Friday, April 30, 2021

Stand by me (Musings on ongoing bullying in healthcare)

Stayed tuned for updates, which are sure to occur.

The idea for the blog was stimulated by news of a celebrated, experienced UK nurse who faced being stuck off after in 2017 she saved a woman's life who was hemorrhaging after losing her baby with a blood transfusion in an ambulance. (Further Reading) But, through no fault if hers, the required prescription for a blood transfusion had not been taken onto the ambulance with the patient. The nurse claims she has been the victim of bullying by senior NHS managers after she saved the life of the woman. She was unable to return to work at the trust's insistence for ten months, and resigned after she lost a disciplinary hearing. She had to find work outside the trust and is now practising elsewhere.

She was a finalist for 2020 Florence Nightingale Nurse of the Year after raising 
£100,000 to buy iPads for Covid patients isolated from loved ones. Four years later the Nursing and Midwifery Council concluded the nurse undoubtedly acted in the best interests of the patient and has 'no case to answer'. In some ways this case reminds me of the Bawa-Garba case in UK where a pediatric trainee was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. (Further Reading)

In addition to this case, harassment and bullying of medical students has been in the news in several nations for a few years. And in my province of Alberta, Canada, in 2016 a noose was hung outside a Black Dr's operating room in Grande Prairie. It was reported almost immediately to hospital administrators by startled bystanders. Yet, according to multiple doctors who wrote complaints, nothing was done to discipline the perpetrator, a white surgeon whom colleagues say still held leadership positions after the incident. (Further Reading)

The blog's title derives from a 1961 song by Ben E. King featured in the 1986 move of the same name.

The University of Alberta where I once taught has explicit, well defined Employment Equity and Human Rights Definitions and policies on bullying and discrimination. Yet I'm certain both still exist. The guidelines are followed by all faculties, including the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. (Further Reading) It covers pretty much every kind of discrimination, whether direct or indirect: any act or omission based on race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, age, ancestry, place of origin, family status, source of income, sexual orientation or political belief, when that act or omission results in loss of or limit on opportunities to work or to fully participate in campus life or offends the dignity of the person.

As a patient I've seen bullying by a Dr. against a trainee and at scientific conventions. As a patient the male Dr. presumably wanted the female trainee (intern or resident) to suffer abuse as a rite of passage that would toughen her up. Few likely report it as the Dr. is all powerful and they fear being judged as troublemakers that could affect their career progression.

At Canadian transfusion medicine conferences I've also witnessed bullying, again by a male Dr. (a 'biggie') against a female Dr. who had presented and was taking comments from the audience. She held her own but his comments were dismissive and abusive and it likely cost her much stress. I wondered why at the time and since and, frankly, suspect he'd not have done that to a male colleague in the same way.

As always, comments are most welcome. Would appreciate hearing about discrimination or bullying you've experienced or witnessed, You can do so by name or anonymously.

Chose this song because we all need to stand by colleagues in any field when they experience bullying, discrimination, harassment of any kind. Sad to report as items in Further Reading report, the incidence of bullying in medicine remains quite high.

  • Stand By Me (Ben E. King with stars and clips from the film)
Nurse who faced being struck off after she saved a woman's life with a blood transfusion has been cleared by an official inquiry (20 Apr. 2021) | Related:
Employment Tribunal of Leona Harris (18 Oct. 2019) | The complaint of unfair dismissal is not well-founded and is dismissed.

University of Alberta: Employment Equity and Human Rights Definitions

Taylor-Robinson SD, De Sousa Lopes PA, Zdravkov J, Harrison R. A. Personal perspective: is bullying still a problem in medicine? Adv Med Educ Pract. 2021 Feb 10;12:141-5. (Free full text)

Bullying in the workplace (1 Sept. 2020, CMA)  | What bullying in health care looks like, why it persists and how to eliminate it from the culture of medicine.

