Dear Colleagues,

A lot goes on behind the front door of a patient visit to make a health care system hum effectively. One of the key areas that is not routinely visible to patients and families is the laboratory services provided through the Department of Pathology. I recently had the privilege of getting a great tour of the MU Health Care laboratories. This is a true partnership between MU Health Care and our physicians in the School of Medicine Department of Pathology.

Dr. Barohn tours lab sites
The leaders who provided me a view of what goes on behind the scenes were (from left) Dr. Doug Miller, chair of the Department of Pathology; Dr. Detlef Ritter, medical director; Jason Sawyer, administrative laboratory director; and Daniel Walker, medical director of transfusion medicine. Along with these leaders, I was able to chat with a number of key staff who are doing an enormous amount of work processing all sorts of laboratory specimens.

The timing of my tour nearly coincided with National Laboratory Professionals Week, April 24-30. I was thrilled to be shown around the laboratory space and meet a number of our doctors and technicians who are definitely on the front lines of the laboratory.

The areas I toured were:

  • The blood bank, where blood typing is done on 9,700 patients a year and blood is then provided for these patients if needed.
  • The main core lab, where tests such as complete blood counts, blood smears and chemistry panels are processed — they run over 2 million tests a year.
  • Flow cytometry, a very sophisticated process to identify subtypes of lymphocytes in a blood or bone marrow specimen — over 1,200 are done per year.
  • Cytology, where various tissues are submitted from the clinic and operating room.
  • Gross pathology, where various tissue from patients are received and checked in — 20,000 specimens checked in per year.
  • Histology, where microscopic specimens are made from pieces of tissue — over 30,000 cases a year that result in over 195,000 slides being prepared for review.

This high-volume operation is done with sophisticated equipment and with expert staff, technicians and physicians so life and death decisions can be made every day for our patients. Our team in the MU Health Care laboratory, while not necessarily visible on the front line of patient care, are unsung heroes of the health system. So, shout out to our laboratory team and a belated “Happy Laboratory Professionals Week.” Thank you for all you do seven days a week, 365 days a year.


Rick Barohn, MD

Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs/Dean, School of Medicine
University of Missouri