Global Health Narratives Interview Series: Meet Dr. Adebowale Adeniran

Adebowale Adeniran, MD is a surgical pathologist and cytopathologist currently practicing at Yale University and serves as the Director of Cytopathology there. He completed his medical school training in Nigeria and moved to the United States to complete a residency and fellowship.

I am fortunate enough to know him as my future attending, as I will be joining the cytopathology fellowship program at Yale in 2020. I also know him through attending last year’s Friends of Africa meeting at USCAP, where he gave a presentation about the status of pathology services in Africa. His points were compelling and he spoke with passion and heart about the issue. He is a true global health advocate and I was delighted to have the chance to talk with him about the work that he is doing in Africa and learn more about the USCAP Friends of Africa group. Read on to be inspired by his commitment to global health and learn how you can also get involved!

Q: How did you recognize the need to contribute to improving pathology services in Africa?

A: Being from Nigeria and having worked there for a short time as a House Officer, I knew that there were improvements to be made in the healthcare delivery system, but I hadn’t thought of improving pathology services specifically. It wasn’t until I was in my second fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering that I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Brian West. He told me about the USCAP Friends of Africa group in which he was an active part and had been since the start. He was involved in education initiatives and would routinely travel to Africa to give lectures and educational seminars.

I went to the next Friends of Africa meeting at the annual USCAP meeting and was able to speak to others doing similar work to Dr. West. This inspired me to also get involved and have been participating in the group ever since. I learned that pathologists practicing back home in Nigeria, and in most other countries in Sub Saharan Africa, face challenges in practicing pathology that we don’t have in the US. It only takes seeing the situation once to realize the great need there is. There are a range of problems, from outdated equipment, to supply shortages, to all of the things that we take for granted like consistent access to electricity and water supply. In general, governments tend to be apathetic to funding healthcare and especially pathology services, which results in compromised patient care with very few pathologists to read cases, long turnaround times, and limited diagnoses. The training programs are usually working with few or old textbooks and limited exposure to advanced testing modalities. You see these problems and your heart bleeds; you feel compelled to get involved and give back.

Q: What is the mission of the USCAP Friends of Africa?

A: The organization has evolved and expanded over the years to increase their outreach to Sub Saharan Africa with the aim of improving pathology services there. The main leaders in the group, Drs. Adekunle Adesina, Patrick Adegboyega, Kunle Adesokan, and Jaiye Ogunniyi-Thomas have made big strides since the start and pathology has come a long way because of it. The group is supported by the USCAP Foundation and they work to distribute free educational materials to pathologists and training programs. They also work with the East and West African divisions of the IAP in developing and hosting teaching projects called “Schools of Pathology”, which are special yearly meetings. They are usually around a weeklong of intensive teaching and mentoring, and they will be held in different countries in West and East Africa to equalize the opportunities for people to participate. Pathologists from across the regions travel to be a part of it.

Q: What ways have you found to contribute to improving pathology services in Africa?

A: For the last five or six years, I’ve worked most frequently in Nigeria in my medical school alma mater, where I travel back yearly to give lectures and teach residents with slide sessions. It’s also a good opportunity for me to review any difficult cases with the department and offer an outside consultation. I also send journals and reading materials they don’t have access to otherwise. I’ve also had opportunity to work with three other medical schools in the area in similar ways.

Volunteering with USCAP Friends of Africa, I participated in last year’s School of Pathology meeting that was held in Lagos, Nigeria. This was the first time that I was able to teach in that program and it was a very good experience.

Q: In what ways can the pathology community get involved with global health?

A: One very simple and easy way to contribute is to give a donation to the USCAP Foundation Global Partners. Every year since 2015, they sponsor pathologists from low and middle income countries to travel to the USCAP meeting through a scholarship, the Global Partners Travel Award. This supports those who often don’t have easy access to attending academic conferences and who cannot afford the travel cost and meeting registration fees to travel to USCAP.

Another is by attending the USCAP Friends of Africa meeting at the annual USCAP meeting and signing up for the many ways you can volunteer your time and expertise. Anyone who has the desire and ability to go and teach, organize slide sessions, or collaborate on research projects, has the opportunity to do so through this organization. These things go a long way and are really appreciated.

Donations of textbooks, supplies, and equipment such as cryostats are also needed. Developing the laboratory services in these countries is really needed and I would encourage those who can to set up private pathology laboratories to help meet the need.

Academic institutions in the US can offer ways of enhancing training opportunities for African pathologists and trainees by offering short- or long-term exchange programs. This helps to bridge the gap between practiced based learning in resource limited vs. US institutions.

