In the sciences, Quality is NOT about Elegance or Specialness or Brilliant Ideas. Quality, especially in laboratories, is defined by the specifics of meeting requirements and performance. Quality provides the cornerstone for confidence through error awareness and prevention for precision, accuracy, and reproducibility, and relevance.
The Quality Tools are essential in medical laboratory research and performance. People's lives may depend on laboratory information. Done well, laboratory research promotes new knowledge, new understandings, new vision. Done poorly, it wastes time, wastes money, wastes resources, and creates harm.
I would like to think that understanding the importance of Quality is innate, but that would be expecting too much, but it most certainly is a skill that can be learned and passed on from one-to-another.
Our university department is quietly worked at promoting laboratory quality improvement through the creation and management of 3 separate laboratory quality assessment (PT/EQA) programs, one in microbiology, one in clinical chemistry and one in tumor marker testing, all of them active in across Canada and international. We created an intense program for assisting countries already with EQA programs how to upgrade their offerings to link their programs with the expectations cited in ISO15189 (ISO15189 does NOT specify the requirements of EQA, but it does point out what medical laboratories should be expecting and looking for in EQA programs). And most recently we have been working with another program to help developing countries develop more EQA tools for their local laboratories, thus freeing themselves of the foreign programs with large costs and little relevance.
This was not the career that I envisioned when I started my laboratory training in 1975, but I personally feel much pride in carving out was has turned out to be a very successful path for myself and for laboratory quality. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to work in a truly inspiring field, and am proud of what I have been able to do to influence and (hopefully) inspire hundreds of students.
So now I am starting on a new path of giving back and of paying forward. Over the last year we have developed the Michael A Noble and Family Award in Laboratory Quality which is founded on a sustained endowment to our department to highlight and reward Quality focused projects and presentations of graduate students and medical residents and course takers in our department. Last night we presented our first award to a student who has been looking at factors that can impact the survival of donor platelets, necessary for people with bleeding due to severely low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia).
By highlighting projects and presentations that lead to new understanding and knowledge and insights in Laboratory Quality and Improvement we can help lead to further advances in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. More importantly (in my opinion) through this recognition, we can spawn lifelong commitments to addressing and highlighting and embracing laboratory quality as an essential component of laboratory discovery.
We look forward next year's Pathology Day 2024.