TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A typical day at the David Grant USAF Medical Center consists of more than 1,500 outpatient visits and 60 emergency department visits. While the hallways and medical areas are filled with patients, there are also Airmen working behind the scenes in the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory.
Every year the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at DGMC celebrates Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. This year the celebration is April 21–27 which will include guided tours of the lab.
The lab tours will be April 23 and 26 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The tours are open for all who would like to learn more about the labs.
“The week was organized to show support and gratitude for the important work performed by laboratory professionals and celebrate the positive impact of this work in overall patient care,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Crandell, 60th Medical and Diagnostics Therapeutic Squadron lab technician.
Over the past four years, the labs have averaged more than a million tests to assist doctors in patient care.
“We’re excited to celebrate each other and recognize what we contribute,” said Capt. Seng Patton, 60th MDTS Transfusion Services chief. “It is all a team effort and we all rely on each other. Everything our Airmen do every single day is important.”
DGMC operates the Air Force’s largest clinical laboratory, supporting 465 health care providers and 325,000 patients per year. Technicians perform 1.2 million tests annually in chemistry, special chemistry, hematology, coagulation, immunology, microbiology, point-of-care testing, histology, cytology and transfusion services.
“Our patients are what give us purpose,” said Crandell. “The opportunity to deliver a high standard of healthcare, to serve the warfighter, their families and the veterans who have served before us is our reward.”
The lab is separated in different sections but work as one team, assisting doctors in 70% of their diagnosis.
The core lab runs clinical chemistry, hematology, immunology and coagulation testing to aid in clinical diagnoses. The microbiology lab provides microorganism (bacteria) identification to aid in antibiotic treatment for infections. Transfusion services provides the safest life-saving blood products to patients, and the histopathology lab provides diagnosis of disease in tissue.
“The laboratory truly acts as one, rather than considering each section as a separate individual lab,” said Crandell. “They’re more like subsections with the same mission. The entire lab shares the vision, ‘To lead the way in laboratory innovation, readiness, service and training.’”
By focusing on the same vision, labs techs provide effective patient-centered care.
“There is a high amount of accuracy and precision that goes into each result we produce,” said Capt. Crystal Davis, 60th MDTS chief. “To do that, we have many quality measures and quality controls that enable our mission’s success.”
It is crucial that Airmen pay attention to detail as a patient’s life could be in their hands.
“Whether I’m in Afghanistan or here at DGMC, no matter the workload, I find it truly fulfilling to serve the patients who can use my help,” said Crandell. “The workload is different overseas, but our team somehow always finds the energy to carry on and help all patients who need our assistance.”
It is amazing to lead Airmen who serve with such selflessness, said Davis.
“Medical Lab Airmen work unpredictable medical cases and serve many hours,” she said. “An Airman never knows what might come through for testing. It could be a patient having a heart attack or a mother having a difficult labor, you never know what to expect. Our mission is never planned but our Airmen are here to support those providers.”
About 85% of the technicians are active-duty members with an average of three years of lab experience compared to their civilian lab counterparts with 14 years.
“It doesn’t matter who I’m helping, it is an internal thing,” Crandell said. “I’ve always wanted to make the world better and it doesn’t matter who I’m assisting but what matters to me is that I’ve done my best.”
Travis’ lab techs put their heart into the mission, said Crandell.
“Not only are we celebrating the fact that we are laboratory technicians at David Grant USAF Medical Center, we’re a different breed of lab techs as well,” he said. “We have a motto at DGMC ‘Airmen First, Medics Always.’ We hold true to that motto as we support the needs of the Air Force downrange in Afghanistan, Al Udeid, Kuwait or whatever location we’re at.”
To learn more about the laboratory’s mission and the tours contact Senior Airman Delilah Doss, 60th MDTS at 707-423-7758.