-Dana Razzano, MD is a Chief Resident in her third year in anatomic and clinical pathology at New York Medical College at Westchester Medical Center and will be starting her fellowship in Cytopathology at Yale University in 2020. She was a top 5 honoree in ASCP’s Forty Under 40 2018 and was named to The Pathologist’s Power List of 2018. Follow Dr. Razzano on twitter @Dr_DR_Cells.

A Pathology Emergency

Hi everybody! Welcome back. Thanks for following along last month’s update on Zika epidemiology and clinical lab crossovers. This time I’ve got a story to tell…

This is my last month of medical school! And, as such, I decided to go out with a bang and finish up with my last rotation in Emergency Medicine at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. It was a fantastic month! One would think that EM and Path are two very distant specialties, but they are more alike than you might realize. That could be a whole separate article but consider this: managing critical situations, ensuring fast-paced accurate response times, engaging in high-stakes algorithms, and making sure mistakes are caught early. Sounds to me like there’s lots of overlap…remember my discussion on high reliability organizations or the critical role interdisciplinary medicine plays in creating good patient outcomes? All things aside, all clinicians have a critical role to play, but what happens when you put an (almost) pathologist in an emergency room?

Basically, you get me having a fun four weeks—I used to be an EMT and help teach EMS courses, so I do like this stuff. But something else happened this month that really made this experience special…

Image 1. Typically, med students have minor roles to play in real-life critical codes, but some of our duties include managing monitor attachments for vital signs, securing peripheral IV access, obtaining emergency labs, and other supportive measures while the rest of the code team manages…well, the resuscitation efforts. Source: Life in the Fast Lane.

Saturday, July 27th. I got to sleep in because I was on the night shift for four days. No big deal. When I finally got to the hospital, there was pandemonium. Extra ambulances in the loading bay, a couple squad cars outside, a stab wound victim in the trauma bay, lots of noise and folks everywhere—what was routine hospital stuff somehow seemed like I was in the middle of filming an actual episode of ER. (I’m obviously partial to particular shows…okay, maybe Chicago Med?) When I report to my team, I learn that the computers have been down. All day. No electronic health records, no charting, no histories, no internet to look up guidelines/recommendations on UpToDate—and most tragically: no lab results.

Ok. This is it. I’m on the other (read: clinical) side of an awful downtime shift. I’ve experienced plenty of downtime in the lab, but this night I took a deep breath, reminded myself its going to be okay, and did my best to label things right. But a problem appears that’s more serious than labeling type and screens the right way without a computer: results are backlogged for hours! I’m talking no blood gases, no lactic acids, no pregnancy confirmations! I overheard senior residents and my attending that night talk about how the lab is struggling and they didn’t have enough people to figure out this downtime debacle.

This was a moment. It’s not often med students get to be literally useful in any clinical situation but after high-speed thinking about it, I interjected and made my elevator pitch:

“Dr. X, Dr. Y – I’ve got several years of hospital lab experience and lots of background in managing crises and downtime situations, if you want I’ll head over to the lab and see if I can help this situation at all, at least for the ER…”

There was a short pause. Then an enthusiastic wave of approval with hands waving me to go help out our laboratorian colleagues. Please note: the instances where tidbits of knowledge as a medical laboratory scientist prove useful as a medical student on rounds are far and few between for their ability to really captivate a group of doctors who identify themselves far from any lab medicine; so, this was a win. Explaining the importance of order of draw, or why sensitivity goes down when you don’t adequately fill blood cultures, or why peripheral smears should come with some interdisciplinary caveats aren’t quite as sexy as an emergency room, on metaphorical fire, with no one but you knowing anything about how labs work.

So, I ran on over to the laboratory, fully intending to do what I could to help in my unofficial just-a-friendly-neighborhood-med student capacity. That’s when I met Jalissa Hall!

I walked into the main lab area and asked if I could talk to the supervisor, thinking I would just explain my experience and offer what I could to their staff who I’m sure were buried in downtime SOPs and make sure I got critical results back to my team in the ER—a win-win! When I asked who was in charge, a very busy Ms. Hall walked out from behind the chemistry section and said, “you can talk to me. What’s going on?” I’m sure she thought I was there to complain, seemingly like many other clinicians were, but I stopped and gave her the same elevator speech I delivered moments ago with the postscript: “what can I do for you?” I remember she stopped, thought about if for roughly 10 seconds, and presented me with her situation briefing:

  • Computers have been down since roughly 05:00 am
  • There’s a computer virus that had all servers shut down indefinitely
  • There’s no communication between the hospitals EHR and the labs LIS
  • Moreover, no patient information is coming across to the analyzers (MRNs, specimen IDs, etc.)
  • There are 4-5 critical units (ER, OR, ICU, OB, NICU) that require STAT results
  • Clinicians have been coming to the lab all day looking for informal results reporting
  • The limited lab staff has had to manually print results on paper and work to match them with barcodes, specimens, and manual requisitions before releasing results
Image 2. Jalissa Hall, MLS(ASCP) (left) and a very tired me (right) after a great night of solving lab-related communication problems! Anyone else need an emergency room pathologist? Sounds like a new clinical specialty/fellowship to me…

