Lab Matters Fall 2018 | Page 13

FEATURE months. Bradke views the policy as a logical extension of cross-training and said, it promotes “public health laboratory loyalty, while still allowing for change and growth in individuals.” Even the PHL supervisor whose chemist moved to Bradke’s team had a positive view of the process, saying, “While it’s sad to lose someone, I would much rather keep our good folks in house!” To help satisfy younger workers’ desire for upward mobility, Tran is building an official career ladder for bench-level scientists. In addition to union-negotiated pay raises, individuals will have the possibility of “jumping grades,” based on performance, and receiving an extra salary boost, averaging about $6,000/year between grades. “We were waiting for something like this” T raining and continuing education have always been integral to PHL practice, and are even more important today, given the next generations’ interest in skills-building and advancement. With limited funding for off-site training, innovative thinkers have come up with a range of new options. Becker suggests connecting young professionals with in-house mentors via one-on-one sessions, group programs, leadership panels or “speed mentoring” (modeled on speed dating, but with subject matter experts instead of prospective dates). The Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory extends the concept one step further with a “job shadowing” program. Salerno said the Division of Laboratory Systems is investigating new e-learning options, including virtual reality programs to create the illusion of working at the bench (see, for example, and other “gamification” techniques to make learning more fun for those who grew up with video games and other interactive media. PublicHealthLabs @APHL Perhaps the most notable recent development in PHL education is the University of South Florida’s (USF’s) DrPH program in public health and clinical laboratory science and practice, which supplies a crucial credential for aspiring public health laboratory scientists: in order to qualify as a high-complexity clinical laboratory director, federal CLIA regulations require candidates to hold an earned doctoral-level degree from an accredited institution, with an approved major. In fact, candidates cannot even sit for a CLIA-required board certification exam without an approved doctoral-level degree. Needless to say, this is a hurdle for full time professionals, some of whom may even be serving as de facto laboratory managers under the direction of an off-site CLIA-qualified director. The USF program’s head, Janice Zgibor, PhD, said, “One of the reasons people leave the lab is because there’s nowhere to go. We’ve created the someplace to go.” The DrPH program launched in fall 2017 with seven students ranging in age from 34 to 52. Aside from being the only doctoral program for PHL managers in the nation, it has the distinction of being delivered largely online; students come to the Tampa campus three times over the course of two years for multi-day, in-class “intensives.” By and large, “[students] don’t have to leave their laboratory, they don’t have to leave their jobs,” said Jill Roberts, PhD, MPH, one of the program’s instructors. director of the Florida BPHL-Tampa, and a champion of the USF DrPH in laboratory practice. People like Tran, who initiated internship programs at the DC PHL for high school, undergraduate and post-doc students to help fill the pipeline for future laboratory scientists. And people like Trammell and Salerno, who are thinking about how to empower PHL scientists and better articulate the value of PHL practice. “There’s this perception that laboratories are unique, stand-alone environments and that the output of the work of the laboratory is the test result ... and I don’t think that’s a good definition of value,” said Salerno. “I think we have to do a much better job of linking PHL testing to public health surveillance and public health outcomes. In my opinion, people are going to do laboratory science not just for the science or the salary; they will do it because they believe in the mission and the importance of public health.” n In my opinion, people are going to do laboratory science not just for the science or the salary; they will do it because they believe in the mission and the importance of public health.” Ren Salerno, PhD With an emphasis on PHL leadership and management, and practice-based projects that have often been implemented immediately in the field, the DrPH program is tailored to the interests and academic needs of working scientists. Trammell, who is in the program’s inaugural class, said, “Everyone who is in the program is just stoked about it. We were waiting for something like this.” Ultimately, the future of the PHL workforce will be determined by the actions of visionary leaders today. People like Philip Amuso, PhD, a former Fall 2018 LAB MATTERS 11