Lab Matters Spring 2023 | Page 5


Laying the Groundwork for the Future of APHL

As most of you know , I have been at APHL for a very long time . And the organization has changed a lot since I arrived in the 1990s . But I do not look at that as a weakness . In fact , part of APHL ’ s greatest strength is its ability to change to fit the needs of our members . Our staff have a lot to do with that .
From the moment any new employee arrives , regardless of their position they are welcomed with two days of orientation about the association . And over their first three months , they meet with every senior staff member to learn a little bit more about not only their role in the association , but all the diverse work we do . Prior to the pandemic , we were an in-person office on a single floor in Silver Spring , MD and those orientations were face-to-face . In 2020 , all that changed — we went from a few remote staff to all remote staff . We had to adapt our working style very quickly for the health and safety of all our staff . Now , we are an organization of 225 employees all over the world . And the rich perspectives that are brought during our all-staff meetings and conferences has really transformed the energy of our association . While we have always tried to foster a sense of belonging — both to members and staff — the pandemic really brought that to the forefront .
In late January and early February , I traveled to Atlanta for the in-person session of the Laboratory Leaders of Today orientation , then traveled to Cape Town , South Africa for APHL ’ s international staff meeting . During the orientation in Atlanta , we were joined by CDC Director Dr . Rochelle Walensky , who told us , “ Public health laboratories are the pointed edge of the spear in the nation ’ s public health emergency responses .” While that is a concept that is familiar to us within APHL , it may not be as easy to convey outside of the association . On one hand , our member laboratories are continuing to do what they do so well ; yet they also have so much potential to be change agents in their own communities . Public health laboratory practice is certainly not limited to analysis , surveillance or research . Likewise , as we saw during the pandemic , clinical laboratories have an important role in public health responses . It is going to be hard to fall back on previous behaviors , now that we all know what our colleagues and partners are capable of .
You may have been hearing some updates about the reorganization in CDC . Called CDC Moving Forward , the goal is to strengthen its structure to more swiftly respond to public health challenges facing the nation , while providing clear external communications . Many previously siloed activities are going to be consolidated , answering directly to the Director . APHL has had a seat at the table during those restructuring conversations , with APHL ’ s Dr . Jill Taylor sitting on the Advisory Committee to the Director .
As APHL has transitioned to a “ remote friendly ” organization , we are also looking at better ways to provide collaborative spaces for our members to meet — not only as committee members coming to our headquarters office for a multi-day meeting , but also rethinking how our annual conferences are presented so they can reach the greatest audience . The energy in public health laboratories is shifting away from crisis response to taking a breath and decompressing — having the space to evaluate where we have been and where we are going is a gift . It ’ s not always easy to rethink how you ’ ve been doing things , but now is the time to dust off the cobwebs and forge something new . g
It is going to be hard to fall back on previous behaviors , now that we all know what our colleagues and partners are capable of .”
Scott Becker , MS Chief Executive Officer , APHL
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