Neil Blumberg, M.D., professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Blood Bank/Transfusion Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is being inducted into the National Blood Foundation Hall of Fame on Oct. 19, 2019.
For more than 30 years, Blumberg and a team of collaborators have been investigating how to make blood transfusions safer for the millions of hospitalized patients who receive them every day. He’s been an ardent local, regional, and national advocate for fewer transfusions, despite push-back from many in the medical field.
Some of his earliest work, which established Blumberg as a leader, showed poorer outcomes for cancer patients who received donor blood. These study results changed clinical practice at URMC and increased the survival odds for young leukemia patients. Later, Blumberg showed that filtering the foreign white blood cells from donor blood when transfusions are necessary resulted in fewer cardiopulmonary complications for patients.
And in 2014, Blumberg and co-authors published a groundbreaking JAMA analysis showing that doing fewer blood transfusions reduces infection rates by nearly 20 percent. The study was the first to show conclusively — by analyzing 18 randomized clinical trials involving 8,700 patients — that reducing the number of transfusions not only saved lives but can decrease health care costs significantly.
“My advice to young physicians, medical technologists, scientists and nurses who want to do research is to find problems you think are important and are passionate about,” Blumberg said, in a recent article in the American Association of Blood Banks newsletter that honored his Hall of Fame recognition.
“Don’t allow failure or disapproval of your results by others discourage you too much,” he said. “Consider feedback, but if you find results contrary to the conventional wisdom, read about Semmelweis, whose instructing physicians to wash their hands prior to delivering babies was met with contempt. Read about Bernard Fisher, the surgeon whose work demonstrating that the Halstead radical mastectomy was ineffective and only created suffering was met with a mixture of disbelief and anger. It is always first and foremost the work and its benefit to patients that should be your focus.”
None of his research would have been possible, he said, without help from numerous close associates, including his spouse, Joanna M. Heal, MBBS, retired physician at the American Red Cross and UR Medicine’s Hematology/Oncology unit; the technical staff and attending physicians in the Transfusion Medicine service at Strong Memorial Hospital; the nursing staff at Wilmot Cancer Institute and Strong Memorial; and several faculty from Pediatric Surgery, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and from Wilmot.
The AABB will feature Blumberg as a keynote speaker at its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, where the Hall of Fame induction takes place.
- Leslie Orr
This month marks five years since Strong West officially opened in Brockport, and the clinical lab is an important part of the small but mighty healthcare team serving patients on the west side.
Sue Baker is supervisor of the Strong West lab, which runs an average of 6,800 lab tests each month – which is more than six times the number it processed when it first opened.
She oversees a team of two other fulltime medical technologists (Elizabeth Chartraw and Becky Phelps) who operate 24/7 with assistance from three med techs from the Strong Memorial Hospital lab who help cover shifts. The lab also currently has open positions.
Working at Strong West means the lab is part of a highly collaborative healthcare team – where you get to know the names and faces of the nurses and attending physicians in the Emergency Department and other service lines.
“It’s a different look at medicine in a lot of ways,” said Baker. “It’s more collaborative and it lets a lot of camaraderie go forward so we’re not just ‘the lab’ anymore. It’s ‘Sue that works in the lab,’ and I think that’s a nice kind of difference.”
The lab team is responsible for intake, testing, and reporting results of patient specimens. While their test volume isn’t nearly as big as larger labs at Strong Memorial Hospital or Bailey Road, it means the team must cover certain tasks themselves.
For example, there isn’t a separate team to handle specimen receiving, materials management staff, or maintenance and quality control for the lab’s 12 analyzers.
“We do all our receiving and spinning of specimens,” Baker said. “We unpack all our own boxes and do inventory. There’s more to what we do than just bench work.”
Everyone who works at Strong West serves a unique purpose of providing care for patients who can access services close to home without having to drive into Rochester – and the staff are reminded of this on a daily basis.
You can walk into a store in the village of Brockport wearing your University ID badge and people will say thank you for working in our community, Baker says. “There’s a nice community feel here, not only in the community but in the building itself.”
In photos: The Strong West lab’s three fulltime med techs include (from left) Becky Phelps, Sue Baker (supervisor), and Elizabeth Chartraw.
Approximately 500 staff who worked at Strong Memorial Hospital and other UR Medicine Labs sites will relocate to the central laboratory at 211 Bailey Road, in Henrietta. Clinical lab testing officially went live on June 24. All inpatient, emergency and on-campus clinics will remain at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Read the full article in the URMC Newsroom for more information.
View photos from this event.
Pathology Research Day at the University of Rochester Medical Center was held on Monday, June 10, 2019.
The day included 51 poster presentations in addition to 13 oral presentations given by Pathology & Laboratory Medicine residents and fellows and graduate students in the Cell Biology of Disease Ph.D. Program.
This year’s keynote speaker was Thomas Wynn, Ph.D., Vice President of the Discovery Inflammation and Immunology Group for Pfizer Corp., in Cambridge, Mass.
View Event Photos
Graduate Program Awards
- Outstanding Academic Excellence by a First Year Student – Cooper Sailer, MS
- Outstanding Program Contribution – Katherine Best, MS, and Brianna Shares, MS
- Robert Mooney Thesis Award – Richard Bell, Ph.D.
Best Oral Presentation
Poster Presentation Travel Awards
- Madison Doolittle, MS
- Felicia Gilels, MS
- John Bachman, MS
- Jerry Saunders III, MS
Oral Presentation Awards
- Mushal Noor, M.B.B.S.
- Phoenix Bell, M.D.
- Anna Israel, M.D.
In an effort to combat a statewide shortage of licensed laboratory technologists, the School of Medicine and Dentistry began offering the clinical/medical technology advanced certificate – or “med tech” program two years ago as a way to “grow our own” medical technologists.
The strategy is paying off. The one-year advanced certificate program first received approval from the State Education Department in 2017 and since then, 20 of its graduates (including those from the most recent class) have passed their certification exams and gone directly to work for UR Medicine Labs.
“It’s so important for us at URMC to be able to have this program,” said Kathy Parrinello, executive vice president and COO of Strong Memorial Hospital. “We’ve learned the best way to fill the pipeline of medical technology professionals is to train our own.”
The 2018 cohort yielded 11 new employees and nine of the 12 students who graduated this year will be following suit. This year, the program also received national board (NAACLS) accreditation through 2024.
This year’s cohort graduated on May 17. Parrinello noted the success of the program and offered encouragement to the graduates as they take the next step in their careers.
“You are well trained and very well equipped as you go out into the world,” she said.
All students who participate in the yearlong program receive intensive training from Pathology & Laboratory Medicine instructors. Bruce Smoller, M.D., chairman of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine praised the longtime efforts of faculty and staff, led by education coordinator Vicki Roberts, program director, together with Medical Center leadership to help get the program up and running.
“It’s wonderful when you can watch a long term plan come to fruition, especially when we have a shortage of technologists across New York State,” said Smoller. “Your futures in healthcare are bright and stable.”
The training program has already filled each of its 12 spots for the 2020-21 academic year. Check out this video to learn more.
See photos from the graduation ceremony.
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