Initiative Takes Aim at Projected Shortage of Medical Lab Workers

Published March 7, 2012

Under the aegis of an organization created by former President Bill Clinton, UB is working to address the projected shortage of medical laboratory professionals in New York State due to an aging workforce and closure of training programs.

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Collaborators on the five-year project—sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)—are the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), Stony Brook University, SUNY Upstate Medical University and a coalition of clinical laboratory organizations, government agencies and industry partners.

The aim is to increase the number of graduating laboratory professionals in New York by 10 percent by expanding access to laboratory science training programs in the state.

A State Program that Could Be Emulated Nationwide

Project leaders are looking to create a statewide model that can be implemented throughout the U.S.

To accomplish this, they plan to:

  • develop classrooms and distance learning curricula
  • establish a coordinated network of clinical rotation sites
  • create an accelerated technician-to-technologist program
  • support an electronic-instrumentation simulation laboratory

Lab Science Programs Seeing Enrollment Drop

In 2010 the average age of the laboratory workforce in the U.S. was 49, according to ASCP.

In New York State, six out of nine laboratory departments surveyed reported that more than 10 percent of their employees plan to retire within five years.

While the state requires approximately 640 new laboratory professionals every year, it produces only 237 graduates annually.

Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of students enrolled in medical technician and medical laboratory scientist programs in New York dropped from 22 to 9; the percentage of students taking phlebotomy programs dipped from 15 to 8.

Plan Strives to Create Jobs, Assure High Quality Care

“We know that federal funding for training programs like laboratory science is drying up,” says John E. Tomaszewski, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, and immediate past president of the ASCP, the lead institution partnering with the CGI.

“ASCP views this and other obstacles as a call to action for a reinvigorated approach to developing career opportunities in laboratory science. Our commitment with ASCP through the Clinton Global Initiative has provided a renewed outlook on successfully creating jobs through education and providing the highest quality of patient care.”