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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 19, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160


 
National Medical Laboratory Week


 

Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. encourages careers in lab sciences

In recognition of National Medical Laboratory Week, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. recognized the vital role of New Jersey's clinical laboratory professionals and urged students to consider careers in the medical lab sciences.

Students from Martin Luther King Middle School in Trenton and Montgomery High School in Somerset County visited the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Monday and Tuesday to explore the opportunities available in the Public Health and Environmental Laboratory in the Department of Health and Senior Services. The students learned about radiation, DNA and food safety testing, water chemistry, clinical services and tick-testing for Lyme Disease.

"Clinical laboratory professionals are vital members of the health care team. A large proportion of physician decisions regarding patient diagnosis and treatment are based on laboratory test results,'' said Dr. Lacy.

"During National Medical Laboratory Week and throughout the year, we recognize the important role clinical laboratory professionals play in testing for food-borne illnesses, HIV, Lyme, West Nile and other naturally occurring diseases, and also for agents of terrorism such as ricin and anthrax,'' Dr. Lacy noted.

Since the anthrax incidents in October 2001, more than 17,700 samples have been tested for anthrax at the Public Health and Environmental Laboratory in the Department of Health and Senior Services. One hundred and seventy-five professionals work in the state lab as chemists, microbiologists, research scientists and molecular biologists.

"We must prepare for the future. One of our greatest needs is qualified people to work in laboratories,'' said Dr. Lacy. There is a serious shortage of clinical lab professionals both nationally and in New Jersey that is expected to continue throughout the decade. The number of colleges and universities that offer these specialized programs is also shrinking.

The clinical lab professions include a broad spectrum of laboratories in hospitals, physician offices, clinics, pharmaceutical companies and county and state health departments.

A recent survey by the American Society of Clinical Pathology found that there is a 45 percent vacancy rate in the Northeast among cytotechnologists, who look for microscopic pathologic changes in tissues and cells, and a 36 percent shortage among phlebotomists, who draw blood.

Nationally, there are 265,000 medical laboratory professionals and 15,000 board certified pathologists who perform and interpret medical laboratory tests nationwide.

A recent study by the Coalition for New Jersey Clinical Laboratory Personnel found that 50 percent of all hospital clinical laboratory personnel are over the age of 45. The study also found there is a 13.6 percent overall vacancy rate for hospital lab personnel.

Over 70 percent of hospital lab managers reported difficulty in filling vacant lab positions, the survey found.

For more information on opportunities in laboratory work, please visit www.labscience.org or www.ascp.org

 
 
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