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The Professional Practice in Clinical Chemistry Course represents the hard work and dedication of a number of individuals over an 18-month period. There is no doubt that the continued success of the program is in part to the commitment of these AACC and NACB members. We spoke with Lisa Dunay, AACC’s Education Assessment and Accreditation Manager, and Dr. Roger Bertholf to learn more about the Professional Practice course and the ways that some NACB members play a part in its development.

NACB members involved as faculty of this year’s course include: D. Robert Dufour, William Winter, Roger Bertholf, William Clarke, Rob Christenson, David Endres, Robin Felder, Martin Fleisher, Ann Gronowski, Catherine Hammett-Stabler, Ishwarlal Jialal, Greg Miller, James Nichols, and Gregory Tsongalis. The organizing committee included William Winter (chair), Roger Bertholf (vice chair), William Clarke, and Neil Harris.

Dr. Bertholf said that “In choosing the faculty, the organizing committee turns to AACC, and specifically NACB, members who have made contributions and are highly regarded for their expertise so that the course will contain the most up-to-date and current information.”

Typically about 18 months before the course, the organizing committee meets by conference call and carefully reviews both the overall program and individual speaker evaluations from the past programs. Input from past participants is essential to program design and the committee will begin reviewing this year’s evaluations in order to start working on the 2011 course. The organizing committee rotates the faculty members in order for new people to have the opportunity to participate and yet they also choose speakers who are known as being good teachers and presenters. Approximately one year before the course, the speaker list is compiled and speakers are invited. This provides speakers with time to prepare and submit their presentations which are sent out by the organizing committee for review (listen to the sound clip for additional details about this process). After presentations are complete and approved, the handouts and program materials are prepared for participants by Lisa Dunay. Dr Bertholf stressed that one advantage for external course reviewers, faculty, and course attendees is that they all receive electronic copies of all of the course presentations to use as a resource for years to come.

Offered on alternating years, the 2009 Professional Practice course took place from April 19-23, in Alexandria, VA. There were 111 registrants and 20 faculty members—many of whom are NACB and AACC members. Dr. D. Robert Dufour was chair from the course’s conception in 1990 until 2003. Dr. William Winter was course chair in 2005, 2007, and 2009. For the 2011 course, Dr. Roger Bertholf will be chair. 

The purpose of this course is to cover fundamental and state-of-the-art practices in the field of clinical chemistry, which includes core laboratory topics.  Invited speakers present as much new material as possible which is vital to managing and working in a core laboratory. The lectures focus on clinically relevant advances and the use of information to solve technical challenges and diagnostic problems. All presentations are peer-reviewed, making this course different from many other educational programs.

In addition to lectures related strictly to clinical chemistry, there is an attempt to include some non-clinical chemistry subjects.  For example, topics such as hematology, coagulation, and molecular diagnostics may be covered.  The committee has found that some attendees want to learn about other areas of the laboratory because they are responsible for these areas, or they may be transferring to areas relatively new to them.  The program has evolved over the years from a course focusing on the basic to include the most to date information. The organizing committee looks at emerging areas and topics that are increasing in importance, for example, pharmacogenomics, which probably was not mentioned in the original version of the course.

Dr. Bertholf mentioned that one major benefit of attending this course is the large number of continuing education credit offers available—between 38 and 40. Both CME and ACCENT credits are offered, which is important for individuals who must obtain a certain number of hours for institutional, state, or certification requirements.  Despite hard economic times at many institutions, Dr. Bertholf was pleased by this year’s attendance and he felt that it was a testament to the importance and value of the course that so many people would choose to attend and pay for the course out of pocket if their institutions were unable to cover the costs. He also noted that the number of physicians who choose to participate in the course increases each year and that he was impressed by this. Dr. Bertholf believes that this speaks to a growing desire for physicians to make sure that their knowledge of clinical laboratory issues is current and to their increased interest in these subjects.

AACC and NACB members contribute to the clinical laboratory field in many ways, and courses such as this one are dependent upon these content experts for their success. We applaud AACC and NACB members who choose to participate as faculty, chairs, or on the organizing committee.

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