Medicine's bigotry and bullying problem
(Oped in Canada's Macleans magazine, 8 July 2020)

Colenbrander L, Causer L, Haire B. 'If you can't make it, you're not tough enough to do medicine': a qualitative study of Sydney-based medical students' experiences of bullying and harassment in clinical settings. BMC Med Educ. 2020 Mar 24;20(1):86. (Free full text)

Australia: Culture of bullying, harassment and discrimination in medicine still widespread, survey suggests (9 Feb. 2020)

The Bawa-Garba case should usher in a fairer culture in healthcare (9 May 2019)

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Simply the best (Musing on healthcare educators during COVID-19)

I've meant to write this blog for awhile. I'm privileged to look after the mailing lists for University of Alberta's Medical Laboratory Science. As such, even though I no longer teach in the division, I get all messages to students and staff plus more. The blog will focus on medical laboratory education but I suspect it rings true for other health professionals. Had help with ideas for the blog from a former student of mine, who I won't identify at this time.

The blog's title is based on a ditty written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman, but best known by Tina Turner's recording of it.

Where to start. I'll need to speak in generalities because it differs depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 in educators' areas. Sample list of key adaptations heath profession educators had to make:
1. Managing the chaos of ever-changing information. Suspect most people know how hard this is as regulations and policies regularly change as new evidence becomes available. Good example is the changing advice on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as research and real world evidence become available.

2. Online learning. This was a major transition, involving putting course material online. Much harder for instructors who didn't use Powerpoints regularly, instead had in-class activities. 
Not all students enjoy online learning as much as face-to-face interaction with classmates and instructors, nor do the assignments, required pre-reading, etc. That's true for in person classes too but worse with online learning. Plus it's much easier to be distracted when text messages arrive as today's students pretty much have their cell phones on at all times.

Online learning also put much stress on university, community college, and technical institute IT departments.

3. In introductory courses, depending on when the pandemic was declared, students had a different laboratory experience than in prior years when all routine labs and a final exam were performed before entering the clinical year. Similarly, for other pre-clinical experiences such as phlebotomy visits to outpatient labs, etc.

Ultimately, some in-person introductory lab courses resumed, but required many adaptations in student labs. Examples: Fewer students in each lab space (e.g., one lab becomes two), shower curtains erected for students facing each other on the same bench, between labs sanitizing high touch areas (door knobs, bench areas, reagent bottles).

4. In the clinical year, depending on when the pandemic was declared, students were pulled from the sites until safety precautions could be put in place. This required re-scheduling.

5. Depending on how many institutions, healthcare organizations are involved, processes and procedures could differ, requiring educators to meet the needs of each.

To me all healthcare educators deserve a loud round of applause for how they've had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic to constantly changing regulations and policies. In some ways I'm glad I retired decades ago as I would have found this difficult even then.

Chose this song because to me healthcare educators have been simply the best during COVID-19 pandemic. To me they're heroes similar to those on the frontlines.
As always, comments are most welcome (you can do so anonymously or by name below) and  there are some.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

I will remember you (Musings on healthcare heroes during COVID-19 pandemic)

 Updated: 1 March 2021

February's blog is about healthcare workers who have been infected and died from COVID-19 worldwide, and who have made many sacrifices for us all.

The idea for the blog was stimulated by  a series of news items posted in TraQ's Feb. newsletter (Further Reading). Also by the fact that so many healthcare professionals have put their duty to patients above the safety of themselves and their families. COVID has also highlighted invisible health professionals such as medical laboratory technologists/biomedical scientists who have shone with dedicated work to test for COVID-19 infection. Plus
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) emergency medical technicians Also those who work for low wages in long term care facilities, often immigrants who need several jobs to make a go of it, and  personal care workers. 

I could also focus on many non-healthcare heroic workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. If I've missed any, please send a comment. Examples (Some in Further Reading):
  • Hospital cleaners and maintenance staff
  • Daycare workers
  • Teachers, teachers' aides, school janitors
  • Apartment housekeeping & maintenance staff
  • Meat plant workers (often immigrants) who are often housed in close contact with other workers
  • Grocery and food retail workers
  • Food delivery drivers
  • NEW: Transit workers who transport essential workers to and from work (Thanks, Penny)
The blog's title derives from a 1995 Sarah McLachlan song.

