Road to ISO 15189


Bal Ramsaran, PhD

January 2009



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About eight years ago I began thinking about the value that international certification could hold for our local laboratory. I always felt a need for someone to be at the forefront of a quality medical laboratory service in the Caribbean, and even more that this should take place in Trinidad.  

At the time a friend of mine—Mr. Terrence Awai, Head of the Certification Division, TTBS—introduced me to ISO 17025. He later brought to my attention ISO 15189, which is specific for medical laboratories. 

I must admit that at the beginning I thought this was highly impossible, and the task ahead was monumental and beyond our capabilities. My first approach was to get my employees to believe that there is a “proper” way to do things, which is reflected in the ISO document. This first task was not very difficult, as we were already accustomed doing things in what we thought was the “right” way. 

ISO accreditation took us the better part of seven years with lots of stops and starts; and change of staff along the way which caused some setbacks. Today, we are preparing for our first post-accreditation audit due April 9, 2009. 

In some international circles, Trinidad may be regarded as a third world country, and we were definitely faced with several hurdles. Be that as it may, we persevered and today St. Augustine Medical Laboratory, Ltd. is the first medical laboratory in the Caribbean to be ISO 15189 accredited with a scope of 124 tests. 

ISO accreditation has helped us tremendously and should be considered a MUST. As the Medical Laboratory Director, I am able to reflect and see improvements in all departments, which now gives me a sense of comfort and security knowing that we are doing things properly. The benefits of accreditation will only be appreciated after one is accredited. Along the way, one may feel that the end will never come and want to quit – don’t make this mistake! 

If we can do it, then so can you! 



Dr. Bal Ramsaran, graduated from Leeds University, England, with a PhD in Chemical Pathology. His initial experiences were short spells at Leeds Infirmary and St. James’ Hospital, England. On returning to Trinidad, he held a temporary position as Biochemist in the Pathology Department of San Fernando General Hospital, Trinidad.

In 1981 Dr. Ramsaran, along with his brother Dr. Joe Ramsaran, founded St. Augustine Medical Laboratory, which is now in its 27th year of operation.


Dr. Ramsaran is a longstanding member of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry, American Association of Clinical Pathology and European Association of Hematology. Dr. Ramsaran was recently invited to join Best Doctors of the Caribbean.

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