A Peek at Lab Week

Lab Week 2020

The novel coronavirus sweeping across the world had a major impact on Johns Hopkins Pathology, not only for the Microbiology and Immunology Labs, but other Labs as well.  COVID-19 necessitated the quick implementation of new assays on various platforms, logistical processing and testing challenges, new safety precautions—masks, face shields and social distancing, new concerns for the wellbeing and treatment of our patients, Zoom meetings as a new norm, more folks working from home, parents helping their children with online schoolwork, people dealing with anxiety and the unknown, and more.  It also affected our much anticipated Lab Week celebrations.  “Lab Week,” short for Medical  Laboratory Professionals Week, was instituted 45 years ago by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the Labs here have been celebrating it for probably as long.

There was a different mood in the air as the Department adjusted to the ever-changing COVID landscape, in particular, social distancing which affected activities. As each Lab is unique and each celebrates differently, we asked our some of our leadership about this year’s celebrations.  Lead education and development coordinator Lorraine Blagg aptly notes, “We did our best to keep the spirit of Lab Week alive. The Department hosted a virtual food drive for the Maryland Food Bank and raised $5,608, and participated in a virtual scavenger hunt and fun facts game.”

As has been our annual tradition, all members of the Department of Pathology receive an appreciation gift during Lab Week.  By now most of us have received our 2020 gift, the navy blue Pathology beach towel. But due to restrictions, many of our School of Medicine colleagues are not yet working on site but will receive theirs soon, we hope.

Debbie Williams, the Laboratory services director of Sibley Memorial Hospital, sent this picture saying, “Below is how Sibley celebrated Lab Week.  We handed out the beach towels as we plan to celebrate after the COVID-19 pandemic has settled and we can bring in food and goodies.”

Similarly, Patty Long, the Lab manager of the JHH Prenatal Cytogenetics Lab, reported her Lab didn’t celebrate as they had in the past, but she was thankful for the beach towels. Some of her employees brought in candy, and one baked a delicious pound cake, cut and wrapped into individual slices to share.

Suzy Nicol, Lab manager of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, shared that they celebrated with a specially created YouTube video to recognize the Lab’s many contributions to patient care.

The video, produced by the Bayview Public Relations Department, was also run on the Bayview Golden Heart Wall.

The Core Lab at Johns Hopkins Hospital plans to celebrate full blast after COVID is over, according to Ruth Umali, Core Lab education coordinator.  A huge poster to honor our phlebotomists was displayed in the Lab, full of messages of appreciation for these frontline employees.

And be sure to check out this fantastic YouTube video featuring some very talented phlebotomists: COVID-19 Ain’t Stopping Phlebotomy.

Bags of “Superhero Snacks” were distributed to Core Lab staff, Girl Scout cookies were generously donated by Hunters Hill Orthodontics of York, Pennsylvania, and the staff also enjoyed a pizza lunch, compliments of Domino’s Pizza.  (What is Lab Week without food?!)

Lab manager Christi Marshall and Lorraine Blagg of JHH Transfusion Medicine shared that they celebrated a “Mini Lab Week” with decorations and individually wrapped salty, sweet, and cheesy snacks. Staff competed in teams (or houses) to earn points for their future planned Harry Potter-themed Lab Week celebration by participation in the virtual scavenger hunt, the virtual Johns Hopkins Pathology fun facts game, and a virtual blood bank and history game.

Tina Mancini-Flegel, Lab manager of  Howard County General Hospital, helped organize two luncheons for the staff, one from the pathologists and herself, and another one which everyone pitched in for.  Staff also enjoyed a waffle breakfast.  Howard County plans to have a much larger Lab Week over the summer but they’re not sure when. Staff received a hand sanitizer from the Hospital and of course, the Pathology beach towel.

And for the JHH Microbiology Lab, education coordinator Paula Mister reports, “Partiers that we are, we refused to be dampened by the coronavirus, despite a high testing volume in our Lab. Though more subdued, no large gatherings or our usual cooking competitions, we had food and games every day:  a baby photo contest, guess the pet, guess the price of lab materials, daily prize drawings, etc.  Breakfast was provided each day by a different group of employees; lunches were provided by faculty, fundraising events, and generous donations from various area restaurants. A very special ‘surprise’ lunch was provided by group of Micro ‘alumni’ (former employees and fellows) who collaborated on Facebook and pitched in for box lunches one day!  And we ended the week with our usual ice cream social.”

Many areas of Pathology will have to wait for celebrations until the pandemic subsides considerably, including the Professional Fee Billing Office, per manager Sharon Gard, and Pathology Outreach Labs, managed by Bill Hartlove.

To ALL of our hardworking and dedicated Laboratory staff, we are so grateful to you and proud, as well, and recognize and appreciate how much you contribute to the care of our patients, day in and day out, with or without COVID stresses and strains. You are the people who carefully draw and process the blood and specimens, and who diligently run our laboratory tests in order to provide accurate diagnoses for patients and families, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, year round.   We hope that everyone can continue to celebrate Lab Week after the pandemic subsides.   Thank You for All You Do!