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...

Topic
Jan 9, 2024

COVID-19 Vaccine

The Defense Health Agency developed this digital toolkit to help you communicate with beneficiaries about the COVID-19 vaccine. The assorted print, digital, and social media graphics should be used locally to generate awareness among populations.

Topic
Nov 2, 2023

COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus discovered in 2019. The virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets and small particles produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Infographic
Jul 25, 2023

COVID-19: Increased Risk

You Might be at Increased Risk

COVID-19 is a new disease. Currently there are limited data and information about the impact of many underlying medical conditions on the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, adults of any age with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19: Asthma ...

Infographic
Jul 25, 2023

COVID-19: Underlying Condition List

Graphic explaining the risk of severe illness to COVID-19 under certain medical conditions. Certain underlying medical conditions put you at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Severe illness from COVID-19 is defined as hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death. Adults of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19: Cancer; Chronic kidney disease; COPD; Down Syndrome; Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant; Obesity; Pregnancy; Sickle cell disease; Smoking; or Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Certain underlying medical conditions put you at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Severe illness from COVID-19 is defined as hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death.

Infographic
Jun 22, 2023

COVID-19: What to do if You're at Risk

Graphic explaining how to what you should do if you have an underlying medical condition during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have an underlying medical condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan. Continue your medicines and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider. Have at least a 30-day supply of prescription and non-prescription medicines. Talk to a healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about getting an extra supply (i.e., more than 30 days) of prescription medicines, if possible, to reduce your trips to the pharmacy. Do not delay getting emergency care for your underlying medical condition because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care. Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your underlying medical conditions or if you get sick and think that you may have COVID-19. If you need emergency help, call 911 right away. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest medical treatment facility or clinic.

If you have an underlying medical condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan. Continue your medicines and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider. Have at least a 30-day supply of prescription and non-prescription medicines. Talk to a healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about getting an ...

Infographic
Jun 22, 2023

COVID-19: Reduce Your Risk

Graphic explaining how to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. It is especially important for people with certain underlying medical conditions at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19.  The best way to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is to: Limit your interactions with other people; Wear a mask over your nose and mouth; Stay 6 feet away from others; Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces; Wash your hands often; Clean and disinfect; and Monitor your health daily.

It is especially important for people with certain underlying medical conditions at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is to: Limit your interactions with other people ...

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