Folks, there is overwhelming evidence that health professionals and many others have stepped up to the plate during the coronavirus pandemic. I do not need to belabour the point. The aim of this blog is to celebrate their contributions around the globe at great personal cost to themselves not just dying but also anxiety and depression.
  • While the numbers of those dead due to COVID-19 are overwhelming, it's key to remember that each of these folks are individuals, someone's 'significant other', child, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend. 
  • As of 12:39 pm Central European Time, 1 March 2021, there have been 113,695,296 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,526,007 deaths, reported to WHO. (Further Reading) 
  • See stories of some folks who have died from COVID-19 (Further Reading)
  • Note that people of colour are more likely to get COVID-19. (Further Reading)  
I encourage you read the items in Further Reading to gain a perspective on what we owe these heroes. Also to see affected people as individuals.

As always, comments are most welcome and there are some below.

Chose this song because I hope we will all remember the heroes who put their lives at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. I certainly will, as my husband with a serious lung disease went to the Emergency Dept. by ambulance in Dec. 2020 & spent a week in hospital.

Friday, January 08, 2021

I will remember you (Musings on a 1991 graduation speech)

Revised: 31 Jan. 2021

Folks, recently I was cleaning out a file cabinet and came across a typed copy of a speech I'd given to MLS graduates in 1991, nearly 30 years ago. Yes, I'm a lifelong packrat who now must cope with its consequences. Fortunate to have been asked to give a few graduation speeches to MLS grads decades ago. 

On the upside it made me realize that my December blog - Sweet Dreams (Musings on the benefits of a well-rounded education) - had its origins decades ago. So what I did was to scan the speech pages into my computer, convert each .jpg photo to PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, then export as Word doc so I could copy each page into this blog.

Yes, I realize that some parts of the speech won't make sense to non-MLS grads or to non-medical laboratory technologists/biomedical scientists. Yet I hope that the blog's main theme will resonate with all health professionals. See the tidbits under 'What You Learned' and 'Personal Development' below. 

Thanks very much Terry [Terry the MC, was a fellow MLS instructor] for your generous introduction. I am really glad to have this time because there are a few things I still need to cover with this class.

First, I thought we would have a spot quiz. I should point out that some of the answers will only make sense to the graduates. So let's begin, then, starting with a test of your long-term memory.

Question #1How many First Year MLS students does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Five: One to change it and four to set up Kohler illumination.

Question #2How many Second Year students does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: None. At least not in my class. You see, they were all asleep and the light would only have disturbed them.

Question #3How many Third Year students does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: The whole class. One student to change it and the rest to complain that their friends in other faculties had all summer off to do it. 

Question #4This one is a test of your short term memory. How many Fourth Year students does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Again, the whole class. One to change it and the rest to complain that it should be deleted from Path 401 [Course at the time, perhaps no longer exists?] 

Before turning to the last question, could I prevail  upon John S. to come to the podium. Well, this is something you have waited a long time for. Could we have the Gingerbread Lady please. Ladies and Gentlemen - I should explain that the Gingerbread Lady, our very own Rosemarie Cunningham [hematology instructor], always brings students gingerbread men at the end of Second Year. John pulled an Oliver Twist and said, “more please’, during third year. Well, better late than never. Let’s have a hand for this cookie monster. [Rosemarie gave him a gingerbread cookie]

Question 5: And now, so the instructors won't be left out, here's the last question. How many MLS instructors does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Ten. One to change it and nine to evaluate whether it was done right.

Now that the spot quiz is over there are a few things that I would  like to talk to you about  in a  more serious vein. A few weeks ago I went to the Ambassador Awards at the Convention Centre. It was attended by people from all walks of life who belonged to associations like the CSLT [now CSMLS] that can bring conventions to the city. The organizers gave out awards and asked all of us to act as ambassadors by promoting Edmonton as a convention site.

The thought occurred to me that in one way or another we all act as ambassadors. For example, when we are tourists in a foreign country, or when we interact with visitors to our city.

So I would like to talk tonight about the idea that all of you - the MLS graduates of 1991 - are going to be ambassadors for MLS whether you realize it or not. No matter what the future holds for each of you, all of the people you will meet will be gaining impressions of MLS through you, your actions, and attitudes.

