3 Questions With Dana Altenburger, MD, FASCP

By Team Critical Values - March 01, 2024


Dana Altenburger, MD, FASCP, is the medical director of the laboratory at Carle BroMenn Medical Center. She was a 2016 ASCP Choosing Wisely Champion and continues to be active in her volunteerism with ASCP and the pathology and laboratory community. She shares her thoughts for the Critical Values series, 3 Questions With.  

What aspects of laboratory medicine do you find most intriguing and fulfilling? 

I love that I get to work behind the scenes. I enjoy being a "doctor's doctor."  I don't have to wait for results, I get to help generate the results. I will always take a behind-the-scenes tour if one is offered. The lab is an amazing place that most people in the hospital don't get to see. By working in one I feel like I get to be in on the magic.   

Tell us about a situation where you effectively collaborated with colleagues from different disciplines to optimize patient management?  

The area within the lab that allows for the best collaboration, in my opinion, is the blood bank.  I am able to look at lab results and guide the physician toward which products their patient needs. Given our heightened awareness, we may be the first to notice a patient that is becoming refractory to platelet transfusions. We can guide the managing physician to which tests to order so we can get the appropriate products. There was a particular patient that my colleagues and I spent hours taking care of in the blood bank one weekend. There were multiple phone calls to other physicians and the blood bank reference lab. This patient will never know the level of care they received from us, but we got satisfaction knowing we helped them.   

Who are the mentors or role models who have influenced your career? 

My mentor is Dr. Sue Strayer.  She hired me and helped shape the professional I have become. In the early years she helped me with all the things you don't really learn in residency, such as lab administration, memos to medical staff, and how to answer the phone (yes, really).  She was my biggest supporter when I wanted to start a lab utilization program, for which I won a Choosing Wisely award. She got me involved in hospital committees and continues to give me guidance in leadership. She is very supportive of my ASCP activities, sometimes giving up her vacation days so I can go to meetings. We have worked together for over a decade now. I think our teamwork has helped turn our lab and pathology department into something very special.    


Team Critical Values

Team Critical Values