Deal. I know I can’t jump on the analyzers because New York is one of the states that requires clinical laboratory licensure (which I do not hold). In my informal survey I noted three medical lab scientists (including Ms. Hall), someone in specimen processing, and someone in blood bank. Basically, in order to make sure the lab could operate at peak performance with what they had, I helped alleviate the “paper problem” for them at least for the ER specimens. I matched requisitions with instrument raw data, made copies for downtime recording, delivered copied results to the ER, rinsed, lathered, and repeated—for eight hours! I obviously had to toe the line for the ER results, but there were other nurses and doctors who came in for the other areas’ results. No one worked more than the folks in that lab that night, and no one more so than Jalissa. After things cooled down a bit, I got the chance to connect with her and talk about her career and asked if she had anything to share with all of you—she definitely did.

Lablogatory family: please meet Jalissa Hall, MLS (ASCP)!
(Responses paraphrased because, honestly it was late, and downtime was busy, and we were tired, ok?)

Jalissa has been working for about five years as a generalist, with two jobs—like most of us have done. She works at The Brooklyn Hospital Center as a generalist and at NYU Hospital Lab in their hematology section. She is a graduate from the excellent MLS program at Stony Brook University in NY. She’s got ambitious career goals that are aimed at climbing as high as she can in laboratory medicine, and she’s got the enthusiasm and work ethic to match! I got the chance to ask her some real questions, during a real down-time crisis. This is what she had to say:

What made you go into laboratory medicine?

JH: I really want to help people. I love the behind-the-scenes aspect of being a medical laboratory scientist, but I think sometimes it can be too behind the scenes…

What did you think of tonight’s downtime issues?

JH: …it could have gone better. There seems to have been some panic, people kept walking in and shuffling the papers around. I tried my best to organize by floor, have two copies of each result (one for us and one to send upstairs), and requisitions match orders, but it was difficult. We have a downtime protocol, but we just couldn’t keep up with the volume and extent of how long it’s been down for. There’s really been no help outside the lab to work with us during this time so it’s a challenge.

What could have happened better?

JH: No outside help meant no room to breathe. On the inside, supervisors off duty tonight called staff in but none were available to come in. We don’t have an on-call person. We’re understaffed or short-staffed like so many labs out there; it’s problematic.

How is this going to look tomorrow?

JH: It’s not looking good, haha! Morning draw is definitely going to have a hard time. Catching up with these backlogs is one thing, but if orders can’t come across the LIS we’ll have to address that problem for sure. We’ve got a great staff though, so I’m sure it’s going to be fine.

What would be your “top tips” for all our fellow laboratorians reading this?

JH: First and foremost, being driven matters. If you want to get ahead, if you want to excel and climb high within an organization or in our profession, you have to work hard and keep working toward your goals.

Pro-tip #1: One of the biggest issues is “vertical cooperation.” Basically, some call it administration-buy-in, but it means administration working with employees in the lab to make the best decisions for our patients. If employees are burned out or if there aren’t enough resources to effectively perform our responsibilities it creates risks! It all comes down to patients, and making sure we’re in the best position to deliver diagnostic data for them means considering all aspects of lab management.

Pro-tip#2: If we want to fix the workforce shortages our labs regularly experience, we have to increase our efforts in advocacy within our profession. Having programs increase awareness of this job as a profession increases the pull and interest of potential new partners to work with. My school did it, other schools do this; increasing the number of programs that expose students to career opportunities in lab medicine would address our short-staffing problems everywhere!

Pro-tip #3: TELL OTHERS ABOUT OUR PROFESSION! I talked about our role being too behind the scenes…well the way to fix that is professional PRIDE! Own our accomplishments, share our role, advocate for our recognition, celebrate our peers!

Pro-tip #4: The future is not scary. Lots of folks shy away from tech advancement, fearing that automation and other developments mean losing jobs—it doesn’t. Why can’t today’s lab scientists become tomorrows experts on automation, LIS software, and other aspects of our cutting-edge field?

It was a pleasure to meet Jalissa and even better to work alongside her and learn about her passions and goals within the field we both care about! It was particularly special for me to be able to use my knowledge and experience to really contribute to my clinical team and bring laboratory medicine to the forefront where it doesn’t often shine!

