Spotlight on AACC Divisions

Spotlight on AACC Divisions
Our 14 Communities Offer Ample Opportunities This Week to Network, Learn

By Genna Rollins

AACC members wondering what the organization’s 14 divisions are all about will have ample opportunities this week to explore their rich programming and networking offerings. An array of events took place before the official start of the annual meeting, but numerous activities are slated for today, tomorrow and Thursday. Several divisions, including History, Animal Clinical Chemistry, Industry, Molecular Pathology, Critical and Point-of-Care Testing (CPOCT), and Clinical and Diagnostic Immunology Division (CDID) are sponsoring business or membership meetings this afternoon. This evening, the CPOCT, CDID, Molecular Pathology, Pediatric Maternal Fetal and Industry Divisions all will be hosting mixers and/or awards ceremonies.

While the mixers present an opportunity for relaxed, informal socializing, the business and membership meetings also are a great way to discover the world of divisions, according to Steven Kazmierczak, PhD, director of chemistry and toxicology and professor of pathology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “Those are good forums, if you’re interested in joining a division, to learn who the officers are, find out what the division does and what its plans are for the coming year,” he indicated. “Membership and business meetings also provide members with an opportunity to give input on those things they think are important that the division should be pursuing.” Kazmierczak chairs AACC’s Division Management Group, a coordinating body that interacts with each division and brings ideas and issues from the various divisions to the attention of appropriate AACC governance and membership groups.

Connecting With Colleagues

Networking with colleagues across the country and internationally, many of whom are experts in their field, is one of the main benefits of joining a division, according to Paula Santrach, MD, a consultant in the division of transfusion medicine and associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “What’s really valuable is having access to other people involved in similar issues. Being a division member gives you access to other laboratorians with the same problems,” she said. Santrach also chairs AACC’s Program Coordinating Commission (PCC), a body charged with ensuring that all the association’s educational programs are relevant and timely for members.

In addition to face-to-face networking opportunities at the annual meeting, divisions have a variety of mechanisms to keep member-to-member dialogue going throughout the year. The majority of divisions—11 of 14—including Proteomics and TDM/Toxicology, have listservs that enable participants to pose questions and receive feedback from colleagues on vexing professional challenges. Some of the listservs are converting to AACC’s LinkedIn group, the popular web-based business and professional networking site. Divisions also publish newsletters and post other content online to keep members apprised of developments in their areas of interest. “Being a member of a division gives you enhanced access to information in that area. Through their websites, AACC divisions provide resources—especially newsletters—that address practical issues and problems encountered in the laboratory. You also have access to the division’s membership if you want to pose a specific question,” said James Faix, MD, director of clinical chemistry and the clinical immunology laboratory service at Stanford University Medical Center and associate professor of pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. Faix is past chair of the CDID division and served on this year’s annual meeting organizing committee.

Staying on the Cutting Edge

Professional development is a major focus of all the divisions, and the annual meeting is chock full of division-sponsored educational events. For example, tomorrow afternoon two divisions are teaming to host an afternoon symposium from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Room 213 CD of the Anaheim Convention Center titled “From Bench to Bedside: Clinical Translational Science.” This session, jointly developed by Animal Clinical Chemistry and AACC’s newest division, Clinical Translational Science, will highlight emerging approaches for biomarker development and translation, provide examples of successful translational research projects, and explain the work of and funding opportunities available through the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Translational Science Awards program (See Box, below). “We hope this will be a forum to catalyze the bench-to-bedside interface and make biomarker discovery faster and more efficient in getting into clinical laboratories,” said Vincent Ricchiuti, PhD, director of the Harvard Catalyst Central Laboratories and the Specialty Assay Research Core Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Ricchiuti is chair of the Clinical Translational Science Division.

AACC’s Newest Division

The AACC Clinical Translational Science Division provides a forum for laboratory scientists, clinicians, researchers, and technology developers involved or interested in clinical translational research. Its purpose is to inform and educate the laboratory community about efforts involved in the rapid translation of basic knowledge into clinical practice and patient care.

The CPOCT Division’s 8th Annual POCC Forum will take place on Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in Room 213 AB of the Anaheim Convention Center. This always-popular event will focus on records and regulations in the age of the electronic medical record (EMR). Attendees will learn about efforts to implement EMRs and how POCT fits into the picture. Another session likely to have broad appeal is a symposium developed in cooperation with the Lipoprotein and Vascular Diseases Division. The event, titled “Markers of Cardiovascular Risk: Are They Also Responsible for Disease Progression?” will be held today from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 201 CD of the Anaheim Convention Center. This program will review evidence for the emerging role of C-reactive protein, myeloperoxidase, and lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 in inflammation, oxidative damage, and defective healing found in atherosclerotic plaque. Other division-sponsored sessions taking place at the annual meeting are open only to division members.

The Annual Meeting and Beyond

While the divisions center many of their events around the annual meeting, they offer education, networking, and problem-solving opportunities throughout the year. For instance, the CPOCT division will hold its biannual conference, “New Directions in Point-of-Care and Critical Care Testing: Innovation, Controversies, and Partnerships” in Boston from September 22 to 25.

In another aspect of professional development, many divisions recognize members for outstanding contributions to the field via division-sponsored awards, while others highlight innovative research through awards for best abstracts presented at the annual meeting. For example, the Clinical Translational Science Division will recognize one outstanding poster with a $500 cash prize. Divisions also support professional development through online certificate programs, which enable graduates to demonstrate knowledge in particular aspects of laboratory medicine. Four such programs have been launched this year, including Using Tandem Mass Spectrometry in the Clinical Laboratory, Statistical Methods for Clinical Laboratorians, Basic Principles and Architecture of Laboratory Information Systems, and Fundamentals of Molecular Pathology.

Because they are subject matter experts, division members also are collaborating with other organizations in ways that have already or are expected to influence lab medicine practice. For instance, members of the Pediatric and Maternal Fetal Division are advising the National Institutes of Health on laboratory issues related to its National Children’s Study, a 20-year research effort that is examining the impact of environmental factors on the health and development of children. Earlier this year the Proteomics Division paved the way for AACC to sign a memorandum of understanding with the National Cancer Institute on proteomics-focused educational programs. Similarly, the POCT division has made its mark in the POC field. “One issue POCT tackled earlier in its existence was connectivity of point-of-care devices and the proprietary nature of data management systems,” recalled Santrach. “The latter issue has not been completely solved, but there are some non-proprietary systems out there and I think that was a result of the COPT Division’s activity in this area.”

The PCC also is tapping into the expertise of division members to refine AACC’s educational offerings, according to Santrach. “We want to use the divisions as a source of in-depth knowledge within their own disciplines. This will guide us in understanding what kinds of topics are really hot and where they fit into the lifecycle of emerging, early implementation, or well-established trends,” she explained. As program opportunities are identified, the PCC plans to use the divisions to identify experts who can address each subject.

With so many activities and areas of interest, the divisions are a crucial feedback mechanism for AACC and its members, enabling laboratorians to stay on top of their profession and AACC to tailor its programs and services to the ever-changing lab medicine field, said Kazmierczak. “The divisions allow the association to remain nimble because it provides an outlet for people to learn what’s new and evolving and to tap into expert content.”

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