Now before you say, "Good grief! I can't handle the pressure - MLSers for life" - 1 want to tell you that I have great faith in each and every one of you. As an MLS instructor I have been privileged to share a part of your life for the past three years or so. Let me explain why I think that you will be great ambassadors. In a way I feel like  mosquito in a nudist colony. I don’t know where to start.

To begin with, there are all of the things you have learned while in MLS. And I'm not talking about the information and technical skills you have assimilated, although these are important. You have learned so much that what you have forgotten would fill a library. No, I'm talking about skills that you will find useful all your lives.

For example, you have learned how to be good listeners. Goodness knows you have had enough practice being listeners during your time here. As you begin your careers, remember the words of  a wise  person  who once said, "good listeners are not only popular everywhere, but  after a while they know something."

You have also learned how to communicate clearly, both orally and in writing. Who can ever forget their first teaching assignment? I should explain that our students give at least three presentations to classmates and instructors beginning with teaching assignments during the Third Year.

I'm sure that some of you think that teaching assignments were cruel and unusual punishment, both for the student and the audience. But, boy, do they ever pay off! The progress you made was really shown during presentation of your research projects. Your instructors and supervisors were very impressed. This will be a real plus for you in any career. I tell you this because I have seen many technologists, scientists,  and doctors who have not had the advantage that teaching assignments provide, namely to express ideas clearly and concisely.

There are many other intellectual skills you have learned, such as your grasp of the scientific method and all that entails. You have developed the ability to be skeptical about so-called established knowledge, and to be open-minded about issues. You know that it is okay to say, "Gee, I don't know, but  I will find out." You know how to learn. You will draw on these skills over and over again, especially because medical laboratory science is evolving so rapidly.

I would like to shift for awhile to some of the ways you have all grown in your personal development. Those of you who entered MLS lacking self-confidence have seen your belief in your abilities increase. Self-confidence is essential because no one will believe in you if you don't believe in yourself. I'm not talking about being over-confident and self-important, but rather about the quiet self-assurance of people who are competent and know it.

Conversely, if you came with a fair degree of self-confidence, if you were like me at 18 (and trust me, I was18 once - and thought I pretty much knew everything) - then your experiences in MLS have added  to  your growth by teaching you humility.

Your entire Third Year was an exercise in discovering your strengths and weaknesses, coming to terms with them, and  accepting both praise and criticism gracefully. It was hard to be evaluated each and every day of your hospital rotation; it was hard to accept feedback that you may or may not have felt was justified. 

But you all did it, and because of this you will have a big advantage in the workplace, as well as in life. Having a positive approach to learning will  always serve you well. You know that imperfection is only human. The important thing is that we all  try to do better. And keep in mind that misery is optional.

You have also learned what friendship means. In the years ahead, you will remember your friends very fondly. One definition of a friend is "a friend is one who dislikes the same people that you dislike." There is a lot of truth in this, but a  better way to think of friendship is to realize that  the only way to have a friend is  to be one. You have all done that during your university days.

 Thank you very much asking me to speak and for listening.


As always, comments are most welcome. Now that you've read the graduation speech, please see an earlier blog closely related to this one: Sweet Dreams (Musings on the benefits of a well-rounded education).

This song by Canada's Sarah McLachlan seemed right for a speech given 30 years ago. Fact is, I remember all my 'kids' (those I taught decades ago) with a great deal of affection.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Sweet Dreams (Musings on the benefits of a well-rounded education)

Updated:  2 Feb. 2021 (Added NOTE/FURTHER READING and addendum at the end)

No blog for a few months but wanted to write one for the end of 2020 and specifically the holiday season. December’s blog will discuss the benefits of a well-rounded medical laboratory science education. But I hope that the blog’s theme rings true for all transfusion medicine professionals.

The idea for the blog was stimulated by a message I wrote last year for an alumni reception of the MLS program I once taught in. As I couldn’t attend the Director asked me to send a greeting that she would read out. I’ve adapted it to a blog format and omitted some personal memories and the names of those MLS grads I mentioned.

