Lab techs help prevent and diagnose disease Published May 11, 2007 By Airman Basic Evan Carter 36th Wing Public Affairs ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The 36th Medical Group laboratory technicians celebrate National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week recently to increase public understanding of and appreciation for clinical laboratory professionals. This observance, which takes place the fourth week in April each year, is coordinated by a collaborative committee with representatives from 10 national clinical laboratory organizations, including The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. There are approximately 300,000 practitioners of clinical laboratory science in the United States. Since the development of this career group in the 1920s, the clinical laboratory science professional has played an increasingly vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of disease. Today, the clinical laboratory technician is a key member of a health care team. The 36 MDG laboratory technicians; Capt. Devona Luna, Tech. Sgt. Marlon Pugh, Staff Sgt. Leah Heegard and Senior Airman Carmen Williams play a vital role in the detection and prevention of disease in our Andersen community. In their efforts to detect and prevent disease, our laboratory professionals have several duties such as preparing specimens and samples; operating and maintaining high complexity chemistry and hematology analyzers. Inoculating, growing and identifying pathogenic organisms; recording and interpreting results to present to colleagues. Some common tests performed on a daily basis are pregnancy testing, blood chemical analysis, urine and throat cultures, blood cell count and morphology analysis. Sergeant Marlon Pugh, non-commissioned officer in charge of laboratory services, has been here for nine months and says he enjoys collecting blood (phlebotomy) and performing diagnostic testing on samples. "I like the interaction with our customers and knowing I'm providing a service not only to them but also to the providers who are treating their patients," said Sergeant Pugh. "I treat every patient's lab test as if it were one of my own family member's samples." Airman Williams said she enjoys growing bacteria. "I love growing bacteria in Petri dishes," she said. "It helps doctors with their diagnosis of certain diseases." Becoming a laboratory technician is a long process that requires a lot of dedication. "Our career field in the civilian world takes at least two years of college work to become a skilled technician. We do it in 20 weeks of phase one training and nine months of clinicals in phase two," said Sergeant Pugh. "I have to give credit to the Airmen who work with me; it takes a dedicated person to join and complete our career field." Detecting abnormalities with specimens and lab samples can be rewarding at times explained Captain Luna. "I feel our job is very important. Without us a physician can't diagnose a vast array of diseases," she said. "After finding abnormal cells in a patient's sample once, I informed a doctor who in turn was able to confirm her findings as cancer and treat the patient." Taking time to recognize lab techs, many members planned displays, open houses and various other activities in their institution or local area. The Andersen lab members recognized their achievements by having an internal celebration, playing games, doing potluck and bringing in lunch. The goal of National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is to increase awareness of the clinical laboratory science field among the healthcare community and general public.