Tanya LeRoith DVM '99 has become the new president-elect of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. 

LeRoith, who has been with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine since 2005, is the director of the college's on-site interdisciplinary diagnostic laboratory, the Virginia Tech Animal Laboratory Services (ViTALS).

With over 1,000 members from more than 30 countries, the association supports veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the United States and Canada and offers laboratory accreditation. LeRoith assumes the role of president-elect after serving a term as vice president.

"I saw this as a chance to give back to the organization," said LeRoith, a clinical professor of anatomic pathology at the college. "We all need to take our turn to support the organization, and it was my turn. The dean, my fellow pathologists, and everybody else have been so supportive of my involvement in the organization."

As president, LeRoith will organize next year's meeting, which will be held in Nashville jointly with the United States Animal Health Association. LeRoith will schedule the plenary session and the scientific program and work with the group's president-elect to select a keynote speaker. She can expect a large crowd — over 1,200 participants attended this year's conference. 

When she becomes president, LeRoith will continue to support the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AALVD) and its initiatives. She will travel to Paris to represent the association at the World Organization for Animal Health. 

Currently, one of the association's most important initiatives is workforce development.   

"We find that when there's a lab director vacancy, it's tough to fill that position. It seems people are shifting around from one place to another, so when someone retires, it's difficult to find someone for that role," LeRoith said. Some vacancies take years to fill. 

In part through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the association has spent the past year developing programs to train lab directors, diagnosticians, bench scientists, and Ph.D. students. 

New lab directors often find themselves over their heads, as the job demands technical, people, and money management skills. This is a challenge LeRoith knows firsthand. 

"ViTALS didn't have a lab director before I stepped into the role, so I was learning as I went. It was so helpful to have this network of people at the AALVD I could reach out to at any point," she said. 

LeRoith is also interested in examining the potential role — and ramifications — of artificial intelligence (AI) in diagnostics. 

"We need to look into AI and how it can be useful for diagnostic testing, training, and interpreting tests — what do we do if labs start adopting some of these tests without looking at the consequences? In human medicine, there is a concern about using AI for diagnostic pathology. If AI gets it wrong, who's liable?"

LeRoith's election to the association also celebrates the work of ViTALS. 

ViTALS was the first veterinary hospital laboratory accredited by the association. The laboratory has since branched out, providing diagnostic services to veterinarians outside the college's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. ViTALS is a part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and the Food and Drug Administration's Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, making it able to provide diagnostic support during disease outbreaks. 

"My role in the organization is to represent small labs — we're not a big lab with state support," said LeRoith. "Because it's an international organization, we receive recognition of our expertise here."

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