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Lab Professionals Play Key Role in Public Health and Patient Care

Image of Lab Professionals Play Key Role in Public Health and Patient Care. U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick W. Kennedy is a lab officer and chief of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. He also serves as a consultant for the U.S. Air Force surgeon general’s laboratory medicine and chief for lab with Biomedical Associate Corps. Kennedy looks forward to mentoring the next generation. (Photo: Tanisha Blaise)

The Defense Health Agency celebrated Medical Laboratory Professionals Week from April 23-29, 2023.

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Medical laboratory professionals work at all levels within the U.S. Department of Defense to help identify and diagnose various health threats that may impact our forces.

“Medical laboratory scientists are health care detectives working on the front lines to provide critical information for health care providers,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick Kennedy, chief of DHA’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division.

“In garrison, we use state-of-the-art instrumentation and scientific methods to provide accurate and timely diagnostics to analyze all types of body fluids," added Kennedy. In addition to his role at AFHSD, Kennedy performs two additional duties for Air Force as the Air Force Surgeon General Consultant for Laboratory and Biomedical Associate Corps Chief for Laboratory.

Lab professionals serve in various positions throughout the DOD—in military hospitals and clinics’ laboratories to diagnose disease, in research organizations searching for new ways to detect and treat disease, and as policy developers at DOD level,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Warren Conrow, director of the center for laboratory medicine services at DHA.

“We also staff donor centers and transfusion centers to ensure a lifeline of blood products; we partner with our public health partners to provide disease surveillance; we serve as executive officers, commanders, and even as directors,” he added.

“Lab analysis is critical to 80% of any medical diagnosis, and our ability to test enables leaders to make force health protection decisions (in garrison and deployed),” said Kennedy.

Conrow agreed, “The lab protects the warfighter and our military community by providing the right diagnostic information (accurate and safe lab and pathology results), performed by the right people, using the right testing guidelines, at the right time.”

Future advances for lab professionals include developments in transfusion medicine in a deployed environment to reduce casualties. Lab-supporting trauma surgery with advances in blood banking, such as low tier type O whole blood, has decreased casualty rates significantly in war zones.

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