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Chicago Students to Get Lessons on Diagnostic Testing from the "Unsung Heroes" of the Clinical Lab Profession


Abbott-Sponsored Initiative Elevates Role of Laboratory Professionals in Response to Growing Workforce Shortage in the Nation’s Clinical Labs.

Chicago.— Chicago high school students interested in science and health care will get a chance to learn about diagnostic tests and the laboratory professionals who perform them during the American Association for Clinical Chemistry’s 2009 Clinical Lab Expo on July 21 and 22.

Through a program called Labs Are Vital™, sponsored by Abbott (NYSE: ABT), more than 50 students from Chicago public schools will take part in educational sessions intended to raise awareness of the important role of diagnostic testing and the clinical laboratory profession in health care. The sessions will be held at two school locations in the Abbott ARCHitour, a mobile laboratory housed in a custom-designed 18-wheel semi-trailer truck. As part of the three-hour program, students will get the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a lab professional through role-playing scenarios and hands-on simulations using sophisticated diagnostic instruments.

Participants will include high school students enrolled in the Health Science Enrichment Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (to be held on Tuesday, July 21) and in the Wells Community Academy High School summer session (to be held on Wednesday, July 22).

“Our students are really looking forward to the program and getting a better understanding and appreciation for the role of the clinical lab professional,” said Ernesto Matias, principal of Wells Community Academy School.“We’re hoping the program serves as a catalyst for students who may be considering careers in science or health care.”

Laboratory tests are the most cost effective, least invasive source of the objective information used in clinical decision-making. It is estimated that laboratory services drive 60 to 80 percent of clinical decisions from diagnosis through therapy and prognosis, while comprising less than five percent of a typical hospital budget. While they infrequently meet the patients who depend on their care, lab professionals are indispensable partners to clinicians in the delivery of that care.

“Lab professionals have long been the unsung heroes of medical facilities throughout this country,” said John Ball, M.D., J.D., FASCP, executive vice president, American Society for Clinical Pathology. “Their contributions save lives, reduce morbidity, and help control the cost of care in thousands of healthcare facilities on a daily basis. For example, treating early-stage cervical cancer, detected through clinical lab tests conducted by these skilled professionals, costs more than $16,000 less per patient than treating a late-stage of the disease. Aside from the health issues averted by early detection and faster treatment, rapid diagnosis could improve patient outcomes and dramatically reduce the economic burden facing our healthcare system. It is important that we work hard to support clinical laboratorians as we move toward a preventive healthcare philosophy.”

The July 21 and 22 sessions are among several initiatives sponsored by Labs Are Vital to raise national awareness of the role of clinical laboratory professionals in health care and recruit new laboratorians as the industry faces a severe workforce shortage.

Organizations supporting these initiatives include:

* The Coordinating Council on the Clinical Laboratory Workforce (CCCLW):
* American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC):
* American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS):
* American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP);
* American Medical Technologists (AMT);
* American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB);
* Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL);
* American Association of Blood Banks (AABB);
* Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA); and
* The International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC)

Over the past year, Labs Are Vital has turned its focus to finding new solutions to address the critical and growing workforce shortage the nation’s clinical laboratories are facing. According to statistics compiled by the ASCP, there currently may be as many as 40,000 unfilled clinical laboratory jobs in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor projects approximately 13,800 medical laboratory professionals will be needed every year through 2012 to fill vacant positions. Unfortunately, fewer than 5,000 professionals are graduating from training programs each year.

To help address this issue, Labs Are Vital has launched a robust recruitment effort, including a scholarship competition in partnership with Channel One, the National TV News Network Just for Teens and a sponsored group page on Facebook, the popular online social media networking. Other recruitment activities include an Advocacy Program engaging current professionals to speak out on their profession and an ongoing public awareness ad campaign.


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