Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is a yearly celebration of the valuable work done every day by clinical laboratory personnel around the country. During the last full week of April every year, the medical laboratory professional community aims to educate and promote awareness about the profession. To commemorate this week and the work done by laboratory professionals here at Duke the Archives would like to share some documents from the earliest days in the Pathology Department. 

Pathologist working with specimen

The Department of Pathology has been at Duke since the very beginning of Duke Hospital and the School of Medicine with Dr. Wiley D. Forbus serving as the founding chair of the department. His papers are a testament to the crucial and demanding role that the laboratory technicians and pathology staff played in the functioning of Duke Hospital. Pictured to the right is a 1948 photograph of a pathologist working with a specimen. According to a news article, "in only 2-10 minutes pathologists can report to waiting surgeons whether or not a patient on the operating table has cancer. Here a pathologist uses a 'microtome' to freeze a section of a tumor prior to testing it for cancer." 

Amid the endless supply orders and autopsy instructions, there are some clear signs of the lofty ambitions and high ideals of the department. For example, the pathology staff instruction manual begins with the following preface: “This department is a unit of society. Its harmonious functioning depends on the willingness of each member to do more than just his specified duties. This willingness should be on one’s own initiative as well as by request. All members of the staffs, secretarial, technical, and professional, are to be treated with courtesy and respect.”

Additionally, in a folder labeled “Technician’s Registry”, there is a copy of a 1937 issue of Science that Dr. Forbus seemingly had circulated among doctors to read. An article “The Spirit of the Laboratory” is circled with the following quote underlined: “The spirit emanated from the director, a simple, unassuming and unselfish person who made all feel that the laboratory would benefit greatly from their presence.” Click on the pages below to enlarge and read the article in its entirety. The early pathology laboratory seems to be a place that sought distinction in both individuals and the collective work of the laboratory. The DUMC Archives thanks all of the medical laboratory professionals who continue to daily aspire to this level of excellence. 


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