Inspired by the Avengers movie out this past weekend, we are still singing the praises of some everyday heroes who may not wield a magic shield or the hammer of Thor, but who are the backbone of every hospital and medical clinic in the country. Late last month Penn Medicine observed the fortieth Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, a time to recognize the hard work and dedication of the 600-plus lab professionals in more than 30 laboratories across the health system. Fittingly, the slogan chosen by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science this year for its campaign was “Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Some Wear Lab Coats.”
More than 10 billion lab tests are performed every year by more than 300,000 medical laboratory professionals across the U.S. From small practices in rural towns to large metropolitan hospitals and academic medical centers, lab professionals deliver accurate test results every day and serve as part of health care teams to guide and assess patients’ ongoing treatment and care.
At Penn Medicine, close to 1,200 faculty and staff in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
work around the clock to perform critical patient care functions, such as running blood banks and conducting tests that provide essential data to make diagnoses of all kinds and keep patients safe throughout their hospital stays. As Director of Laboratory Medicine, Irving Nachamkin, noted in a department blog post about Lab Week,
an important example of the critical role of laboratory professionals in meeting medical challenges is the recent Ebola outbreak.
“We needed to rapidly develop the infrastructure for taking care of individuals returning to the States who were suspected of having or who had actually contracted the disease. Countless hours were spent by our pathology faculty, department administration, laboratory technologists, and support staff to develop the testing policies, procedures, processes, simulations, and the special treatment laboratory for the evaluation of patients with suspected Ebola infections admitted to the hospital’s special treatment areas,” he wrote.
In this nationwide effort, Penn Medicine staff showed their pride of profession by giving back to the community they serve -- at a record level. This year, 15 labs donated gift baskets, and the raffle raised more than $6,600, a nearly 20 percent increase in the amount raised last year. All proceeds from the raffle were donated to Philadelphia charities MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) and PEC (the People's Emergency Center).
Lab Week isn’t all serious business. Thirteen labs participated in the annual “Decorate Your Door Challenge,” in keeping with the superhero theme. A panel of judges from senior department and health system leadership evaluated the decorated doors and chose the winners. This year, the Microbiology lab won first prize, with their “Microtech” comic strip door and the Histocompatibility Lab won second prize, with a “Captain Trans-Plant-It” theme. Honorable mention went to the Blood Bank for best presentation, for “Blood Bank Superheroes.” The first-place winner was given a new trophy, the “Golden Erle" created by the department from a large Erlenmeyer flask.