Lab Matters Spring 2022 - Page 29

MEMBERSHIP
APHL COVID-19 Associates and one genomic specialist . A bioinformatician recently joined MHDL to strengthen AMD capacity and to support sequencing analysis and genomic data processing . In July 2022 , the laboratory will welcome a CDC Laboratory Leadership Service fellow to help bridge applied laboratory science with public health programs , strengthen local , state and federal partnering and support public health laboratory surveillance .
Services
MHDL performs a variety of clinical and environmental testing as well as reference laboratory testing . It is a member of CDC ’ s Laboratory Response Network ( LRN ), PulseNet , CaliciNet , the National Enterovirus Surveillance System and the WHO Influenza Surveillance Network . It also supports USPS , FBI and BioWatch programs . Locally , the laboratory is actively engaged with Clinical & Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin ( CTSI ), and Medical College of Wisconsin ’ s Community Engaged Research . MHDL brought in low-cost lead and nutrient screening services to provide soil lead mitigation advices , and was recognized with National Association of County and City Health Officials Promising Practice Award in 2021 .
MHDL staff order tests for a COVID-19 run . Photo : MHDL
MHDL is concentrating on COVID-19 surveillance testing for high-risk populations and conducting limited diagnostic testing . It has the capacity to run up to 1,200 COVID-19 specimens each day and over 500 whole genome sequences per week . MHDL worked with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the state emergency operations center to ensure eligible facilities in the greater Milwaukee area and southeast Wisconsin had access to timely COVID testing for their residents and staff during outbreaks . While building capacity for COVID testing and genomic surveillance , MHDL has continued all other laboratory services throughout the pandemic , including STI , lead and other reference testing services , and brought in fee-for-service revenues to the city .
MHDL ’ s technical capabilities are unusually broad for a local health laboratory . It offers advanced molecular diagnostics including real-time polymerase chain reaction ( PCR ), multiplexing , Sanger and next-generation sequencing , and piloted metagenomic sequencing for local area beach samples , along with matrix-assisted laser desorption / ionization-time of flight ( MALDI-TOF ) and other conventional capabilities . It is working to expand environmental testing , bioinformatics and data analysis capability .
Education and Professional Development
As an academic health department , MHD works to bring public health laboratories to the public . The laboratory is actively engaged in promoting public health and laboratory science , partnering with local universities , touring for students , dignitaries , and elected officials and developed educational videos to share its programs and COVID-19 activities . MHDL piloted a virtual program to promote public health laboratories to Milwaukee public school students and continues internship opportunities for local college students .
MHDL is committed to providing professional development opportunities , including a career ladder , for its diverse staff and students . Over the last decade , over 80 students have refined their skills at MHDL , including those pursuing programs in two-year technical schools , as well as bachelor ’ s , master ’ s , doctoral and medical students .
Achievements
• Since 2020 , MHDL staff has authored 15 publications , including an article in Nature Communications on the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 in Wisconsin .
• When COVID-19 outbreaks at Milwaukee food manufacturing and processing firms threatened lives and productivity , MHDL worked with local health officers and coordinated activites to bring in CDC teams to assist meat processing / manufacturing plants to limit the spread of disease .
• In 2020 , MHDL distributed 15 rapid , Abbott ID Now point-of-care instruments to 10 local community sites who did not have immediate access to COVID-19 testing . It installed the instruments , trained site staff , and continues to support PCR confirmation and reporting . It also supported a portal for data transfer to the state .
Challenges
• Recruitment and retention of qualified laboratory technical , management and administration staff remains a challenge due to a lack of competitive salaries for public health laboratory professionals . Two years into the pandemic staff are tired , and some have left for better paying jobs or taken a hiatus from work .
• Limited capacity for real-time data analysis , and lack of adequate infrastructure for informatics and bioinformatics support .
• Major space constraints due to accommodating new staff and technologies , and exploring infrastructure funding for lab space expansion . •
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