Lab Matters Winter 2018 - Page 32

member spotlight Reinventing a Public Health Laboratory in Riverside County by Nancy Maddox, MPH, writer Although Riverside County, California, is a landlocked jurisdiction, it lies just 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean and boasts a landscape that ranges from the lofty peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains to the resort cities of the Coachella Valley to the weirdly wonderful Joshua Tree National Park at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. As in all of California, Native Americans once roamed this land, and 12 Native American tribes still reside here. In modern times, said Megan Crumpler, PhD, HCLD(ABB), “most people originally moved here because of affordable housing within commuting distance of Los Angeles and Orange County.” Another group of transplants—from the increasingly costly San Diego area—continues to drive the local economy and grow the current population of 2.3 million people. Yet Riverside County and its public health laboratory—which Crumpler directs in an interim capacity—are both in the process of reinvention. Touting its business-friendly policies, enviable transportation network and healthy residential environment, the county is luring a new class of entrepreneurs, such as K&N Engineering, Luminex Software and Ambryx Biotechnology. Riverside County, roughly the size of New Jersey, is ranked 10th in the nation for small business and 13th for startup activity. The public health laboratory is growing too. Part of the Riverside University Health System (RUHS)—which also includes the medical center in Moreno Valley, ten federally qualified health clinics (FQHCs) and the county’s public health and behavioral health programs— the laboratory is slated to double in size and strengthen its program for molecular testing. It is also actively recruiting a permanent director. The vast majority of the laboratory’s work focuses on infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis (TB) (with about 60 cases/ year, mostly in immigrant populations), select vaccine-preventable illnesses, respiratory infections and rabies. Facility The public health laboratory is situated in the City of Riverside, the county’s government seat and most populous city, with 300,000 residents. It shares a building with public health administrative offices and the Riverside Department of Environmental Health. Currently, the laboratory occupies about 4,500 square feet of the first floor, but the entire space will be remodeled next year, with a wall torn down and an additional 4,700 square feet built on. New amenities will include a 600-square-foot BSL-3 space—the laboratory’s first—a dedicated specimen receiving area and, hopefully, instrumentation for whole genome sequencing. The $10.5 million project has incorporated LEAN processes in the development of the architectural plan. The county expects to break ground March 2018 and finish up a year later. “The space we’re in was originally built as office space and retrofitted as a lab in 1989, so it has never worked well,” said Crumpler. The expansion, she said, will improve safety, improve work flow and “right-size us.” Interim Director Crumpler was born in Decatur, IL, and raised in Florida, where she studied microbiology and cell science at the University of Florida–Gainesville, intending to pursue a career in medicine. However, that plan was quickly discarded: “I took a micro lab for students who wanted to go into a research graduate track, and I fell in love with microbiology in that class.” After finishing up her undergraduate work, Crumpler moved to the Old Dominion State and earned a PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University (then the Medical College of Virginia) in Richmond. While completing an HIV-focused post-doc, she toured County of Riverside Public Health Laboratory staff. Photo: Riverside University Health System 30 LAB MATTERS Winter 2018 PublicHealthLabs @APHL