COLA, a leading laboratory accreditor, will sponsor a week-long series of programs and events in Baltimore Oct. 8-13, 2012, designed to highlight current healthcare issues and their impact on clinical laboratories, including a major symposium which is expected to draw medical professionals from across the U.S. COLA also will present its 2012 Perry A. Lambird Memorial Excellence in Medicine Award to Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. Surgeon General.
The COLA Symposium for Clinical Laboratories is expected to attract several hundred laboratory medicine experts, physicians, diagnostic laboratory staff, physician assistants, nurses and other medical personnel to Baltimore for a national dialogue about topics of interest to the physician office and hospital laboratory community.
The accreditor is sponsoring the conference and other events as the laboratory industry begins to prepare for more than 33 million new patients to come into the healthcare system as a result of the Affordable Care Act -- despite alarming shortages within the laboratory workforce.
"Lab testing has an estimated impact on over 70% of medical decisions, a percentage that will only grow as baby boomers retire and preventive coverage - including screening tests performed by labs - increases as part of federal healthcare reform," said Douglas Beigel, CEO of COLA. "But there are more than 40,000 current lab jobs that are vacant in the United States, and the size of tomorrow's projected shortage is even more daunting.
"We hope to highlight potential solutions to this and other challenges affecting the healthcare and laboratory industries during this week of events, including a major educational symposium, trainings, community outreach activities and the presentation of COLA scholarships to laboratory students," Beigel added.
"We are very proud that COLA's home city of Baltimore will serve as the backdrop for a national discussion about these critical issues, as well as reap the economic benefit that the symposium and its related activities will bring. And we are extremely honored to confer COLA's highest honor on Dr. Benjamin for her outstanding contributions to protecting and advancing public health in her role as Surgeon General, and her commitment to programs that fight preventable illness," he said.
The week-long program will include:
- Oct. 8 - COLA "Give Back Day" program at Morgan State University. Featuring a series of laboratory demonstrations and other presentations by COLA, the "Give Back Day" program is designed to get students at all levels of education excited about the world of laboratory medicine. COLA developed the initiative after exposing students in Baltimore middle schools to the world of laboratory science.
- Oct. 9 - 12 - Training initiatives for COLA's headquarters and other technical staff, including surveyors from across the U.S. learning about topics relevant to good laboratory practices
- Oct. 10-13 - COLA Symposium for Clinical Laboratories. Jointly sponsored by COLA and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the national conference will feature laboratory medicine experts speaking on a variety of topics of interest to the healthcare community. Featured speakers include Dr. Donna Sweet, a nationally recognized expert on HIV Care, and Judith Yost, Director, Division of Laboratory Services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
- Oct. 11 - COLA scholarship presentation to students from Morgan State University and Community College of Baltimore County. A special award also will be given to a laboratory from Joplin, Mo., for its diligent work in bringing its facility back to operational standards after a tornado demolished their office last year. Other recognition will be given to several individuals who have supported the laboratory industry.
Part of its COLA Cares community outreach initiative, COLA's Give Back Day (GBD) program is designed to educate young people about the many job opportunities that exist in laboratory science careers and address the growing shortage of lab professionals. Give Back Day is designed to make young students aware that a lab career can offer a stable, attractive, potentially lucrative professional path during economically challenging times, while enabling them to make a difference in the lives of others. COLA developed the Give Back Day initiative after exposing students in Baltimore middle schools to the world of laboratory science by staging a series of exciting lab demonstrations. The success of the program prompted COLA to create a kit for interested laboratories and other healthcare organizations, as well as schools, and non-profit associations concerned about helping children stay in school and prepare for their future. The GBD kit, which can be downloaded for free at www.COLACares.com, shows how to engage elementary and middle school students in easy to conduct lab demonstrations and get them animated about the world of laboratory medicine early in their academic careers. It includes step-by-step instructions for:
- developing program content and curriculum featuring laboratory demonstrations
- procuring needed materials
- contacting other local civic officials and organizations to join in the event
- publicizing the event to local media
The COLA Symposium for Clinical Laboratories (Oct. 10-13) is expected to draw more than 200 healthcare participants from across the U.S., including physicians, diagnostic laboratory staff, physician assistants, nurses and other medical personnel. The symposium trade show will attract some 120 representatives of 45 manufacturers of laboratory diagnostic equipment. The event will also benefit the local economy, as COLA has contracted for more than 900 room nights with the Hilton Baltimore at an expected cost of nearly $175,000 and additional charges for Food and Beverage, Entertainment and Support Needs bring the expected economic contribution to Baltimore businesses to exceed $260,000 in just one week.