Skip to main content

Military Health System

Important Notice about Pharmacy Operations

Change Healthcare Cyberattack Impact on MHS Pharmacy Operations. Read the statement to learn more. 

Pandemic Spotlights the Vital Role of Military Lab Workers

Image of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Solomon, 18th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of microbiology, unloads blood samples from a centrifuge at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks, U.S. Air Force). U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Solomon, 18th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of microbiology, unloads blood samples from a centrifuge at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks, U.S. Air Force)

Clinical labs across the Military Health System – and the staff who operate them – play a vital role in early detection of illnesses, diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. 

In fact, studies show about 70% of current medical decisions depend on test results. 

The demands placed on MHS lab workers intensified during the past two years and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“At the peak of the pandemic, most laboratories saw their workload double in some areas,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Aramatou Toure, assistant manager for the Defense Health Agency’s clinical laboratory improvement program. 

“Most laboratories had to re-evaluate their daily operation to address the staff shortage,” she recalled. 

Despite the challenges, lab staffs worked hard to keep pace with the demand and to deliver quality results to support clinicians. 

“The pandemic helped shine the light on the important role and work the laboratory does,” Toure said. “Most people were not aware of the background work performed by the laboratories in the process of patient diagnosis.”  

Moreover, the pandemic made it clear to many people that without the laboratories, clinicians cannot effectively perform their job.  

“The outside world, and other medical professionals were able to appreciate the work laboratories do, and I know that means a lot to the laboratory community,” Toure said. 

Air Force Lt. Col. Marybeth Luna, the director for the Department of Defense Center for Laboratory Medicine Services, already has plans to prepare for the next pandemic. 

“We encourage labs to utilize instrumentation that can analyze COVID, respiratory pathogens and other routine microbiological agents,” she said. 

“It’s very important to have analyzers that can convert from ‘peacetime’ uses as well as public health emergency responses. This ensures that labs always have on-site, emergency response capabilities as well as routine lab support,” Luna said. 

Every year, the last full week of April is observed as Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Known as Lab Week, it began in 1975, and creates an opportunity to increase public awareness and appreciation for laboratory professionals. It is sponsored by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science and coordinated by 17 national clinical laboratory organizations. 

Within military medicine, the laboratory community consists of officers, who serve as lab managers, and enlisted service members, who do the actual testing and lab work. The civilians also do everything from sample collection to management. 

The lab techs “perform a wide variety of laboratory functions in order to provide data required to diagnose, treat, and monitor patient health,” explained Army Master Sgt. Roberto Laanan, the program manager for the Army Clinical Laboratory Improvement Program. 

Military clinical lab technicians and managers keep up with the latest technology via education and instruction. 

“The way we achieve accuracy is through training,” said Air Force Major Tatanya Cooper, deputy chief for the Laboratory Medicine Services. 

“Our military trained laboratorians received a minimum of one year of didactic and hands-on training, two to three years of thorough ‘upgrade’ training, as well as an annual competency training,” Cooper said.

You also may be interested in...

Publication
Apr 7, 2020

Decision Memorandum on TRICARE Implementation of the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act"

.PDF | 1.06 MB

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Public Law 116-127, Division F, Section 6006(a), limits TRICARE authority to impose copayment or other cost-sharing for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and related provider visits that result in orders for or administration of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, cleared, or authorized ...

Publication
Apr 5, 2020

DoD Guidance on the Use of Cloth Face Coverings

.PDF | 1.02 MB

Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers (this does not include in a Service member's or Service family member's personal residence on a military installation).

Publication
Apr 2, 2020

Transition of Military Medical Treatment Facilities from Military Departments to the Defense Health Agency during the COVID-19 Response

.PDF | 457.94 KB

The Department's MTF transition plan is conditions-based. While the transition of MTFs to DHA is continuing, the COVID-19 response requirements are impacting DHA's ability to meet all required conditions. The need for the DHA and MILDEPs to refocus efforts away from the transition to support the COVID-19 response led to questions regarding the future ...

Fact Sheet
Mar 24, 2020

Elective Surgery and Procedures Q & A

.PDF | 42.83 KB

Today, the Department issued guidance directing that all Military Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs) and Dental Treatment Facilities (DTFs) postpone all elective surgeries, invasive procedures, and dental procedures as of March 31, 2020 for 60 days. This Fact Sheet answers commonly asked questions about that guidance.

Technical Document
Mar 24, 2020

DOD COVID-19 Practice Management Guide

.PDF | 2.89 MB

This COVID-19 Practice Management Guide has been rapidly and thoughtfully developed by a multi-specialty group of 60 subject matter experts from across the Department of Defense Military Health System. This Practice Management Guideline consolidates resources and optimizes the management of patients requiring clinical care during the global COVID-19 ...

Publication
Mar 19, 2020

COVID-19 Life Support Training Extension

.PDF | 361.65 KB

The purpose of this memorandum is to set policy guidance within the Military Health System for American Red Cross life support training (First Aid/cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/automated external defibrillator (AED), Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Life Support (ALS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)).

Congressional Testimony
Mar 11, 2020

Terry M. Rauch, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Force Health Protection and Readiness Regarding U.S. Biodefense and Response to the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak [Testified] Before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform

.PDF | 109.27 KB

Terry M. Rauch, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Force Health Protection and Readiness Regarding U.S. Biodefense and Response to the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak [Testified] Before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery