Dedication, sense of family drive lab's excellence

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Most businesses would envy a 97-percent satisfaction rate, but it's even more amazing for an organization that's in the business of pushing needles into people's veins.

Lt. Col. Nathan Johnson, who commands the 10th Medical Support Squadron's Laboratory Flight, said that satisfaction rate is based on the lab's dedication to serving both patients and providers and the sense of family within the flight itself.

It also led to an award by Advance, a company that publishes several medical trade journals. Advance announced during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week in April that the Laboratory Flight had won the company's 2013 Laboratory of the Year contest.

"I put in for the award in January, right before I deployed," Johnson said. "It's not like traditional awards in the Air Force. It highlights the past few years: What have you done up to that point to get to where you are."

In an interview with Advance Magazines writer Michael Jones, Tech. Sgt. Carcia Baskin said some of the lab's signature accomplishments included the activation of a vitamin D analyzer that would save the lab more than $160,000 in test outsourcing costs and the volunteer effort by two lab technicians to make a house call for a patient who had just gotten out of surgery, which also ended up saving the government money.

Caryl MacGregor, the lab's supervisory medical technician, said the clinic is set up to provide hematology, chemistry, immunology and histopathology services; in short, they can provide test results based on blood, urine and tissue samples. That spectrum of services, Johnson said, makes the Academy's lab the "best deal in town" for the government.

The Waldo Canyon Fire in June 2012 strengthened the group's already close bonds.

"We made sure employees had places to stay," MacGregor said. "We put together collections for people who were displaced. When the Air Force Academy's housing residents were evacuated, we took employees into our homes off base so they didn't have to try to book a hotel room."

In the midst of the disaster, the staff still came to work to support in-processing for roughly 1,200 cadets, MacGregor added.

Johnson said the lab enjoys closeness not only among its employees but also with its customers, whether they are patients or medical providers.

"Sometimes you'll see an antagonistic attitude between civilian labs and customers," he said. "You just don't have that here. No one is perfect, but the way we respond when someone brings up a concern is pretty remarkable."

That's a point not lost on the providers ... nor the patients on the business side of the needles.

"I love it," said Chun Eriksen, who agreed to be interviewed for this story. "It's fast, and it doesn't hurt."