NOTE: Often MLS grads from the 1990s could not find jobs due to Alberta's Conservative government cutting clinical lab funding by 40%. (See Further Reading) Many were forced to seek work in the USA and overseas. Some decided to change careers. In both cases they had the soft skills needed to succeed: love of learning, communication skills, and the ability and skills to be lifelong learners.

The blog's title derives from a song co-written by Annie Lennox and originally released by the Eurythmics in 1983.


Greeting to all Med Lab Science grads, no matter when you graduated. The oldster has two messages for all of you. First, I must tell you a bit about myself, but only so that you will appreciate - once you hear my messages - that I know what I'm talking about. In brief, I know the international scene in medical lab science well. Some examples (I excluded several others):

  • Founded a mailing list in 1994, MEDLAB-L, which became the world's largest English language mailing list for med lab professionals in all disciplines: 2400+ subscribers in 50 countries.
  • Still a list manager, albeit a silent one in the background, for CLSEDUC-L, the mailing list of U.S. clin lab science educators in all disciplines. All the leading educators are members, including textbook authors.
  • For decades I’ve been the webmaster for the TraQ website of the BC Provincial Blood Coordinating Office which distributes a monthly newsletter to 1000s of transfusion professionals all over the world. 


1. In the 1990s medical laboratory technologist positions became scarce in Alberta due to severe government cutbacks. Many MLS grads went to work in the U.S. as they had written ASCP (MT) examinations when they graduated. I know from my extensive contacts there that MLS grads were highly valued and considered excellent. One reason of several was their long internship in clinical labs. The clinical rotation is shorter now, pretty much everywhere.

2. Several also worked in NZ for its national Blood Transfusion Service. To facilitate that adventure, I sent copies of the MLS curriculum to the NZ registration body. The NZBS runs blood centres and also pretransfusion testing laboratories.  

3. In the 1990s out-of-the-blue I was contacted by a company (Wyndgate Technologies, now part of Haemonetics) in Sacramento, California who made software for transfusion labs. The company had given a demonstration of their LIS software to staff in Hamilton, NZ for the New Zealand Blood Service. They were so impressed by the 5 MLS grads working there that they wanted to know if MLS had any more like that. 

Turns out two grads were game and worked for the company for many years, travelling all over the U.S. demonstrating the software for new clients. One was a NAIT graduate, who took MLS’s degree-completion program for technologists with general certification from CSMLS


In MLS you obtained 3 main skills:

  1. Extensive knowledge in all MLS disciplines; 
  2. Sound practical training in clinical labs;
  3. Priceless so-called 'soft skills' that are transferable to many occupations, especially communication skills and the ability to be a lifelong learner.

To me it's always been the third that's most valuable because we never know where life will take us. Most MLS grads went on to long careers in clinical labs, where many became supervisors and managers. Some rose to high positions in healthcare organizations.

Other MLS grads followed different paths. Some got post-secondary Masters or PhDs and became researchers, Deans in technical institutes and universities. Several became MDs and rose to high positions in healthcare. Others became lawyers, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, investment brokers, real estate agents, sales representatives, information system specialists.

I’ll highlight but one MLS grad: Susan was born in AB to immigrant parents and when she entered grade one she spoke only Chinese. She worked in her parents’ modest restaurant, as did her sisters. After working as a med lab technologist Susan became a lawyer and progressed to be a tax specialist who was the Regional Director at the Department of Justice Canada in Vancouver. Susan was appointed a judge of the Tax Court of Canada by Canada’s Governor General and now has the title Honorable as part of her name.


#1: As an MLS graduate be aware that your hard work has resulted in graduating from one of the world's top medical lab science programs. Not just top Canadian MLS program, but one of the world's finest MLS programs. As someone active on the international scene for decades, I can attest to this. 

Concrete Evidence: In 1998 MLS won a worldwide competition to put on a 5-day seminar in Saudi Arabia for the healthcare division of Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia's national oil company). 

#2: With an MLS degree you can become anything. You can work as a med lab technologist in Canada, the USA, and beyond or get further education in any field. 

