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Lab Week 2024: Honoring Military Lab Professionals

Image of Lab Week 2024: Honoring Military Lab Professionals. U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Vasquez, assigned to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), performs routine clinical laboratory testing.

The Defense Health Agency recognizes the many dedicated laboratory professionals during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, also known as Lab Week, April 14-20.

Lab Week is an annual observance to highlight and show appreciation for medical laboratory professionals and pathologists who play a vital role in every aspect of health care and are committed to improving patient care through innovative research, patient safety, and expertise.

“Lab professionals play a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring diseases,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Wilberto Gutierrez Almedina, chief of central operations and point of care for 81 Medical Group at U.S. Air Force Base Keesler, Mississippi.

“We perform various laboratory tests on patient samples to help in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. Our accurate and timely test results are vital for health care professionals to make informed decisions about patient care,” he said.

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman (HM2) Drazen Manansala“Having an annual lab week is a very good way of showing appreciation for our work,” said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman (HM2) Drazen Manansala, assistant laboratory petty officer at U.S. Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Naples. (photo: U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman (HM2) Drazen Manansala)

In his role as a lab professional, Gutierrez Almedina and his team ensure the collection of blood samples from patients and diagnostic testing is carried out in a safe and proper way.

“I interact with patients, explaining procedures, calming any fears or concerns, and maintaining a sterile and organized work environment,” he said. “We are responsible for the shipping of different blood samples that are tested in sites across the country.

Gutierrez Almedina added, “This could not be possible without an excellent coordination with the other laboratories and shipping providers services that help us in arranging the pick-up and delivery of the samples.”

Fellow lab professional, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman (HM2) Drazen Manansala, assistant laboratory petty officer at U.S. Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Naples, said lab professionals are important because they are the “driving force in providing valuable information and laboratory results to medical providers.”

“In fact, 70% of patient diagnosis is based on laboratory testing,” said Manansala. “This was evident during the recent global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Manansala leads the USNMRTC 24/7 clinical laboratory which performs over a 100,000 laboratory tests annually in support of 9,000 beneficiaries and 15,000 operational forces in the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Central Command. He manages multiple programs including the blood bank.

It's a role Manansala finds very rewarding.

“My team collects and analyzes laboratory specimens sent to medical providers for patient diagnosis and care,” said Manansala. “We get to work with daily laboratory analyzers contributing to many things such as patient care and diagnosis, and sometimes even scientific discoveries. I am very proud of what I do. I know I am benefiting and impacting patients’ lives just by doing my job.”

A significant part of Manansala’s role is ensuring that warfighters and families have access to quality blood.

“Laboratory has multiple divisions, or benches, and I found my passion in blood banking. In my opinion, the blood bank is the most critical and challenging bench in the laboratory providing direct lifesaving opportunities for patients via transfusion therapies.”

Manansala also loves working with other professionals in the lab “because without their hard work and dedication day-to-day operations of the lab would not be possible.”

Gutierrez Almedina agreed that teamwork is key to the operational success of any lab.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Wilberto Gutierrez Almedina“Medical Laboratory Week holds great significance for me,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Wilberto Gutierrez Almedina, chief of central operations and point of care for 81 Medical Group, U.S. Air Force Base Keesler, Mississippi. (photo: U.S. Air Force Lt. Wilberto Gutierrez Almedina)

“I believe that creating a strong bonding with my team is my best accomplishment so far,” he said. “We all contribute with different tasks to offer the best service possible that creates an environment where our patients enjoy coming back.”

“I love that we work closely with other health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, and technicians,” he continued. “They are part of a multidisciplinary team that collaborates to provide comprehensive patient care. This teamwork fosters a supportive and dynamic work environment, where professionals can learn from each other and contribute to the overall success of patient care.”

Both Gutierrez Almedina and Manansala appreciate the acknowledgement Lab Week brings.

“Lab Week holds great significance for me,” said Gutierrez Almedina. “It acknowledges the vital role of the laboratory professional, promotes awareness and understanding, encourages professional development, fosters collaboration, and enhances quality and patient safety in medical laboratory science.”

“Many people think of the laboratory as just a big black box,” added Manansala. “You input something and expect an output. They don’t understand the work that goes on behind the scenes. Lab professionals are working on specimen collection and testing, quality assurance, lab machine validations, training, supply management, maintaining accreditations, and more. Having an annual lab week is a very good way of showing appreciation for that work.”

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Last Updated: April 15, 2024
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