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Campaign highlights lab contributions.

On July 19 of this year in Chicago--on the eve of the start of the world's largest gathering of lab professionals, the AACC annual meeting--Abbott Laboratories announced a new initiative designed to explain to patients and healthcare professionals the critical role that laboratory medicine plays in healthcare. Built around the theme "Labs Are Vital," the multifaceted education and awareness initiative focuses attention on the life-saving work medical laboratory scientists provide in diagnosing disease and improving health outcomes.

"The role of the laboratory scientist isn't well known outside of healthcare, and this communications campaign will help close the knowledge gap about the many contributions of these dedicated professionals," says Don Patton, vice president of Abbott's global diagnostic commercial operations. The campaign, he notes, also is expected to be a source of pride within the lab community and to help motivate and inspire those in the field.

Creating a community online

"The 'Labs Are Vital' initiative is aimed at drawing attention to the efforts of a segment of the healthcare profession who collectively make vast contributions every day to the lives of millions of patients," says Patton. "This important effort will help educate patients and nurses, and physicians and hospital administrators on the efforts of medical laboratory scientists. We hope this campaign will encourage young people to consider a career in laboratory medicine and help ensure the viability of med-tech schools so they are able to educate the next generation of these dedicated and talented professionals."

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The new "Labs are Vital" website, www.labsarevital.com, creates a community for lab professionals not only to celebrate their contributions to healthcare, but also to work together to catalyze change. Discussion boards, articles about the profession, and a little lab humor are featured. The site also provides information on the status of legislation important to laboratorians and a forum for exchanging practices that lead to improvements in laboratory efficiency or management and other related topics. These latter two features are designed to encourage lab scientists to take on a larger role in influencing decisions that impact their work lives, including various public-policy measures.

Supporting schools

Educational institutions that train laboratory scientists are also being challenged in a number of ways, including dealing with the escalating cost of buying equipment for the lab. The cost burden of acquiring new laboratory equipment for training continues to increase as newer technology becomes available, forcing some educational institutions to close down their laboratory-science programs.

Based on some sobering facts about the current status of training the next generation of laboratorians, Abbott created a program to donate instruments to deserving teaching institutions. This new program will allow approximately 40 schools over the next two years to receive a donated Abbott analyzer. In addition, the company will provide reagents and on-site technical support. The training programs that will receive the help have yet to be named.

Abbott estimates the total value of this component of the "Labs Are Vital" campaign is $1 million. The resources are intended to help train the 138,000 laboratory scientists that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says are needed by 2012 to replace those who are retiring as well as to address the needs of a growing American population. It is estimated only 42,000 new lab techs are now trained and available.

Significant phrase for significant value

A range of additional programs is in development, including initiatives to help colleges and universities improve graduation rates for students with laboratory-science degrees. "Abbott has supported the lab community in a wide variety of ways for nearly 30 years," Patton adds. "This new effort is focused on tackling the most pressing issues facing laboratorians, and it brings entirely new solutions to the table. 'Labs Are Vital' is more than a theme for the effort; this phrase speaks to the significant value that laboratory scientists play today and will continue to do in the future."

Louise Townsend is a Florida-based writer who formerly specialized in legislative issues for a major Washington, DC, pharmaceutical association.
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Title Annotation:Labs Are Vital
Author:Townsend, Louise
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:671
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