The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) acknowledges the laboratory personnel working in the state’s Public Health Laboratory (PHL) during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 22-28.
There are around 300,000 medical laboratory professionals in the United States reporting approximately 10 billion laboratory test results each year. This pool of professionals comprise a diverse group of generalists and specialists, including medical technologists, histologists, cytotechnologists, microbiologists, biochemists, pathologists, pathologist assistants, phlebotomists, administrative and clerical staff, and other highly skilled medical staff.
Dr. Terry Dunn is the director of the PHL. He said clinical laboratory testing plays a vital role in the delivery of quality health care, providing essential information for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of a patient’s condition.
“Unfortunately, the dedicated efforts of the laboratory professional often go unnoticed by the general public,” said Dunn. “They don’t get much opportunity to interact with patients but rather operate dutifully behind the scenes. Each day the PHL receives a multitude of different specimens including blood, urine and tissue, and performs a variety of highly complex tests that are vital to the detection, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease in Oklahomans.”
Among the variables that influence medical decisions, laboratory tests are considered to be among the most important and frequently used to guide diagnosis and treatment of patients.
“To give you an idea of the importance of laboratory test results, it is estimated that they comprise about 70 percent of a patient’s medical record,” said Dunn. “Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is an opportunity for us all to recognize the contribution of medical laboratory professionals to the well-being of Oklahomans and our nation.”
The PHL receives and tests more than 200,000 specimens annually from county health departments, hospitals, physicians and clinics across the state to assess the health status of the community and to prevent widespread illness. The Oklahoma PHL performs more than 680,000 tests on these specimens, including screening for genetic disorders in newborns, detection of rabies virus, Zika virus, tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis, and identification of various foodborne and environmental pathogens, and agents of terrorism.
Equipped with sophisticated instrumentation and staffed by some 40 highly-trained scientists, the Oklahoma PHL delivers services that are unavailable or cost-prohibitive for other laboratories in Oklahoma. The lab also functions within a multi-partner, national laboratory network that is on alert 24/7 to respond to novel strains of disease, natural disasters, foodborne outbreaks and other health emergencies.
· Makes diagnoses and monitors communicable diseases such as HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, tuberculosis, Zika virus, measles, and whooping cough.
· Participates in a national laboratory network to detect clusters and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
· Provides specialized testing and consultation services for low incidence, high-risk diseases such as tuberculosis, rabies, botulism, smallpox, anthrax and plague.
· Provides specialized diagnostic testing for Oklahoma health care facilities which lack the ability to identify certain pathogens, such as malaria, parasites, and unusual fungi, bacteria and viruses.
· Screens approximately 54,000 newborn babies each year for 54 inherited potentially life-threatening biochemical and genetic disorders, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.
· Performs testing on specimens in response to bioterrorism emergencies.
· Trains health care personnel and hazmat and first responders throughout Oklahoma in procedures for response to chemical and bioterrorism events.
For more information about the public health lab at OSDH, visit https://go.usa.gov/xQZwh