Indeed, most of my 'kids' work as medical lab technologists in labs across Canada, not just in Alberta but literally from coast to coast to coast, including New Brunswick in the east, BC in the west, and Whitehorse, Yukon. As such they make important contributions to Canada's healthcare system. Yes, I'm incredibly proud of all my 'kids'. 

But if you want to, with an MLS BSc - and being skilled lifelong learners - you can take further education and enter any profession. The sky's the limit. You have the education to be FUTURE LEADERS in wherever life takes you. Never forget it.


Regardless of the health profession it’s the so-called 'soft skills' that are transferable to many occupations, especially communication skills and the ability to be a lifelong learner. Not all the facts you have learned, though they are important to being a competent health practitioner.

PHOTOS OF SOME OF MY MLS 'KIDS' (Most taken by me)

  • Wish I could include many more, but for now this is it.
  • Dr. Carol E, BSc (MLS), PhD (medical microbiology) & MD (anatomic pathologist), RAH at Edmonton Pride Parade 

  • Colleen Y, BSc (MLS),worked for CBS for years, & currently Macopharma marketing Manager in Lille, France 

  • Brenda M, BSc (MLS),longtime medical lab technologist, University of Alberta Hospital 
  • Francene S, BSc (MLS) longtime medical lab technologist (Dynalife)
  • Liz M, BSc (MLS), medical lab technologist,UAH, who became Director of Accreditation at College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta & more.
  • Sonja C, BSc (MLS), MEd (Post-secondary Studies), clinical instructor in MLS, now Dean, School of Health and Public Safety at SAIT
  • Chris W, BSc (MLS), MEd, now Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Dept. Lab Med & Pathol, Division of MLS, who teaches multiple transfusion science and immunology courses, plus is involved in a multidisciplinary UAlberta course. Earlier he worked in multi-discipline 'core lab' then got my job and volunteered for CSMLS on exam panel when that was allowed.

  • Lisa D, BSc (MLS), ART(CSMLS), MT (ASCP) SBB, Learning management specialist at DynaLIFE Medical Labs 

  • Judy W, BSc (MLS), longtime medical technologist at CBS (photo of me & Judy)

  • Lisa P, BSc (MLS), MSc (medical microbiology & immunolgy)
    • First non-physician, non-PhD Director of MLS;
    • Assistant Dean, Graduate Student Affairs, Office of Advocacy & Wellbeing at University of Alberta

  • Anne H, BSc (MLS), MT (ASCP), MSc, Trinity College, Dublin, (Community Health/Public Health), PhD candidate UAlberta (transplant immunology);
  • Dr. Craig C, BSc (MLS), Bachelor of Commerce (Management Information Systems), PhD (Health Information Science); 
    • University Research Chair in Healthcare Innovation, UOttawa; 
  • Current position: Associate Vice-President, Research, MacEwan University
  • Dr. Susan N, BSc (MLS), MD +Hematopathology certification, University of Alberta; 
    • 2020 Physician of the Year for Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association; 
    • Medical Director, Transfusion Medicine at Alberta Health Services;
    • Section Chief/ Divisional Director for the AHS Edmonton Zone Transfusion Medicine Service;
    • Deputy Clinical Department Head for Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
    • Member of the Alberta Blood Office Collaborative (ABOC)
    • Canada's National Advisory Committee on Blood and Blood Products (NAC) 
    • International Collaborative for Transfusion Medicine Guidelines (ICTMG).
  • Photo of me & Susan 

  • Jodi M, BSc (MLS); 
  • Quality Control Manager, Alberta Research Council
  • Quality Control Analyst, KS Avicenna Inc.
  • Founder & President of Keystone Labs Inc. (2005-present) 

    • Shelly C, BSc (MLS), LL.B, admitted to the Alberta Bar;
    • Current position: Partner at Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer LLP
    • Volunteer and leadership experience:
      • Past President, Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) Board of Directors (2003 - 2012);
      • Presenter, Edmonton Community Foundation;
      • Lecturer, Legal Education Society of Alberta;
      • Past Presenter, Metro Continuing Education, Edmonton Public Schools.
    • Prior work experience:
      • Regional Coordinator for Edmonton's then Capital Health Authority, Department of Laboratory Medicine;
      • Worked as a medical laboratory technologist in Saudi Arabia;
      • Worked with a humanitarian aid project (Osvita medical project) in Kyiv, Ukraine. 
    • Photo of me and group of Canadian medical technologists in Oslo, 1996 for a world congress. Shelly is third from the right, next to my spouse. 

