Without doubt, the vast majority of clinical laboratorians are drawn to the profession by the promise of discovery inherent to medical science. Medicine is a virtuous heir of scientific theory and the discoveries made in this field fuel all health care improvements. However, such discovery is a dual-edged sword.
I would wager that few clinical laboratorians have not wondered at the impact of their labors. Medical discovery implies both innovation and despair. For each medically evolutionary tipping point—from the revelation of vaccines and antibiotics to the glorious complexities of organ transplantation and genome sequencing—innumerable patients are informed that their condition is inoperable, irrevocable, terminal. These are discoveries too; those that remind us of the true nature and fragility of life.
The dual aspects of promise and despair in the medical profession are inexorably linked, yet the promise of one alleviates the despair of the other. For clinical laboratory directors, this concept surely is not foreign, as the vast majority of disease diagnoses rest in the hands of laboratory staff.
Laboratory scientists earn the blessing (albeit, sometimes the curse) of discovering the presence and substance of an organism before its host does. Awe-inspiring medical breakthroughs, such as those discussed in our cover story on liquid biopsies and next-generation sequencing (see page 6), foster hope for the afflicted and the suffering.
Alternately, this month’s CLMA-provided editorial on the effects of burnout on clinical laboratorians (see page 14) is a stark reminder of human fallibility and of the need to remain mindful of the individuals vital to the application of medical discovery into practice.
In considering the role of clinical laboratory scientists in bolstering and enriching human life, I am reminded of a quote from the work of the late Denis Johnson: “This life is but the childhood of our immortality.”
What contributions to your legacy will you make today?
With best regards,
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