Almost perfectly timed during my classroom-to-clinicals transition period from American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC), the 2017 ASCP Annual Meeting in Chicago was an excellent opportunity to get back to my lab roots. The Annual Meeting is always an excellent opportunity to expand lab-related knowledge, learn some new clinical skills, and easily network with colleagues. Professional societies like ours are highly dependent on the partnership and collaboration of our fellow scientists, sponsors, and clinicians. I have been fortunate enough to attend two of these meetings as an award recipient bookending my pre-clinical years in medical school. In 2015, I attended the ASCP Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California as a Regional Member of the Year. This year’s Annual Meeting was held in my hometown of Chicago, where I’m proud to say I attended as a 2017 ASCP Top 40 Under Forty honoree! But these meetings are more than just conferences with awards ceremonies—at every ASCP meeting I reconnected with old friends in workshops, shook hands with our great ASCP leadership, and collaborated with colleagues in roundtables or other sessions. There is a place for all of us in laboratory medicine. Our respective insights bring something valuable to the final outcomes of improved patient care. Nowhere is this more evident than the Annual Meeting.
Among the endless list of educational events and sessions, I especially enjoyed being a collaborator in round table discussions including “The Benefits of Data Integration in Clinical Decisions.” I truly enjoy these roundtables and wish I could have done more of them! Topics included effective feedback, utilization and evaluations, education, and global health initiatives—all of which I’m sure I’ve written about in one way or another this past year. Seeing some of the content in my online Lab Management University (LMU) modules applied in real-life situations was reaffirming. Attending sessions and meeting renowned experts from informatics to hematopathology was exciting. The keynote speakers were captivating. Dr. Birx’s discussion on PEPFAR and global health initiatives clearly piqued my interests, and Drs. Caliguiri and Pritchard’s lectures on analytics and resources spoke directly to my work in cancer research. And don’t forget: it’s all worth continuing education credit—can’t beat that.
I would just like to simply thank ASCP again for all the work that goes into these meetings. I know from experience that planning large events involves quite a bit of logistics. And in managing these events ASCP truly provides an excellent environment to collaborate and learn. What brought this appreciation for logistics to the forefront was a disaster that had unfolded in the week prior to the meeting. On the island of Sint Maarten, the location of my medical school and my home for two years, was absolutely decimated by hurricane Irma. The school managed to withstand for the most part intact and acted as a shelter for students, faculty, and family. While being sheltered from that storm, endless homes, apartments, and business were destroyed. Taking nothing but a suitcase or two to campus ended up the only possessions many people in the AUC community had left. The school and its administration did a spectacular job creating a stable, safe, and even comfortable environment for students and their families while evacuation efforts were organized. While AUC managed to get students off the island via military assistance and/or charter flights, evacuees were taken to the Chicago suburbs. Right after the ASCP Annual Meeting I began having conversations with contacts in the Chicago Department of Public Health and Emergency Preparedness to offer assistance. I provided contact data, relayed satellite telephone numbers to the right contact points, and provided relevant information regarding demographics, health, and needs. Both my wife (a trained nursing leader) and myself were happy to be involved with connecting critical points in this process. All the students and their families were accounted for and taken care of in the Chicago suburbs, and were later moved to the new school location relatively unscathed. Logistics from a distance can be difficult, especially when it’s behind-the-scenes. A lot of lab decisions are made that way, and ultimately we do our best for our patients.
The take home message: be flexible, be humble, and be helpful. If we want to improve patient outcomes, we need to work with evidence-based approaches matched with intelligent compassion. As laboratorians, we apply our scientific approach to critical life-saving algorithms. This was no exception. Lessons discussed at the Annual Meeting between networking colleagues and official sessions are accurate. Tap into your resources, keep an active and dynamic network, know what you can do and what you cannot, and always try to help. That’s what makes a good laboratorian, a good clinician, a good friend, and hopefully a good physician.
Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in donating to disaster relief for anyone affected by this year’s violent hurricane season in Sint Maarten, visit www.rotarysxm.org.
–Constantine E. Kanakis MSc, MLS (ASCP)CM graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in Molecular Biology and Bioethics and then Rush University with an MS in Medical Laboratory Science. He is currently a medical student at the American University of the Caribbean and actively involved with local public health.