    • Dr. Gordon C, BSc (MLS), PhD (medical biochemistry);
    • Roberta M, BSc (MLS), MT(ASCP), MEd (Adult education) Work history:
      • Clinical Labs of Hawaii
      • University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Dept. Lab Med & Pathol, Division of MLS - MLS instructor (Clinical Chemistry)
      • Current positions: Associate Professor and MLS Program Coordinator, University of Alberta, Division of MLS 
        • Instructing in Histology, Foundations of Instrumentation and Laboratory Management

  • Darcy F, BSc (MLS), MT (ASCP) Work history: 
  • Medical Technologist, Associated Pathologist Laboratories 
  • Implementation Specialist, Sunquest Information Systems
  • Implementation Specialist, Misys Healthcare Systems
  • Business Systems Advisor, Dell Services/NTT DATA Services 
  • Current position: Sr. Business Analyst - LIS at Verity Health System
  • Enterprise Application Administrator III, MultiCare Health System 

    Stay tuned
    ...more graduates to come.

    As always comments are most welcome and there are some.

    Addendum: Please see my latest blog, which is related to this one: I will remember you (Musings on a 1991 graduation speech)



    Monday, August 31, 2020

    Revolution (More musings on using artificial intelligence in transfusion medicine)

    Updated: 3 Sept. 2020 (Added to Learning Point)

    August's blog will discuss the issue of artificial intelligence (AI) & 'big data' in medicine and health.

    The idea for the blog was stimulated by a fascinating article in The Economist of June 13-19 as part of its Technology Quarterly: 'Driverless cars illustrate the limits of today's AI.' (Further Reading)

    The blog's title derives from a 1968 ditty by the Beatles written by John Lennon


    According to The Economist article, the following are some of AI's current limitations that I've chosen to highlight. Yes they relate to self-driving cars but most have broad applicability relevant to medicine:

    1. Self-driving cars work similar to other applications of machine learning. Computers crunch huge piles of data to extract general rules, and in theory the more data, the better the systems perform.  

    But deep-learning is statistical, linking inputs to outputs in ways specified by training data. That leaves them unable to cope with “edge cases” ­ unusual circumstances that are not common in those training data.

    • You can imagine if this applies to driving cars how much it can apply to the complexities of human beings, their health, symptoms, medical needs, etc. Humans can cope with oddities much better than AI, which in some ways works with only half a brain. 

    2. Google’s “Translate” often does a decent job at translating between languages. But in 2018 researchers noticed that, when asked to translate 18 repetitions of the word “dog” into a language spoken in parts of Nigeria and Benin and back into English, it came up with the following hilarious translations:

    • “Doomsday Clock is at three minutes to twelve. We are experiencing characters and dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.” 
    • Fact: Google’s system doesn't understand language because concepts like verbs and nouns are alien. It's constructed using statistical rules linking strings of letters in one language with strings of letters in another and is baffled by questions a toddler would find trivial. 

    3. Richard Sutton, AI researcher at the University of Alberta and DeepMind, published “The Bitter Lesson” (Further Reading) arguing that AI history shows that attempts to build human understanding into computers rarely work. The “bitter lesson” is that “the actual contents of [human] minds are tremendously, irredeemably complex…They are not what should be built in [to machines].” 

    Christopher Manning of Stanford University’s AI Lab notes that biological brains learn from far richer data-sets than machines. 

    4. About Big Data, which makes AI possible, see 'Big Data in Healthcare' (Further Reading). The conclusion: 'While big data provides great potential for improving healthcare delivery, it is essential that we consider the individual, social and organizational contexts of data use when implementing big data solutions.'  Personal note: 

    * The lead author is one of my UAlberta Med Lab Science 'kids'. 


    AI has a long way to go before it can be safely used in self-driven cars. Despite the hype, AI has an even longer road to travel before it's as safe and reliable as human health care professionals. Feel free to disagree. 

