Valuing Laboratory Medicine

August 29, 2011

AACC recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the launch of Lab Tests Online. The celebrations were capped by the National Society Presidents dinner, an annual event hosted by AACC for the presidents of national laboratory societies and other VIPs from around the world. Breaking from tradition, the dinner focused almost exclusively on Lab Tests Online, with several people making comments, including Dr. Graham Beastall, IFCC President, whose remarks poignantly emphasized the value of lab testing and increasing awareness of testing among the patient population. These are Dr. Beastall's remarks.

Photo of IFCC President Graham BeastallGood evening. It is a privilege to be asked to say a few words on this special occasion.

I want to give you two brief clinical case histories.

Firstly, I will introduce you to Leo, a young man born on 29 June 1987. Today he is one of the most famous sportsmen in the world. His second name is Messi and by popular acclaim Lionel Messi is the most skilful and influential current soccer player. He plays for Barcelona FC in the Spanish league and also for his home country of Argentina. This is a remarkable achievement for at the age of 11 years Leo was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. His family could not afford the treatment and so Barcelona FC moved Leo and all of his family to Spain and paid for his treatment. His growth hormone treatment was highly successful and Leo managed to achieve average adult male height. He is still a bit small for a soccer player, and this explains his nickname of ‘the flea’, but his skill is fantastic.

Secondly, I will introduce you to Margaret who was born on 26 July 1920. That means that today is her 91st birthday. Margaret keeps fit and lives an active life in her own home without the need for any support from social services. But it wasn’t always the case. For much of her adult life Margaret was virtually housebound with severe gastric ulceration. However, about 20 years ago her primary care physician was encouraged to perform a urea breath test on Margaret. This demonstrated that Margaret’s gastric ulceration was the result of a Helicobacter Pylori infection. She had triple antibiotic therapy and within a few weeks her life was transformed. Her ulcer disappeared and she was able to eat anything and resume a normal social life.

On the face of it there is very little in common between Leo and Margaret. However, they both had life changing experiences as a result of a diagnosis that relied entirely on Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. Furthermore, their clinical care was influenced in both cases by direct involvement of a senior laboratory professional. In the case of Leo this was a colleague of mine who worked closely with the endocrinologists. In the case of Margaret I was the laboratory specialist – for Margaret is my mother!

Now to this audience these two case histories are fairly unremarkable because we are all able to give many similar examples. Clinical Chemists change people’s lives every day both through the services they direct and through their personal involvement in individual cases. We should remember that ~70% of all clinical decisions are influenced by Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine data.

This has been the case for many years and we have taken our role for granted. Recently, however, our profession has realised that we should be proud of what we do and tell the wider world. I am clear in my mind that the stimulus to our profession to adopt this more outward looking position was the introduction ten years ago of Lab Tests Online.

Lab Tests Online is simple in concept and presentation but this belies the huge effort that is required to make it so authoritative and valued. I congratulate AACC on the vision; on the skill and the determination to see it into reality; and also on the willingness to partner with other societies to increase worldwide exposure. The stupendous global success of Lab Tests Online has demonstrated that the public and the users of our services have a genuine interest in what we do. This, in turn has given us the confidence to get outside our laboratories, to add value to the services that we provide and to improve patient outcomes.

Therefore, in closing I would like on behalf of all guests to say a heartfelt thanks to AACC on two counts. Firstly, for hosting this splendid function that brings together the worldwide leaders in Clinical Chemistry to network and to share. Secondly, for conceiving, developing and delivering Lab Tests Online. I believe this is one of the most influential developments in our profession in the last decade.

Fellow guests, please join with me in thanking AACC and the Lab Tests Online team.