversations about systemic racism, and the role it has played in healthcare. Vivian Pinn, MD, was recently awarded the AMA’s Distinguished Service Award, and has spent her career breaking barriers and mentoring others. As a Black woman entering pathology in the 1960s, Dr. Pinn faced a multitude of challenges. She spoke with Critical Values Editor Molly Strzelecki about those experiences, and how they helped shape her career in a compelling Q&A interview.
We do not know what the next year will bring, but we know that we are better prepared to handle it than we were a year ago. Pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are the driving force behind the change needed to provide our patients high-quality care, whether during a pandemic or not. The power of the laboratory cannot and should not be underestimated, and together, we are building a better, stronger, healthcare experience for all.
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.