Welcome to Laboratory Watch

Feb 20, 2023

Hello and Welcome! 

My name is David Chhieng, MD, MBA, MSHI, MSEM, MLS, MDR. I am the Chief Medical Officer of COLA Inc. If you are reading this, you have stumbled onto the first post for the Laboratory Watch–a new COLA blog for clinical laboratory professionals. It is intended to be an informative resource dedicated to helping pathologists, laboratory directors and clinical laboratory professionals perform their jobs better. Laboratory Watch will keep you and other laboratory professionals up-to-date on significant advancements in the field of laboratory science, the latest regulatory news and the opinions of experts in their field. In addition to myself, my colleagues and guest writers will also be featured on Laboratory Watch

When I started taking part in laboratory surveys many years ago, a seasoned surveyor told me “surveyors are part of the healthcare team. You support laboratory professionals as they promote health and safety for patients.” After being on both ends of the accreditation process for over  two decades, I gradually came to appreciate her wisdom and recognize the importance of laboratory accreditation and the critical role surveyors played.  The first laboratory survey I participated in in 2001, right after the 9/11 terrorist tragedy, likely influenced my decision to join COLA today. The travel ban which followed the attack delayed my laboratory inspection for two months. Furthermore, instead of being an observer with the team to learn the process, I was asked to survey three laboratory sections independently because some of the original survey team members stayed behind out of concern with traveling at such an uncertain time. As my first survey proceeded, my apprehension slowly dissipated and it was replaced by a sense of duty, responsibility and adventure.  

Recognizing that lives may be at stake, during each survey, I carefully observed laboratorians performing their tasks, I asked lots of questions and was diligent in my review of laboratory documentation.  

As a surveyor, I’ve had the opportunity to travel both domestically and abroad . I have made numerous friends throughout the world, which is always satisfying. Of course, travel can take unexpected turns. Once, I was about to board my flight back to the states when a blizzard hit the New England area.  This left me stranded in Milan, Italy for two days. In another instance, the team was stranded in Arizona for three days in mid-February due to a pilot strike of a major US airline. I jokingly told myself there are worse places in the world to be stranded. 

Perhaps the most rewarding experience for me is the opportunity to meet other laboratorians. I treasure the relationships with my fellow surveyors and the interactions with the laboratorians whose laboratories I have had the pleasure to survey. For the most instances, I feel respected and valued.  I occasionally came across professionals who were really wary about the survey. They were concerned that I would be picky and penalize the laboratory and its employees. I always remained respectful and approachable trying to put their minds at ease. I managed to demonstrate that I was there to help and to work along aside laboratorians to stay compliant and improve the accuracy and reliability of test results.  

During my interviews with members of COLA executive team and Board of Directors, I discovered that COLA embraces an educational approach with its accreditation program, which offers more value and less hassle to our laboratory clients. As a matter of fact, education permeates every aspect of COLA’s accreditation process and services. COLA works with laboratories to meet regulatory requirements and to provides the best patient care by providing user-friendly web technology, valuable educational materials and technical customer support. Furthermore, the COLA Board is actively involved in every aspect of the accreditation program, from review and approval of accreditation criteria, evaluation of laboratories who are non-compliant to our appeals process, which provides laboratories with due process.  

My experience during my first year with COLA further strengthens my first impression. Furthermore, it has been a learning experience to learn the ropes of the accreditation operation from the perspective of the accrediting organization. Through its vision to serve more laboratories with its educational approach and mission, COLA was awarded deemed status for pathology by the federal CLIA program and California Laboratory Field Services. I look forward to working with our current and future laboratory clients to promote health and safety. 

Come in, look around, and share your thoughts and comments. If you have questions email learn@cola.org 

We shall post new content often, so be sure to check back. We hope you enjoy Laboratory Watch. #LaboratoryWatch 

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