PRESIDENT ’ S MESSAGE
A More Sustainable Public Health Laboratory Workforce
Denise Toney , PhD President , APHL
Our public health laboratories have a critical role to play in ensuring that programs that currently examine the social and environmental determinants that impact health are robust enough to identify and surveil emerging diseases .”
When I think of climate change , I think of the environmental impacts that we are not yet aware of . And in this respect , one of my priorities as APHL president is to bring awareness to the sustainability of the public health laboratory — not just infrastructure , but also our staff .
In Virginia , we have worked to develop a robust surveillance program for air , water and pathogen testing . As we have built the surveillance program , our emergency preparedness plan was built in tandem . Because we have a robust surveillance program , our laboratorians are able to surge when necessary as well as pivot to cover our regular day-to-day operations .
Our public health laboratories have a critical role to play in ensuring that programs that currently examine the social and environmental determinants that impact health are robust enough to identify and surveil emerging diseases . It is also important to make certain that we , as a profession , are looking for the most effective data and disseminating that data to our public health decision makers . Having laboratorians in place that can conduct that data analysis and dissemination , now more than ever , is critical to each laboratory ’ s operations .
A huge boost to our profession ’ s sustainability is the funds awarded to APHL under the America Rescue Plan for the new Public Health Laboratory Workforce Pipeline Project . The Public Health Laboratory Workforce Pipeline Project will increase the number of qualified personnel by expanding training opportunities , building up the existing APHL-CDC Fellowship Program
and launching a new internship program to enhance laboratory capacity now and for the future .
Building on APHL ’ s existing programs , the expanded fellowship program and new internship initiative will provide real-world , experiential and professionalimpact learning opportunities for undergraduate- , bachelor ’ s- , master ’ s- and doctoral-level laboratory scientists . The curriculum includes a combination of required courses along with disciplinespecific technical skills building and training . Through field placement in a public health laboratory , fellows and interns will gain competence in laboratory science and practice and acquire skills to qualify for positions after successful completion of the program . These candidates , in turn , will increase their host laboratory ’ s capacity to support existing programs and respond to emerging threats .
I have always believed that one of the primary roles of public health is to make sure that there is support in areas that are unserved and underserved . Having dedicated , government-funded resources for these communities can ensure that services are equally accessible — whether it is access to water testing , lead testing or testing for STIs . And if we look beyond the laboratory , we also need to focus on these communities because they are much more likely to suffer from environmentrelated illnesses ( i . e ., heat stroke from excessive heat warnings , waterborne and insect-borne diseases from standing water after a flooding event ).
APHL recently joined the American Public Health Association , the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health , and hundreds of other national and international organizations in signing the Healthy Climate Prescription letter
to world leaders urging action on climate change . Our public health laboratories can be a very powerful weapon to fight climate change . By helping to uncover environmental impacts and their connection to the public ’ s health , we are well positioned to become change agents for our communities . n
2 LAB MATTERS Fall / Winter 2021