In December 3-8, 2016, Dr. Noble got the opportunity to visit the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. ASLM was first created only 5 years ago, and hosts a conference every 3 years.
In the early 2000s, Dr. Noble representing both CMPT and POLQM had the opportunity to work with the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in developing a program to help laboratories in eastern Africa (Tanzania) learn and implement better laboratory quality management.
The program included a series of workshops and a stepwise approach to ISO 15189 (Medical laboratories – requirements for quality and competence). The process was slow at start, but much improved with implementing an intermediate-stay mentor program. Over the years the concepts of quality started to catch on with improved documentation, active quality indicators, and internal audits.
By 2014, all the regional laboratories reached the required levels of confidence in their markedly improved quality and competence. All of them applied for accreditation by internationally authorized accreditation assessment bodies and all seven laboratories met the required level of achievement and earned their accreditation certificate.
Modern medical laboratories first started to appear in Europe and North America around 1850. When studied, as late as the 1940s, their reliability and accuracy, as measured by external assessment and proficiency testing, was basic, at best. But over the following 75 years, laboratories have improved hugely. Most learning was done on-the-job and first hand and was slow and often incomplete. By contrast, laboratories in Africa have had the benefit of mentors, money, and motivation and have started to achieve comparable levels of success in only 15 years.
So congratulations to African medical laboratories and to the ASLM.
We look forward to the opportunity to be a part of the ongoing story of progress and improvement.