Today marks the very first National Lab Day, an event conceived in 2009 by a grassroots coalition of educators and scientists eager to reinvigorate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for America’s K-12 students. The event earned a stamp of approval from President Obama and was added to his “Educate to Innovate” campaign to combat the nation’s flagging performance in science and math. National Lab Day looks to create a community of students, teachers, professionals and organizations focusing on collaboration to “improve educational outcomes, inspire students to pursue science, technology and engineering careers, improve hands-on laboratory environments in the STEM subjects, and raise student, parent and public awareness of the importance of science and technology to our nation’s future.” Check out the National Lab Day website for more information.
Just as any computer company, alternative energy think tank or NASA department depends on new ideas and innovation from younger generations, public health laboratories also require skilled, innovative thinkers to confront the ever-evolving challenge of keeping American citizens healthy. Public health laboratorians are the behind-the-scenes “disease detectives,” providing the science to confirm food-borne illness outbreaks, emerging infectious diseases, potential chronic illnesses in newborns, and even biological terrorism threats. Despite the importance of the labs, the United States is in the midst of a severe shortage of public health lab workers, and badly needs a steady stream of new laboratorians to enter and innovate in the field.
APHL is committed to assisting the youngest generation to become leaders in the STEM fields, and more specifically, in public health laboratory science. APHL’s Workforce Development department creates continuing education opportunities and leads a fellowship program for the best and brightest studying emerging infectious diseases and environmental health. The National Center for Public Health Laboratory Leadership (NCPHLL) strives to prepare current and future laboratory leaders with the skills critical to public health lab success in the rapidly-evolving field. APHL also participates in the Labs Are Vital education and awareness program, working to promote laboratory science to students and the general public.
National Lab Day is a perfect opportunity for APHL and public health laboratory workers to promote the importance of public health laboratories in their communities and to lead students towards the exciting and vital world of public health. The National Lab Day website has many opportunities for scientists and other professionals to volunteer at schools. There is nothing like hands-on learning and real-life experience from actual laboratorians to excite and inspire kids towards a future in lab science. Who knows, a future laboratory leader may be dissecting his or her first frog today.