    The entire Technical Quarterly in The Economist, June 13-19, 2020 deals with AI and its limits. As its many proponents hype AI and Big Data, it's prudent to show their limitations too. Included articles:

    1. Reality check: After yrs of hype,an understanding of AI's limitations is beginning to set in
    2. Data - Not So Big: Data can be scarcer than you think and full of traps
    3. Brain Scan | An AI for an eye: Pioneering ophthalmologist highlights the potential, and the pitfalls, of medical AI
    4. Computing Hardware | Machine Learning: The cost of training machines is becoming a problem
    5. Road Block: Driverless cars illustrate the limits of today's AI
    6. The Future | Autumn is coming: As AI's limits become apparent, humans will add more

    Note:  If you don't subscribe to The Economist, perhaps take a trial one? Or check if your hospital is affiliated with a university, college (or perhaps the public library) has it available.

    As always, comments are most welcome. And there are some.


    I chose this song because pretty much everyone has hopped on Big Data and AI bandwagons as if they're a revolution that's going to sweep traditional medicine aside. Maybe but I suspect not for years.


    Driverless cars illustrate the limits of today's AI - They, and many other such systems, still struggle to handle the unexpected (The Economist, June 13-19, 2020) 

    Prior AI blog (30 Nov. 2019): I can see clearly now (Musings on using artificial intelligence in transfusion medicine)

    The Bitter Lesson by Rich Sutton (19 Mar. 2019)

    Rich Sutton, University of Alberta | Also see this bio

    Kuziemsky CE, Monkman H, Petersen C, et al. Big Data in Healthcare - Defining the digital persona through user contexts from the micro to the macro. Contribution of the IMIA Organizational and Social Issues WG. Yearb Med Inform. 2014;9(1):82-9. Published 2014 Aug 15. 

    Friday, July 31, 2020

    I heard it through the grapevine-2 (Musings on the value of Twitter)

    In 2019 I wrote a blog promoting Twitter for TM professionals and for July's blog, I'll do a second one.
    The blog's title derives from 1966 ditty recorded by Marvin Gaye and later Creedence Clearwater Revival.  

    To me far too few transfusion professionals are on Twitter, including medical laboratory technologists, nurses, and physicians. Many reasons, including Facebook preceded Twitter and Twitter tends to have a poor reputation in general. Today Facebook has an even worse reputation but if you're on it, you may value how it keeps you in touch with pals and family. 

    In my experience TM folks on Twitter are a different breed. They want to share resources and expertise and, if you want to engage in continuing professionals education, Twitter is a wonderful free resource. Questions can be asked and answered by experts. Also Twitter is international. Based on my Twitter account (Further Reading), experts from Australia, Canada, UK, USA, and professionals from many nations in Africa and Asia participate. Glad to report that some Canadian medical laboratory technologists are on Twitter.

    UNDERSTANDING TWITTER (from earlier blog)
    First, Signing up on Twitter is easy 
    Tidbits (Twitter 101):
    • Language: Twitter is the software platform. You are a tweep. When you post a message, it's called a tweet. 
    • If not on Twitter when accessing a tweet and asked to join, just click on another part of the screen and you can see direct tweets. 
    • Be aware you don't need to tweet. Just as on mailing lists, you can lurk.  
    • By being on Twitter you can see the replies given by tweeps to other tweeps. If not, you can see only their direct tweets (not replies). 
    • Twitter gives you quicker access to important professional events and issues, allows you to share resources with colleagues.  
    • As a citizen Twitter is the place to be because you get news about anything well before it appears on mainstream media, e.g., disasters, latest weather, political events. All media and reporters are on Twitter.
    • Twitter hashtags are key (Further Reading) For example, they can be used to identify who to follow. And you can also see who others follow for more suggestions.
    Learning Point: If you are a transfusion professional in any capacity, please consider joining Twitter. You won't be disappointed. Look at my account to see who I follow, many transfusion experts from all over the world, well known experts.

    As always, comments are most welcome.

    Chose this ditty because Twitter is a good grapevine to keep up with the latest transfusion medicine news.