Image 3. In a fantastic book I read recently, the authors of You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When it Matters Most talk about leadership as a moment—a moment where you step up to a situation because you have skills and experiences which make you uniquely qualified to serve in a role which aims at a positive outcome. I had a small version of that in front of my attending (important for evaluations in medical school of course), but that downtime night was Jalissa’s “you’re it” moment for sure! (Source: Google)

Signing off from any new clinical rotations because this guy’s done with his medical school clerkships! Now I’ve gotta knock out some board exams and go on some residency interviews…wish me luck! I’ll check in with you next month after the 2019 ASCP Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona—hope to see some of you there!

See you all next time and thanks for reading!

–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 actively involved in public health and laboratory medicine, conducting clinicals at Bronx-Care Hospital Center in New York City.

The Disaster Risk Assessment

There are multiple types of risk assessments required when managing a laboratory safety program. OSHA’s Bloodborne and Airborne pathogens standards require assessing the risk of employees’ exposure to particular lab hazards. Risk assessments can be used to determine whether or not to add an emergency eyewash station, and all lab chemicals need to be assessed for the hazards they pose. These are just some assessments that are needed, and there are particular steps to take when performing them. But what about the lab emergency management plan? Should the lab perform a risk assessment for that? The answer is yes, although the terminology used may be different. To prepare a disaster readiness plan for the lab, the risk assessment that is needed is known as a Hazard Vulnerability Analysis (HVA).

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires that all healthcare facilities use an “all-hazards” approach when considering emergency preparedness and planning. While some laboratories may be included with the facility-wide disaster plan, the lab should absolutely have its own plan with specific instructions that apply directly to the department. That means the lab should also consider an all-hazards approach.

It may seem daunting to try to consider every possible disaster that could occur in the department, but that is not exactly what the directive from CMS dictates. An all-hazards approach means that emergency plans should be scalable or flexible so that it can be used for many types of disasters. The plan should focus on the lab’s ability to continue to offer services, especially those deemed critical, as a disaster situation unfolds.

The first step to the plan creation is the risk assessment- the Hazard Vulnerability Analysis. The HVA can be a table that lists all of the potential types of disaster; natural, man-made, facility-specific, etc. List as many as you can think of, and be sure to include specific disasters that may be particular to your locale (earthquakes, blizzards, etc.). Rate each disaster type by probability, severity of impact, and level of readiness of the lab to respond. Using that data, you can calculate the risk percentage for each emergency type.

One other requirement imposed by CMS is that facilities must include emerging infectious diseases as one potential type of hazard class. With the advent of particular diseases in the past years like Ebola, Zika, and certain influenza types, it is important to consider how an outbreak would affect lab operations and staffing. The risk level of infectious diseases may vary as incidents and outbreaks occur in particular geographic regions or if pandemics arise.

The HVA should be reviewed and updated as necessary each year. Things change that can affect what is on your HVA list. The addition of a nearby airport might make you consider adding airline disaster to the HVA. A change in weather patterns could occur as well. In 2011 a surprise earthquake in Virginia made state facilities re-look at their HVA list of possible emergency situations. Also, the actual list of disasters might not change, but there may be a change in the potential of a particular incident occurring.

If your lab or facility has not yet performed the HVA risk assessment, there is no need to panic. There are several model HVA tools available on line that can be used. As with any risk assessment, be sure to keep documentation readily available, review it each year, and make sure staff are trained about not only the HVA process, but in how to use the emergency management plan as well. There is a great amount of work that can go into preparing for a disaster, and training and drills for your staff will help to facilitate a smoother activation of the plan when the real emergency situation occurs.

Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ) has over 25 years experience as a certified medical technologist. Today he is the Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a system of seven hospitals and over 20 laboratories and draw sites in the Tidewater area of Virginia. He is also known as Dan the Lab Safety Man, a lab safety consultant, educator, and trainer.

When Gender Goes Awry in Electronic Health Records

For most people working in laboratory medicine, their first encounter with transgender patients likely arose from an issue involving the Electronic Health Record (HER). For me, I was called into the reference lab, because an abnormally high estradiol result was found by the referring lab. They were concerned this might be coming from a hormone secreting tumor, but inspection of the patient’s record revealed they had been taking higher than recommended doses of their feminizing hormones.

Today I will share stories from issues that arise in EMR when gender doesn’t equal sex. While these may not specifically happen to all of you, I hope they can be informative or help you anticipate future problems.

Transgender issues came up at one of our institutions when providers were getting dozens of messages in their in-baskets about new flagged lab results for multiple patients. This is very annoying, because they have to address each of these messages or they are out of compliance with the hospital. An investigation revealed that all of the patients involved were transgender patients. In order to get estradiol, sold as oral contraception pills, the pharmacy had to administratively change their sex in the EHR for approval, then change it back.

This moved their corresponding reference ranges out of sync, which triggered a new results flag. Changing the sex back triggered other flags and more messages. This was finally resolved after a committee was convened and several meetings occurred, but no one would have anticipated this type of issue arising from a simple action to get patients their medicine.

