As clinical laboratorians, we often travel to major events in our field (such as AACC’s Annual Scientific Meeting) to surround ourselves with those working along similar job descriptions, be introduced to new opportunities, and gain national prominence. While these centralized networking interactions are critical for our professional development, other exciting opportunities may lie within our own workplace walls if we are willing to step outside of the laboratory and interact with those in other specialties. These potential new colleagues could be in other areas of Pathology or outside of Pathology altogether.

The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine’s 2019 special issue, “Diagnosis and Management of Sepsis and Blood Stream Infections,” included an article that I co-wrote with clinical microbiologists Susan Butler-Wu, PhD, D(ABMM) and Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD, D(ABMM) entitled “Breaking Down Barriers in Laboratory Medicine.” We found in our experiences that there were several clinical laboratory projects that crossed lines between clinical chemistry and microbiology. Examples included the adoption of a syphilis reverse sequence screening algorithm, internalization of HIV antibody differentiation testing, and the implementation of a reflexive urinalysis to urine culture workflow. While much of this testing is often performed in a “chemistry” or core laboratory, I value the perspective and expertise that a clinical microbiologist can bring with regards to the relevant infectious diseases, test performances, and clinical guidelines.

Further, clinical microbiologists often work firsthand with infectious disease physicians and pharmacists, and I have come to know and work with both at my institution through introductions via our clinical microbiologist. Similarly, a project to bring in new thromboelastography analyzers at the point-of-care had me working side by side with our coagulation testing and blood bank director and our surgical leadership. While I am the point-of-care testing director, I’ve called on this particular coagulation director for other issues related to point-of-care ACT and INR measurements. These examples illustrate that we each have our parts to play and can learn from each other’s expertise. Further, I’ve found that these types of collaborative approaches to the routine clinical work can lead to impactful quality improvement projects and scholarly work that may be highlighted outside of the traditional clinical chemistry or laboratory medicine audience.

So how can one network within their own institution to work with those in other specialties? Possible ideas include: 1) Be in regular attendance at department (Pathology) meetings. Introduce yourself to those who you don’t know. Keep them in mind when you have questions that may cross into their area of expertise. 2) Obtain your institution’s calendar of events and seek out events, as time permits, in other specialties that my cross interest with laboratory medicine. Personally, I have found our institution’s Endocrine Grand Rounds to be particularly relevant to clinical chemistry testing. We also have a hospital-wide Quality Improvement Council whose meetings are open to all. 3) Involve yourself in trainee (e.g., resident and/or fellow) programs. Seek out collaborative projects for trainee participation, whereby trainees in different areas can work together and/or be co-mentored by faculty in multiple areas. Foster a collaborative training environment.

Take a walk down the hallway and see who you can find!

Recommended Reading

Chambliss AB, Butler-Wu SM, Dien Bard J. Breaking Down Barriers in Laboratory Medicine. J Appl Lab Med. 2019;3(4):735-6.

Graber ML, Rusz D, Jones ML, Farm-Franks D, Jones B, Cyr Gluck J, et al. The new diagnostic team. Diagnosis (Berl) 2017;4:225–38.