Our careers in clinical biochemistry started in Argentina, our native land. While we could not yet know that we would meet later in life thanks to our involvement with the AACC, our mutual passion for laboratory medicine was first ignited while exploring different healthcare career options near the end of high school. Different personal and professional paths brought us to the US for our graduate studies. We each found doctoral programs that were extremely stimulating and fulfilled an unmet need of diving deep into a specific area that sparked our research interests and intellectual curiosities. While in graduate school, in addition to having to adjust to a new culture and a new language, we had to adapt to our research environment, the work ethic, and the responsibilities and expectations of being a graduate student in the US.
As we approached the end of our doctoral programs, we researched postdoctoral opportunities that would enable us to reach our goals. We found that postdoctoral training in clinical chemistry provided a combination of science, laboratory medicine, healthcare, and our passion to help patients. While in training, we were continuously drawing parallels between our current experiences in the clinical laboratory with prior experiences in Argentina. In essence, the educational content of university lectures is similar; however, a critical difference lies within the application of clinical knowledge and the way healthcare is delivered. Another significant difference is the regulatory environment and the resources devoted to ensuring quality and compliance. In the US, clinical laboratories are required to comply with the CLIA law (1). In contrast, laboratories in Latin America are not regulated in the same manner, but strive for the same goals: to ensure high-quality patient care and to aid physicians in making appropriate clinical decisions (2).
Although we attended different universities, we were fortunate to connect through networking and volunteering within the AACC. As our careers developed and evolved, and our involvement in the AACC expanded, we became passionate advocates for the field of laboratory medicine. Then, an incredible opportunity arose. In 2013, we were honored with an invitation to join the AACC Latin American Working Group (LAWG)3,4 (3) and continue their mission of bringing educational programs and improving the quality of general laboratory services throughout Latin America.
One of the most impactful activities conducted by the LAWG is the organization of interactive workshops in different Latin American countries (Fig. 1). The workshops are a result of collaboration with local professional societies in each country and are taught entirely in Spanish by members of the LAWG. The local professional societies assist with logistics, but more importantly, they ensure that laboratorians from different settings (rural, government, public, commercial, private) are invited to attend. The idea is to reach out to as many colleagues as possible from different geographies and diverse laboratory and educational backgrounds. The LAWG provides financial support through a generous grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation (4), delivers all lectures and interactive exercises, and creates and distributes a workshop workbook that contains all the educational materials and resources shared during each workshop.
Since becoming part of the LAWG and delivering our first workshop in Panama in 2013, we have met with over 800 colleagues in 6 other countries. Not only have we been able to share our knowledge of best practices in laboratory quality control and method verification, but we have also had a unique opportunity to hear their concerns and struggles, brainstorm troubleshooting approaches together, and exchange ideas about how to help them meet quality requirements with limited resources. The education and experiences during our college years allowed us to quickly understand and appreciate the Latin American laboratory environment, which enables us to search for realistic approaches that will have a direct impact on our colleagues' daily practice.
We are extremely honored and grateful for the opportunity to give back by sharing information, resources, and best practices; comparing day-to-day activities; providing networking opportunities; and establishing relationships. Our goal is to set the stage so that fellow laboratorians we visit in Latin America will be able to find opportunities for implementing at least one best practice in their laboratory, which in turn will have a significant impact on patient care. And as information is expected to be widely disseminated, we know that these new “best practices” will become part of their daily operations and expand into surrounding communities. We expect that these colleagues will share what they have learned, share their experiences with peers, and continue to spread the knowledge. This way, our efforts will be magnified. By giving back to the clinical laboratory community through this important program we are fortunate to be in a position to “pay it forward” to our colleagues and our fellow Latinos throughout Latin America.
↵3 Nonstandard abbreviations:
- Latin American Working Group.
↵4 LAWG is an AACC governance body charged with bringing educational programs and improving the quality of general laboratory services throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. LAWG is a part of AACC's Global Lab Quality Initiative (GLQI), a project that provides essential training and education in targeted areas in the LAC and Asia-Pacific regions with the goal of sharing best practices in Laboratory Medicine.
Authors' Disclosures or Potential Conflicts of Interest: No authors declared any potential conflicts of interest.
- Received June 20, 2016.
- Accepted June 29, 2016.
- © 2016 American Association for Clinical Chemistry