Sometimes transgender patients have their sex changed legally. If an EHR only includes one sex entry instead of gender and sex assigned at birth, then certain lab errors may prevent processing of important samples. The pregnancy test for a transgender man could be auto-rejected. This can be an issue even for providers in front of the patient as was recently reported in a case to the NEJM about a transman who was mistaken as obese instead of pregnant and miscarried their child.

Similarly, a prostate biopsy from a transgender woman could be auto-rejected by a surgical pathology system as an inappropriate specimen type for the patient. Even further, an EHR could fail to prompt a provider from making a prostate cancer risk assessment in a transgender woman, which could result in improper screening.

I would recommend that EHR includes three separate fields (sex assigned at birth, gender, and legal sex) to fully recognize transgender patients and provide optimal personalized healthcare to them.

References

  1. Gupta S, Imborek KL, Krasowski MD. Challenges in Transgender Healthcare: The Pathology Perspective. Lab Med. 2016 Aug; 47(3):180-188.
  2.  Stroumsa D, Roberts EFS, Kinnear H, Harris LH. The Power and Limits of Classification – A 32-YearOld Man with Abdominal Pain. N Engl J Med. 2019 May 16;380(20):1885-1888. doi:10.1056/NEJMp1811491.

-Jeff SoRelle, MD is a Chief Resident of Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX. His clinical research interests include understanding how the lab intersects with transgender healthcare and improving genetic variant interpretation.

Global Health Narratives Interview Series: Meet Dr. Kumarasen Cooper.

Kumarasen Cooper, MD, PhD completed his medical training from his home country in South Africa and his PhD at Oxford. He now works as a surgical pathologist at the University of Pennsylvania and is responsible for leading the initiative to engage the pathology department in the Botswana-UPenn partnership through the Perelman School of Medicine Center for Global Health. He has over 260 publications and has lectured in 5 continents. Despite this busy schedule, Dr. Cooper devotes two separate months of the year to work in Botswana’s only academic pathology department, where he pours his energy into helping the department advance.

I met Dr. Cooper through email when I heard about the work he was doing in Africa. He generously agreed to come visit my department to give an excellent Grand Rounds lecture on his experiences working in Global Pathology, and he led a much-appreciated resident slide session of unusual and difficult cases from his work in Botswana. Humility and grace envelop Dr. Cooper despite his brilliant accomplishments. He also proved to be incredibly generous with a refusal of his speaker honorarium, in exchange for an agreement that we would collect pathology textbooks to send to the under-supplied residency program in Botswana. I’m excited to share the inspiring work that he does through the Botswana-UPenn partnership with all of you today, as I think this program could be used as a model for all institutes to involve their pathology departments in global health opportunities.

Q: What began your interest in global health?

A: I was born, raised, and completed my medical training in South Africa. I spent 15 years working as a Pathologist and served as the Chair of Pathology in Johannesburg until I was recruited to the US to work as Vice-Chair at the University of Vermont. I knew when I left Africa that I would always come back, and that I could use what I learned abroad to give back in some way. I wasn’t sure in what form that would take at the time, but I knew there was work that still needed to be done. This was also influenced by my visits to the pathology departments in many different countries over the years…I was able to gain a sense of the ‘haves and have-nots’, and so developed a strong feeling that I needed to give back.

Q: How did you hear about the Botswana-University of Pennsylvania (BUP) partnership and was pathology an active part in that already?

A: When I first discovered the partnership, I thought that this may be an avenue for me to participate in global pathology. At the time, the pathology department was not involved in any of the ongoing BUP projects, though other clinical departments at UPenn were. After my initial assessment of the Botswana pathology department and its resources in April of 2016, I was able to identify ways that I could help. Together with the Director of BUP, I approached the Chairman of my department with the proposal, and we started the pathology partnership program in October of that year. Since then, I travel to Botswana twice a year for one month at a time, and each time I take 1-2 residents from UPenn along with me.

Q: Can you describe the pathology department in Botswana?

A: To serve a population of just over 2 million people, Botswana has only one academic pathology department, a College of the University of Botswana (UB) School of Medicine, which consists of six pathologists who are all from other countries. There are currently no Botswana pathologists working in the department. There are about six technicians working in the laboratory, all of whom were trained internationally. The laboratory receives around 7,000 surgical specimens yearly, plus cytology, and autopsy. They work with an extremely limited panel of immunostains that are not routinely used but are spared for the rare case that cannot be diagnosed with morphology alone.

The residency program is still very new. There are six residents in the program at the present time, and the program is designed so that they will spend the first two years in Botswana and then they will continue their final years of training in South Africa. I look forward with anticipation to the first Botswana trained pathologists in the country.

