October 2005 Mentor of the Month: James Westgard
James O. Westgard, Ph.D.

Dr. Westgard is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and Faculty Director of Quality Management Services for the Clinical Laboratories at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. He teaches in the Clinical Laboratory Science Program and is co-director of a capstone program that offers a Graduate Certificate in Laboratory Quality Management via the Internet. He is also President of Westgard QC, Inc., a small business that provides tools, technology, and training for quality management (www.westgard.com).

A native of North Dakota, he obtained a BA degree in chemistry from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and Master's and Ph.D. degrees in analytical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He began his career at UW as a Clinical Chemist in 1968, served in the past as Director of Clinical Chemistry and Associate Director for Laboratory Administration, and has now completed 37 years of service with the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Westgard's early interest was in the development of method evaluation protocols and he served as the first chairman of the Evaluation Protocols Area Committee in NCCLS. He published extensively in this area during the 70s and 80s, including a monograph on Method Evaluation published by ASCLS.

His interest in quality control began in 1976-77 when he was on sabbatical leave at Uppsala University in Sweden where he worked with Professor Carl Henric deVerdier and Drs Torgny Groth and Torsten Aronsson. This work led to the multi-rule control procedure, often referred to as "Westgard Rules." His extensive work on quality control is summarized in the book Cost-Effective Quality Control: Managing the quality and productivity of analytical processes , authored with Patricia Barry and published by AACC. He currently chairs the NCCLS working group on Quality Control that is revising document C24-A3 (Statistical Quality Control Procedures for Quantitative Measurement Procedures: Principles and Definitions).

He also spent a shorter sabbatical period in 1990 at Odense University Hospital in Denmark where he worked with Dr. Per Hyltoft Petersen and Professor Mogens Horder. His more recent focus on quality planning is an outgrowth of that sabbatical. The development of the theory and approach for QC planning led to the formation of Westgard QC to support the tools, technology, and training to make quality-planning practical in healthcare laboratories.

Dr. Westgard’s research has focused on quantitative techniques for analytical quality management and includes statistical quality control of laboratory testing processes, performance validation of measurement procedures, modeling and simulation for optimization of laboratory testing processes, and computer tools and technology for practical applications. Current work focuses on the design of statistical QC procedures to account for the analytical, clinical, or biological quality requirements for a laboratory test, the imprecision and inaccuracy observed for a measurement procedure, and the rejection characteristics expected for different QC decision criteria and strategies. Applications of this process are also investigated to develop improved QC strategies for the more complicated quantitative analyses in clinical laboratories.

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