By Capt. Luis A. Pow Sang, Ph.D.April 1, 2019
Capt. Luis A. Pow Sang, Ph.D.
Eisenhower Army Medical Center
Physicians will make an informed diagnosis often with the information gathered by the team of clinical laboratory professionals. Laboratory professionals are fundamental for the 5-Star patient care provided here at Eisenhower Army Medical Center. From the team of phlebotomists who are experts in collecting blood to the technicians and doctors who perform the tests, laboratorians are working 24/7/365 delighted to contribute to the well-being of our beneficiaries.
Eisenhower's Department of Pathology includes a team of military and civilian medical doctors and Ph.D. experts in areas such as biochemistry and microbiology. Moreover, the fundamental part of the team includes the medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians who are the core of the department. These professionals are experts in their corresponding fields such as, phlebotomy, cytology, histology, blood blank, microbiology, virology, immunology, urinalysis, hematology and chemistry. They perform more than 300 different tests for the care of more than 170,000 beneficiaries.
April 21-27 is National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Laboratorians around the country take this opportunity to inform and educate medical colleagues and the general public about the medical laboratory profession. They also take time to convey the critical role these skilled and dedicated professionals contribute to patient care.
The laboratory at Eisenhower is located on the first floor. It receives specimens from each clinic and ward of the hospital. Also, it receives specimens from 11 facilities within the Regional Health Command-Atlantic. We also receive specimens to be processed in the Biosafety Level 3 laboratory for suspicious, highly infectious agents.
Personnel who work in this field are required to have additional certifications besides a bachelors or associates degree. One of these certifications is the MT or MLT certification after passing rigorous board exams. EAMC is unique because many of the civilian laboratory staff employed here received their initial training during their prior military service.
Some highly experienced personnel who have been laboratory professionals for more than 35 years in the federal system are profiled here.
Brenda Brubeck currently performs duties in the immunology section. She has worked for more than 40 years in the federal system. Most of her years were spent here at EAMC. Prior to being a civilian federal employee, she was part of one of the last groups of the Women's Army Corps in 1974. She graduated the Basic Medical Laboratory course at Fort Sam Houston in March 1978. She arrived here as a permanent party soldier in April of the same year and has not left.
When asked her favorite laboratory test and whether she still performs it today she answered: "I have worked in multiple areas and each one has a favorite test but it would have to be a Complete Chemistry Panel. So much information can be obtained from these tests.
"When I was in school we were taught to do some tests manually such as the BUN to measure urea nitrogen in the blood. It was performed by itself on a spectrophotometer. Now it is part of a panel and done on automated instrumentation. It is done in a different part of the laboratory, so no I'm not currently doing that one. I currently work on allergies, MMRVs, syphilis, ANAs, HSVs and other special testing."
Nadine Ramsey also has served in the federal system for more than 35 years. She came to Eisenhower in 1995. Currently she is a medical technologist working in the hematology, coagulation and urinalysis sections within the core laboratory. The core laboratory processes more than 15,000 specimens a month and about 4,500 specimens STAT, or short turn-around time, that need to be reported in less than one hour.
When asked about her favorite test she said "I do not have a favorite test, but there are two tests that have changed since I started working here. The semen analysis for fertility and the ESR or erythrocyte sedimentation rate tests. Those tests were done manually at one time, but now we have instruments to perform those tests."
Cheryl Blevins works in the transfusion services area, also known as the blood bank which provides blood needed for surgeries and other emergencies. The blood bank's role is crucial for patient survival. Any deviation or error could lead to transfusion reactions that could severely harm the patient. Their job is very stressful for that very reason. But they perform so very seamlessly and with such confidence, EAMC's medical staff knows patients are in good hands.
Blevins started at Eisenhower in 1990. "Performing ABO/Rh for Blood Typing is my favorite [test]. We started with tube testing. Then we moved to automation where a machine did the testing for you. Now the blood bank has returned to doing manual ABO/Rh testing."
George Evans is currently a senior supervisor for the cytology section of the pathology department. They are the first in line to review several hundreds of tissue slides, searching for abnormal cells that could be potential carcinomas.
Each slide is a window to a world that is a tiny section of a patient's skin from a particular site of the body. Finding an abnormal cell at times could be very challenging. They could be hidden among several thousands of healthy cells. But, finding that particular aberrant cell could potentially save someone's life.
Evans came to EAMC around 1992. "Gas chromatography and high-pressure liquid chromatography, or HPLC, testing has not varied much but the machines have become a lot smaller. Columns, back in the day, used to be three stories high, while today the columns are half the size of a No. 2 pencil. Currently, it is faster, performs more procedures and is more accurate."
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