Q: What is your role when visiting Botswana?

A: We try to help with everything we can. I sign out cases with the residents during the time I am there, and I teach the residents using these cases every day. The UPenn residents that I bring with me are eager to teach as well, so they deliver didactics regularly also. We all participate in tumor boards and the FNA clinic. We each take on projects that we can partner with them to tackle…things like improving turnaround time, quality improvement, and SOP preparations.  We also work on developing academic programs, grossing templates and manuals (A UPenn pathology PA spent two weeks working in Botswana on this project), synoptic reports, cancer guidelines…anything they need I try to help them with.

Q: How are the UPenn pathology residents given credit in their home program to join you?

A: As of this year, the BUP pathology program is now offered as one of the official electives that residents are allowed to choose from. They are able to use elective time and their travel expenses are paid for by a resident travel grant.

Q: In your role as supervisor of the UPenn residents, what do you see the residents gaining from the experience?

A: The residents that have come with me to Botswana are very compassionate and are eager to contribute in any way they can. Experiencing pathology in Botswana, where people are trying to achieve so much with so little resources, it makes the UPenn residents even more grateful for all of the resources they have available to them. They also have the opportunity to not only learn from the unusual cases that present in Botswana, but also the opportunity to contribute their own unique set of skills – some have focused on teaching autopsy technique, others give enthusiastic  and detailed lectures, and one gave a talk about successful study techniques. [For more information about the resident experience, one can read more about it in the UPenn blog here: https://pathology.med.upenn.edu/department/blogs/residency-matters/penns-pathology-residency-program-reaches-botswana]

Q: How do you see the BUP pathology partnership affecting the trainees in Botswana? What changes have you seen since you started working with them?

A: The residents in Botswana really appreciate the partnership that we have formed.  I have seen the residents develop so much since working with them. At first, they were reserved and now they actually request lectures on topics they feel they could improve on. They are still very humble and respectful, but I have encouraged them to be advocates for themselves. They have really embraced their program and I’m very proud of them. We have a deep appreciation for each other and are proud of what we have achieved together.

We’ve also started hosting Botswana residents at UPenn for a one month rotation so they have the opportunity to supplement their training even further. We fly them to the US, house them, and include them in our residency training program for the month. They have the opportunity to sit in on sign-outs, shadow grossing and autopsy, attend conferences, and be exposed to the advanced testing that we routinely perform in the US.

Q: How do you see the pathology partnership growing in years to come?A: I’m currently helping them find placements in South Africa or possibly partnering with private laboratories to help expose the residents to a greater diversity and volume of cases. As the program continues to grow, we look forward to seeing the fruits of the partnership for many years to come.


-Dana Razzano, MD is a Chief Resident in her third year in anatomic and clinical pathology at New York Medical College at Westchester Medical Center and will be starting her fellowship in Cytopathology at Yale University in 2020. She was a top 5 honoree in ASCP’s Forty Under 40 2018 and was named to The Pathologist’s Power List of 2018. Follow Dr. Razzano on twitter @Dr_DR_Cells.

Hey, What’s the Buzz on Zika?

Hello everyone and welcome back!

Last month, it was as fun to write about hematology peripheral smear differentials as it was to address the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. I found myself in a unique position both as a medical student as well as a former medical laboratory scientist in what was a great clinical training rotation in hematology/oncology. Now, with just one rotation left until the end of my medical school journey, I want to take you on a look back at some of the very first posts I made here on Lablogatory and update you on the intersectional, collaborative topic that I shared with you almost two years ago: Zika!

Image 1. ASCP’s official professional society partner, The Pathologist. I’ve been getting them in my mailbox since the official partnership was announced. It’s an excellent platform for laboratory professionals across scopes to discuss relevant topics in pathology. I was particularly excited to see Zika make an appearance last month! (Source: The Pathologist [online] https://thepathologist.com/diagnostics/our-powers-combined)

In a recent digital article on ASCP’s partner, The Pathologist, author and staff editor Michael Schubert wrote about the connectivity between public health, epidemiologic research, laboratory medicine, and clinical patient outcomes. He examined the effectiveness and accuracy of Zika testing availability in commercially available assays and spoke with a leading virologist in the field from Berlin. You may recall one of those “ancient” posts I made about Zika, where I was part of a research team that used the same methodology! Combined immunoglobulin-specific assays, arbovirus detection in the heat of a public health epidemic’s epicenter, and lab medicine that complimented my concurrent immunology class in med school—what more could you ask for?

