1998 International Travel Fellowship
William D. Follas, MD, will receive the 20th annual award, sponsored by Becton Dickinson Vacutainer Systems, Becton Dickinson and Co.
Mr. Follas has provided the following biographical sketch:
Perhaps the overriding theme of my professional career has been the many opportunities I have had to begin new ventures. During my graduate days (1974–1976), when I was directed to set up a plant extraction laboratory to isolate potential antineoplastic agents, little did I know that I would have many such opportunities.
After graduation in 1976, I was employed by Indiana University and sent to Boston to help relocate a laboratory to Indiana University in Indianapolis. During this process, I was charged with bringing up all the assays, starting new ones, and getting the laboratory into an operational status. This was originally known as the Diabetes Core and Research Laboratory, which still exists today as a specialized endocrinology lab. It was during this time that I discovered the area of clinical chemistry and decided to start my own laboratory with my brother. Having set up the old “fast hemoglobin” test, now known as hemoglobin A1c, we had physicians who desired the test performed on their non-university, private patients. Thus, in 1979 our laboratory began with performing one test—fast hemoglobin.
To increase our market, we needed to perform testing for Medicare patients. Therefore, in 1980 we became certified under CLIA ’67, and my real education of governmental regulations began. It was also during this time that we were made aware of the testing needs of the infertile patient. Most laboratories would run infertility tests only on certain days of the week, making therapeutic monitoring of these patients difficult to impossible. We worked closely with infertility specialists and soon initiated the laboratory support programs required for their patients, capturing the Indianapolis market for this testing. This niche market is still an important mainstay of our laboratory program.
In 1986, the infertility specialists presented us with the problem of obtaining adequate supplies of donor semen for their expanding practices. By the end of 1986, we had developed our own sperm bank, the first in Indiana, and began shipment of specimens. This program now meets the needs of Indiana physicians and provides specimens to clinicians throughout the US and Puerto Rico.
In 1987 we saw the need to provide better laboratory services to patients in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area, so we started and certified another laboratory in that locale. This was our first off-site laboratory and provided us with the great and stressful learning experience of running an operation located at some distance from us. During this time we also began consulting, and we developed a unique program in which we CLIA-certified physicians’ office laboratories and co-marketed their services with their local rural hospitals. This proved to be very rewarding for the physicians’ group, as well as the hospitals and the nursing homes they serviced.
In 1988 we outgrew our laboratory facility, so we had the opportunity to design and build our current laboratory. As of 1998, we have designed and built five laboratories, either for us or others.
During the 1990s, we have consulted and certified other laboratories, either under CLIA or COLA programs, as well as brought our main facility under the CAP program.
In regard to working with professional organizations, I was the first president of the Indiana chapter of CLMA and helped establish its presence. Today it is a very active chapter and has won “Chapter of the Year” twice because of the efforts of the current members.
I have also had the privilege of working with Don Cannon, PhD, and others in establishing the Management Sciences Division as a permanent division of the AACC. While working for the MSD/AACC, I had the opportunity to help organize the first Sino-American meetings, as well as to involve the MSD with its Mexican colleagues.
In summary, my professional career has presented me with many opportunities to begin various programs. Fortunately, I’ve always had great staff and supporters to continue building and improving those programs.