Reflections over the Past Year as We Enter National Laboratory Week: A Message to Johns Hopkins Pathology Department Employees

Day after day, thousands of specimens enter the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology, and our Medical Laboratory Professionals turn out information that facilitate positive outcomes of patient care.  The Department of Pathology with its team of 1,400 is an army of professionals who strive to have an impact on patients across Maryland, the United States, and even the world.

From each workstation it is clear to see the impact the Department has on health care.  I am fortunate to be exposed to the fantastic work of our staff across all areas of the laboratory.  The spectrum of support that our Department provides is amazing.  Testing, organism identification, tissue preparation and diagnosis, cell identification, blood preparation, genetic /molecular testing, etc., are among the daily services offered to physicians and patients.

I also see the “above and beyond” efforts.   Almost daily in Hematology and Chemistry a technologist finds a result pattern that doesn’t match previous results.   Technically the results are accurate, however, clinically they do not look appropriate.  The technologist’s follow-through with the clinician is key to identifying misdrawn or mislabeled specimens.

An overnight technologist identified Plasmodium vivax in an undiagnosed 17-year-old that had been transferred from another academic medical center.  The heads-up identification in the middle of the night resulted in the physician immediately starting the patient on anti-malarial drugs.  After three doses, the patient was negative for blood parasites.

Another transfer patient’s life was probably saved by the efforts of Transfusion Medicine.  In this instance, a comatose sickle cell patient was airlifted from a community hospital with units of blood that were antigen-untyped.  The Floor sent a sample to the Blood Bank in case more blood would be needed.   The technologist looked at the patient history and found a long list of antibodies.  She called the Floor and had the transfusion stopped, sparing the patient from a likely major transfusion reaction.

A pathology assistant was grossing a radical prostatectomy and noticed that this prostate was slightly different from previous ones that he had grossed.   He called in a Pathologist, and sure enough the surgeon had removed a small portion of the rectum.  They called the Urologist and the patient was immediately taken back to the OR for repair.  Without this heads-up observation, the patient would have likely become sepsis due to fecal contamination of the abdomen.

Perinatal Bereavement Services contacted one of the Pathology’s Customer Service Representatives who is noted for her singing talent.  She was invited to the bedside of a family who had just lost both a mother and baby.  She sang quietly in an angelic voice.   The family commented that, “A soothing peace filled the room, and for a precious moment, our heartache eased.”

The biggest “above and beyond” reflection is the Department’s response to the three major snow storms.   Pathology provided full support through each of the storms that paralyzed the Baltimore-Washington region this winter.   As I headed off to Hopkins in the middle of the third storm, my nonclinical friends and family thought there was something odd about me.   I know that there were many other JHM laboratorians who had the same discussion with friends and family.    Even though everyone had their fill of snow for the season, we still had 200+ people show up for work.  Over 150 of them slept on the floors of offices and conference rooms to ensure that patient care was seamless  – amazing!

As Administrator, I am so proud to work with such a team of professionals – people who repeatedly go above and beyond.  It is a team that keeps Hopkins The Best of the Best.  From all of the Pathologists, the Managers, Supervisors and myself, thank you for the extra effort you take to provide the best laboratory services and patient care in the region.   It is a privilege to work with such an extraordinary group.

Al Valentine, Administrator for Clinical and Financial Affairs
Department of Pathology

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2 Responses to “Reflections over the Past Year as We Enter National Laboratory Week: A Message to Johns Hopkins Pathology Department Employees”

  1. Bassam Sayad Says:

    Happy Lab Week and congratulations on your accomplishments and the touching stories of great people.

  2. Bill Hartlove Says:

    As Outreach lab manager, I’m constantly praising the talents and dedication of our laboratory team. I also receive the same positive feedback from our customers whenever we visit our outreach clients. Thank you and Happy Lab Week !