And, since the last tagged Lablogatory Zika update I can see was by Dr. Sarah Riley in February of 2017, here’s my update! Dr. Riley’s post was a fantastic summary of the Zika epidemic, its troublesome diagnostic assessments, and the recommendations and plans of organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). She was, and still is, right—the “struggle is still real’ when it comes to Zika testing. Curious about what it was like during the 2016 epidemic? Who was doing testing, what kind of testing, and what was the lab data climate? Well…it feels like it’s time for a…

*** FLASHBACK ***

An Arbovirus Abroad

Hey! My inaugural post! It was fun to go back and see the data from the work then (Spoilers: epidemiologic updates are on your horizon). We were just getting started to take an assessment of the situation and address it as a public health concern. My then Caribbean location was a great place to study Zika trends coming from Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Florida. As a snapshot, at that time (Dec 2016) there were a purported almost 2,000 cases, however less than a fifth of those cases were serologically confirmed by lab testing. Before the recommendations to move toward RT-PCR, most labs in the region were requesting commercially available screening tests for IgG/IgM assays.

Image 2a. These were the (then) suspected Zika viral infection cases per epidemiological week, Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) 2016. My wife and I are included in these statistics—that mosquito virus rash is awful!
Image 2b. Remember that spoiler I promised above? Well here’s the updated WHO epidemiologic data for confirmed Zika cases in the region we worked in. Seems like the mosquitoes…buzzed off. (Source: WHO)

Healthy Me

How do you reach people when you’ve got compelling public health lab data that translates to possible prevention of infection and spread of disease? Easy: go to where the people are and engage them when and where they’re comfortable. One of the overarching themes in public health is mitigating barriers to change by way of utilizing social humility. This a certainly a type of interdisciplinary collaboration because if we’re the experts on IgM and IgG trends in testing confirmations, the public are the experts in social determinants of health within their communities.

Image 3. Want to make sure a message gets home to every family? Bug their kids about Zika bugs in fun, educational ways. That’s me delivering one of my “Healthy Me” presentations to children, October 2016.

Laboratory Data and Global Health Security

As my team and I were busy preparing SOPs, conducting a new project aimed at improving local health literacy and source reduction, securing IRB approval, and collecting data about the residents of Sint Maarten to correlate with local Health Ministry projections, one of the officials—who now serves as a regional director for PAHO—took our work to the Global Health Security Agenda Summit. Talk about motivation! In and out of the lab, I worked with teams who were getting some fantastic work done on the ground with respect to mosquito-borne virus research.

Image 4. IgM and IgG seroprevalence of Zika virus (along with other Arboviruses i.e. West Nile, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Yellow Fever etc.) within the community around my medical school. We used commercially available IgG and IgM assays from Germany with great success. Internal controls and known cases were fantastic ways to include internal validation.

IRBs and Public Heath Pathology

For those of us who work in laboratory medicine, it’s easy to talk about the best way to test, detect, and treat an epidemiologic threat—it’s even exciting when it’s a current threat. But to really be successful, you’ve got to collaborate with those outside of the lab, and often this means thinking “outside the box.” Public health is different from lab medicine in that while lab-work is based around results, testing, and organized data-driven decisions, success in public health is highly determined by community buy-in in the form of partnerships!

Figure 1. There’s a method to the community “buy-in” concept. With a foundation in evidence-based practices, any project aimed at improving public health outcomes must include some critical components like clear objectives, attainable goals, sustainability, and effective (and constant) re-evaluation.

*** FLASH … FORWARD? ***

So, after my time in Sint Maarten, I came to New York City to rotate through my clinical clerkships. And, if you’ve seen some more recent post-Zika posts on this website, you know they’ve been going great! Within a few months of being here, my wife brought back some swag from a training session she attended. (Side note: she’s a graduate-level nurse, working in the public health non-profit sector with vulnerable populations in the inner city—she’s too busy to blog.) After months of both of us working and learning about Zika and public health initiatives in the Caribbean, we were greeted by this fantastic toolkit from the New York State Department of Public Health!

Image 5. Empowering a large number of patients with highly variable demographics is challenging. The NYS DOH distributed “Prevention Kits” for Zika Virus which included: Zika Virus educational materials in 8 languages, pamphlets on reducing mosquito activity, travel related information for pregnant women, 2 larvicide pellets with instructions for using larvicide, picaridin insect repellent, and condoms.
Image 6. That’s us! My wife Kathryn and I presenting on the importance of Disaster Planning and Implementation of Preparedness Programs at the 2019 Caribbean Conference of Disaster Medicine. Disasters are bad on their own, but think about what happens months after flooding, hurricanes, or destruction—transmittable diseases. And that includes standing-water-borne mosquito viruses!

