One clinician needs to know if his patient has an intestinal parasite. Another one needs a urinalysis run on a feline. A third needs two units of blood for an injured dog. Still another needs a tissue sample processed and evaluated. In the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the Clinical Laboratory Services unit can and does successfully fill all of those needs and more.

When a clinician, resident, intern, or a fourth-year veterinary student needs a specimen analyzed, he or she takes it to Laboratory Central Receiving where it is distributed to the appropriate laboratory for testing.

Central receiving, anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, immunology, microbiology, parasitology, and the hospital's blood bank are the seven areas that comprise Clinical Laboratory Services. Each section is overseen by a chief of service and staffed by technologists. These areas are supervised by Carolyn Sink.

"The laboratory is a dynamic environment" said Sink, who has been with the college over 18 years. "Our team works together to produce reliable results for quality patient care. Our attention to detail begins at the point of accession and continues until the final result is issued."

The highly trained staff of 12 individuals includes six medical technologists. Becoming a medical technologist requires a four year science-based degree including a 12-month internship in a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences accredited program.

Individuals working in veterinary diagnostic laboratories receive further specialized training to develop competencies in species other than humans. This level of education and training is necessary because the work these individuals do is often critical to a patient's diagnosis. The veterinary college's laboratories operate at the same high standards as human medicine.

"The work of our Clinical Laboratory Services unit is such an essential part of what our hospital does," said Dr. Bill Pierson, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "The quality of care we provide our patients is directly correlated to the timeliness and accuracy of the testing performed by these valued staff members."

However, the service provided by these individuals is not limited to running diagnostic testing for the hospital's in-house patients.

The Clinical Laboratory Services unit also provides testing for veterinarians within the commonwealth of Virginia, practitioners in surrounding states, researchers from the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, and other colleges on the Virginia Tech campus.

In addition, they help prepare instructional labs for doctor of veterinary medicine students in their pre-clinical training and they assist with the instruction of fourth-year students during their clinical rotations in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

"It's very simple," explains Pierson. "We couldn't do what we do without them."


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