June marked the 30th anniversary since the discovery of HIV. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon challenged the world for global action to end the AIDS disease by 2020. In the USA, President Obama called on countries to do more and try to stamp out the disease. He vowed to increase funding for the fight against AIDS and other infectious diseases such as Tuberculosis and Malaria. He also promised to continue to invest in the pioneering research of new treatments.
In July, the Lancet published an international study that more than 350 million people in the world now have diabetes making the disease a major global health problem. About 3 million deaths a year are attributed to diabetes and its associated conditions. Scientists blame the dramatic increase on the universal popularity of the Western-style diet, obesity, and increased longevity. Chronic conditions and emerging infections are becoming a large burden on health systems, worldwide. It is expected that we see more demand on laboratory professionals in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and infections.
In the U.S. alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that an added 140,000 laboratory professionals (medical laboratory scientists and medical laboratory technicians) would be needed by the year 2012. These are new positions. The issue gets more complicated with the aging of the laboratory workforce and the looming retirement of many laboratory workers.
Educators in both levels of practice are under pressure to accept and to train more students and to graduate larger number of students. However, the task is not easy. Educators are faced with severe budget cuts and significant downsizing in resources and personnel. On the other hand, we are expected to meet the local and global demand for our graduates and accept more students with fewer faculties and a skeleton budget.
It is a good time to enter the profession: salaries are on the rise, demand is high, and schools are welling to increase their class sizes. We need to be extremely careful with the current situation. Qualified teaching faculty are hard to find. If you find them, they are harder to retain. We, as a profession, need to make sure that the entire world understands our impact on global healthcare.
You and I know the true value of laboratory testing, but that is not enough. The story needs to be told over and over. We need to be more visible, louder, and punctual in presenting ourselves. We have no choice, we either become proactive and stand tall among other health professions, or we face extinction!
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