The take home message: collaboration is key, both inside and out of the lab. Schubert’s piece in The Pathologist created a fantastic dialogue in addressing the clinical needs for interdisciplinary collaboration. The best testing means finding out exactly where the needs are and using data-driven decisions to implement change or action. In the lab, that means constantly working for higher quality and better patient outcomes in every test, result, report, and (mosquito) byte of data. In the field, it means the same thing, but instead of metrics like sensitivity, specificity, and TAT it’s about cultural humility, attainable goals, and dynamic timing.

Thanks for reading! Hope most of our national heat wave spared you, but if it didn’t remember: don’t keep standing water around, wear light loose clothing, and use appropriate insect repellent!

See you next time!

–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 actively involved in public health and laboratory medicine, conducting clinicals at Bronx-Care Hospital Center in New York City.

An Introduction to Laboratory Regulations: Part 1

Everyone who works in a laboratory knows that there are certain rules and regulations to be followed to ensure accuracy in testing, and the safety of both the patient and testing personnel. With all the acronyms floating around (CLIA, FDA, CAP, CMS, TJC) it can get confusing to keep track of who controls what, and which rules apply to your specific lab. In the first installment of this 3-part series on regulations, we’ll review the different federal agencies responsible for oversight and moderation of the laboratory. In part 2 we’ll go further in-depth to demystify testing complexity (waived, non-waived, PPM) and why it’s important to know the correct classification for the tests you perform. Lastly, we’ll review the optional accreditations available to labs, and how accreditation differs from certification.

CLIA

CLIA refers to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. These amendments were drafted to the Public Health Services Act, in which the federal program was revised to include certification and oversight of clinical laboratory testing. Although there have been two additional amendments made after 1988 (1997, 2012), the law still continues to be cited as CLIA ’88 as it is named within legislation.

These CLIA regulations helped to establish quality standards for all U.S. laboratory testing performed on human specimens (except for research) for the purpose of assessment of health, or the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease. The regulations cover all aspects of testing including general laboratory requirements, quality monitors, pre-analytics, analytic performance, post-analytics, and personnel requirements.

In addition to setting the basic ground rules for performing quality laboratory testing, the CLIA regulations also require clinical laboratories to be certified by their state as well as the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) before accepting human samples for diagnostic testing. Laboratories can obtain multiple types of CLIA certificates, based on the kinds of diagnostic tests they perform. In order for laboratories to receive payments from Medicare or Medicaid, laboratories must be properly certified for the testing they are performing and billing for.

There are 3 federal agencies responsible for enforcing the CLIA regulations: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each agency has a unique role in assuring quality laboratory testing.

CMS

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is the federal agency responsible for ensuring that the CLIA standards are upheld and enforced. Their responsibilities include the following:

  • Issuing laboratory certificates
  • Collecting user fees
  • Conducting inspections and enforcing regulatory compliance
  • Approving private accreditation organizations (such as CAP) for performing inspections, and approves state exemptions
  • Monitoring laboratory performance on Proficiency Testing (PT) and approving PT programs
  • Publishing CLIA rules and regulations

FDA

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is primarily responsible for reviewing and approving new tests, instruments, and equipment used in diagnostic laboratories. They also perform the following tasks:

  • Categorize tests based on complexity
  • Review requests for Waiver by Application from manufacturers
  • Develop rules/guidance for CLIA complexity categorization

CDC

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) responsibilities include the following tasks:

  • Provide analysis, research, and technical assistance
  • Develop technical standards and laboratory practice guidelines, including standards and guidelines for cytology
  • Conduct laboratory quality improvement studies
  • Monitor proficiency testing practices
  • Develop and distribute professional information and educational resources
  • Manage the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Advisory Committee (CLIAC)

To summarize, CLIA establishes the rules and guidelines that laboratories must follow to ensure they are providing accurate laboratory results. Federal agencies then work together to support the CLIA amendments and enforce compliance. All certified laboratories will be subject to inspection by regulatory agencies to ensure compliance with the rules. In some cases, your local state Department of Health (DOH) or accrediting agency may be more stringent or have additional requirements to be followed – always go with the stricter requirement to ensure compliance with all agencies.

Coming up next we’ll review how the FDA decides the complexity of each test, and how this designation will affect the CLIA rules to be followed.

References

  1. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=1248e3189da5e5f936e55315402bc38b&node=pt42.5.493&rgn=div5
  2. Interpretive Guidelines for Laboratories: https://www.cms.gov/regulations-and-guidance/legislation/clia/interpretive_guidelines_for_laboratories.html

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-Kyle Nevins, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM is one of ASCP’s 2018 Top 5 in the 40 Under Forty recognition program. She has worked in the medical laboratory profession for over 18 years. In her current position, she transitions between performing laboratory audits across the entire Northwell Health System on Long Island, NY, consulting for at-risk laboratories outside of Northwell Health, bringing laboratories up to regulatory standards, and acting as supervisor and mentor in labs with management gaps.