By Laura Siegel, Specialist, National Center for Public Health Laboratory Leadership (NCPHLL), APHL
What does it take to run a public health laboratory – a PhD in microbiology? Years of experience working in a lab? Extensive knowledge of laboratory testing techniques?
The truth of the matter is that the qualities mentioned above only scratch the surface of what is needed. Laboratory directors also must possess the ability to manage a budget, motivate staff, advocate for funding, organize committees and understand legislative processes… No wonder there is such a shortage!
In 2002 an APHL study revealed an imminent shortage of qualified public health laboratory directors. The study predicted 13 vacancies in state public health laboratory directorships by 2007, with a pool of replacement candidates considered either “not adequate or only marginally adequate in size to meet the future demand.” That warning—considered somewhat dire at the time—has proven overly optimistic. Instead, just between early 2002 and early 2005, 17 public health laboratory directors have vacated their posts, largely due to retirements.
In order to address this shortage in the public health laboratory community, APHL created the National Center for Public Health Laboratory Leadership (NCPHLL or “the Center”) in 2002. Today, 10 years later, that shortage is still a concern, but the Center has made great strides in increasing the pipeline of qualified lab director candidates.
Over the past 10 years…
The Emerging Leader Program has trained 60 public health laboratory scientists. Of those 60 ELP graduates:
- 20% have been promoted into senior roles upon completion of the program
- 5 individuals have served as assistant/ deputy/ associate laboratory directors
- 3 individuals have become lab directors after completing the Emerging Leader Program.
The Center has gained oversight of the EID fellowship program, which has:
- Recruited over 450 fellows since 1995 to serve one- and two-year term positions in public health laboratories across the country
- Of those 436 fellows who responded to our survey, 60% are still in public health.
The Center has trained 35 incoming laboratory directors through the National Laboratory Directors Orientation, which includes:
- Media Communications training
- Intensive CDC orientation
- Leadership and Management Training Exercises.
Stay tuned in 2013 for posts form current lab directors who have participated in the Center’s programs. Here’s to 10 wonderful years behind us and many more ahead!
If you have participated in any of the Center’s programs, please leave a comment sharing your experience!