Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a recurring series of pathologists and laboratory professionals’ reflections and stories about work and life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flash back to April 2020. Right when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its worst in the New York City area, new ASCP Board Member Tiffany Channer, MPH, MLS(ASCP)CM had a new job, a new pregnancy—and a case of COVID. Critical Values spoke with Ms. Channer recently to learn about how she’s coped with the pandemic so far.
You had changed jobs shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic started. When and how did you get your new job?
I had recently returned to the New York City area from Florida to take a new supervisory position at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). MSKCC was home and I was honored to be their educational quality supervisor. My commute, which I didn’t care for as much, involved a train ride, followed by a subway ride, followed by a one-mile walk. One snowy day, I received an email about the job of assistant administrative director and quality manager at White Plains Hospital, which is just a 20-minute drive from my house.
Because I loved the institution, I wasn’t going to pursue the White Plains opportunity, but my fiancé encouraged me to proceed. He believed in me and knew it was a chance for me grow in my career. I responded to the email, asking to learn more about the position but didn’t hear back. Then he nudged me to resend my email three weeks later. That time I heard back immediately. Long story short, I applied, had an interview, and got the position.
And then you found out that you had COVID. What was that like?
During my last week working at MSKCC, my allergies started flaring up, so my allergist changed my medication. I noticed I’d lost my sense of taste and smell, so I called the allergist to confirm it was a side effect of the medication. The first set of research about this being a COVID symptom had just been released and she told me to get tested. Of course, I had COVID, which meant I had to complete my quarantine before I could start at White Plains. Thankfully it was over two weeks of my onset of symptoms.
You’ve also added to your family during the pandemic, haven’t you?
Yes! While quarantining, I noticed I was taking a lot of daytime naps. It seemed I was always either tired or hungry. Finally, I realized all the signs were there for me to take a pregnancy test and it was positive. It was also April 5, 2020, literally the day before I had to start my new job. I was nervous to tell my new director, but when I did, she was thrilled for me and incredibly supportive. My son is now 1 year old.
What were some of the professional challenges you faced during the early months of the pandemic?
Early on, the New York City area was the epicenter of the pandemic. The hospital turned all available space into extra COVID-19 wards, which meant my director and I shared her office. This was very helpful for me—I learned a tremendously amount in a short time. We were in our inspection window for CAP so my focus was to revitalize the Quality Management Program. The laboratory team and I worked together and had a successful inspection. The comment at summation from the CAP leader was the quality program was best practices and he wanted to implement some components of it at his institution. I take that as the highest possible compliment. Later in my pregnancy, I also completed a CAP inspection at another institution, and I worked up until four days before I delivered.
Then after returning from maternity leave, our lab had its New York State inspection, which was another whirlwind. I was so proud that we got no citations for quality. I am very grateful to the laboratory team for providing quality documentation for two successful inspections. Moreover, not overlooking the unprecedented times everyone is still enduring. I appreciate their dedication to quality patient care.
I was the Chair of ASCP’s Council of Laboratory Professionals through all this which was another challenge within itself. The CLP were very understanding, supportive and cooperative. All CLP members ensured to execute all tasks during these difficult times. I salute their efforts. just this fall, I became a member of the Board of Directors. I am honored and thrilled to take this role.
What are some lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
No man is an island. We all need a support system to rely on when things become challenging. I am fortunate to my family at home and my management team at work. Without these two essential conduits I would not have been successful.
I’ve also learned that, especially in crisis, you’re as good as your professional network. I am so grateful to be a part of ASCP, where I have broadened my network exponentially. With a simple text or email, I am guaranteed someone will assist me with any task, project, initiative or problem—I in turn reciprocate the favor. We all are in industry to have a positive impact towards patient care.
I’m always trying to be better than the previous year. I like to give myself little timelines to accomplish certain tasks and reach my goals. Thankfully the pandemic hasn’t changed that—it has ignited that passion.