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Congressman Mike Thompson Tours Pathology Lab

11/14/2008

Napa, CA – Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) visited the pathology laboratory at Queen of the Valley Medical Center to experience the critical and expanding role laboratory testing plays in patient care. Representative Thompson was greeted and given a tour of Queen of the Valley’s state-of-the-art laboratory by Michael C. Merwin, MD, FCAP.

The tour focused on the important role of pathologists in health care and included a demonstration of how pathologists and cytotechnologists use cutting-edge technology to screen for cervical cancer and precancerous lesions. Topics for discussion with Representative Thompson included H.R. 1237/S. 2510, the Cytology Proficiency Improvement Act, which would alter the proficiency testing process for individuals reading PAP tests.

The combination of national quality assurance standards, as well as technological advancements, such as computer-assisted screening, location guided screening, and digital imaging, have prompted legislators to examine current proficiency testing programs. Their goal is to ensure that laboratory personnel have the training and expertise necessary to take full advantage of the tools now available to them.

"The tour demonstrated how the laboratory’s role is a vital component of the diagnostic process for patient care decision making. We can look at individual cells, make a rapid diagnosis, and help guide therapy, sometimes reducing the need for additional testing or surgical biopsy procedures," Dr. Merwin said. "We appreciate Representative Thompson’s support in ensuring the quality and availability of top quality pathology services for all the residents of California."

The pathologists at Queen of the Valley Medical Center provide medical direction for the clinical laboratory (which performs the testing in hematology, transfusion, chemistry and microbiology) and anatomic pathology department (which studies tissue samples and performs cytological testing). Since medical laboratory professionals often work out of the public eye, few people know much about the critically important testing that the laboratory staff performs every day. It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of all physician decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment are based on laboratory test results.

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