International Pathology Day: Strengthening the Global Pathology and Laboratory Workforce

By Susan Montgomery - November 09, 2022

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ASCP is marking International Pathology Day by recognizing the significant contributions of pathology and the medical laboratory in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious and chronic diseases worldwide.  

International Pathology Day is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the need to address the shortage of pathologists and laboratory professionals in resource-limited countries. This workforce shortage is particularly acute in low- and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the incidence of cancer and other non-communicable diseases has reached critical proportions. Early detection is key, yet the lack of resources, including pathologists and laboratory professionals, means individuals have to wait longer to receive a diagnosis. 

For nearly 20 years, ASCP has been at the forefront working with other global health organizations to strengthen global health. Here is brief look at ASCP’s initiatives in this effort.  

President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) 
In 2005, ASCP joined the PEPFAR initiative, which provided education to laboratory professionals in resource-limited countries, in the fight against HIV/AIDS. ASCP partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to treat and prevent AIDS and tuberculosis in Sub-Saharan Africa and alleviate suffering from other infectious and chronic diseases. ASCP members, serving as volunteer ASCP consultants, assessed existing laboratory structure in various resource-limited countries and provided education to bridge the knowledge gaps of laboratory professionals in PEPFAR countries. They also provided a checklist that laboratories used as they worked toward the goal of gaining accreditation. The consultants eventually expanded their work to include universities with medical laboratory training programs, to assess their curricula and train faculty how to operate current equipment. 

Partners for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment 
In late 2015, ASCP launched Partners for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa, a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. This global coalition has used innovative, leapfrog technology and the skills and experience of ASCP members to provide clinicians in Sub-Saharan Africa access to quality, real-time cancer diagnostics, allowing them to detect cancers and subsequently treat patients more quickly. For example, donated histotechnology equipment was delivered to a hospital in Butaro, Rwanda, enabling a team of pathologists in the United States to perform rapid cancer diagnostics and review the patient information to determine appropriate therapy. Butaro has no permanent pathologist, so clinicians had been relying on either static image telepathology, visiting pathologists from the United States, or visits from local Rwandan pathologists, taking the local pathologists away from their own services elsewhere. The successful Partners initiative has now expanded to other countries as well.   

Coalition for Implementation Research in Global Oncology
ASCP is a founding member of the Coalition for the Implementation Research in Global Oncology (CIRGO), a consortium of oncology organizations working to improve the coordination of cancer care systems in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa. Their focus is to provide healthcare solutions that can be adapted to the local context. Different solutions and approaches are studied, adapted to fit specific needs, and recorded, a process known as implementation science research. Expanding the number of highly trained surgical oncologists in Tanzania and strengthening cancer data systems in Kenya are tangible results of $480,000 in grants distributed last year to eight projects in Africa. The grants were funded by the Bristol Myers Squibb Company. Over time, the collective research provides tools to implement and measure that adaptation in order to prove its effectiveness and impact.  

These three initiatives are a few examples of how ASCP has been a trailblazer in working to improve diagnosis and treatment of disease around the globe. Learn more about ASCP’s continuing activities in global health by reading monthly articles in Critical Values online. 

Susan Montgomery

ASCP communications writer