Test by the best

  • Published
  • By Brandice J. Armstrong
  • Tinker Public Affairs
It could be said the 72nd Medical Support Squadron's clinical laboratory is the backbone of the 72nd Medical Group. After all, the laboratory staff enables the medical group to breathe life into the motto, "Best Care Anywhere."

Located on the first floor of Bldg. 5801, the lab staff draws blood, collects specimens and processes the samples. The 14 assigned civilian and military personnel tend to the needs of more than 54,000 beneficiaries, including military members preparing for deployment, and 90 providers.

"Bottom line, without our clinical laboratory professionals, we couldn't provide the timely, quality care our patients have come to expect on a daily basis," said Lt. Col. Timothy Dykens, 72nd MDSS commander. "Their clinical testing expertise is unique within the 72nd Medical Group both in a day-to-day peacetime setting and during on-base or deployed contingencies."

Within their responsibilities, the lab staff tests numerous specimens including blood, urine and throat cultures. They study and determine if the samples will answer questions about pregnancy, strep throat, the flu - including H1N1 - or cholesterol issues.

"Eighty percent of how doctors diagnose a patient comes from ancillary services," said 1st Lt. Melissa Casapao, acting Clinical Laboratory Flight commander, while Maj. Lorenzo Gabiola is deployed. "Without us, they have a hard time diagnosing and treating patients."

Specimen samples processed and studied at Tinker are typically returned to providers within eight hours, unless they are "stat" orders. Rush orders deemed "stat," are returned within an hour. If analyses, such as HIV, are sent out for processing, they are traditionally returned three to seven days later, said Master Sgt. Carol Gimenez, Clinical Laboratory Flight chief.

"A lot of people are under the impression that we just push buttons on the machines and that's not true," said Lieutenant Casapao (pronounced Cass-a-pow). "It's very extensive training and education that these technicians go through. After 13 months of intense schooling, they're still going through more upgrade training for this career field."

Lab staffers conduct approximately 192,000 tests a year. They see patients during traditional work hours Monday through Friday, but also have an on-call person on duty through the night should a medical emergency occur. Additionally, they keep up-to-date with the latest technology and test procedures. They also coordinate monthly blood drives with the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

"The goal is for us is to make sure the doctors have what they need to treat patients," Sergeant Gimenez said. "We try to stay in touch with the different changes and testing procedures. We're here to make sure we sustain a fit, healthy and ready force."