Laboratory Medicine Training For Rural Family Physicians

September 15, 2021

Clinical laboratory doctors may be pathologists, other specialty physicians or doctoral level scientists with laboratory training, such as in clinical chemistry. However, this may also be a role for a family medicine physician or other non-pathologist physicians trained in laboratory medicine, particularly in rural communities without a pathologist.

Dr. Ed Geno, a family medicine physician, is the lab director at University Medical Center, which is operated by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences. In the role, he supervises UMC’s Department of Laboratory and X-ray, teaches laboratory medicine to medical students, resident physicians and fellows, and serves as a liaison between the lab and the College’s faculty physicians, who practice at UMC.

The lab provides full-service laboratory medicine and clinical pathology, including phlebotomy, urinalysis, hematology, chemistry, microbiology, toxicology and special chemistry. It is a high complexity laboratory because of its hematology and microbiology service. It serves UMC locations in Tuscaloosa and Northport, the UA Student Health Center and several outlying practices and private physicians.

Laboratory medicine deals with analysis of blood, urine and other specimens to provide important information about a patient. This assists physicians in determining diagnoses and how to care for sick patients. Laboratory medicine is taught in medical school and most residency and fellowship programs.

Health experts say a local hospital or clinic, and community physicians, may benefit from having a trained local family medicine physician serve as their lab director, and that there may be a role for a fellowship in laboratory medicine for family medicine physicians. Pathologists are residency trained in clinical and anatomical pathology and, over time, there has been a decrease in the number of pathologists in the U.S., especially clinical pathologists, resulting in a decrease in the number who serve as laboratory medical directors.

CCHS’s training program, with a family medicine physician at the helm, trains non-pathologist physicians to be laboratory directors. The College sought direction from the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory unit director and the licensure and certification supervisor at the Alabama Department of Public Health to develop its training program.

Source: Excerpts from Medical Laboratory Observer.