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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

COLA Give Back Day

Published April 23, 2014 12:16 PM by Michael Jones

Not only does Medical Laboratory Professional’s Week (MLPW) celebrate the services provided by laboratorians throughout the year, but now it provides a platform from which to educate the public about the roles of these professionals and the potential for employment within the industry. Originally part of the “COLA Cares” initiative, “Give Back Days” began during MLPW 2011. In a recent interview with James Liggins, Chief Marketing Officer at COLA, he described the intended purpose of the “Give Back Days,” as well as the effect they have had on the industry overall.

“The reality is that, while job growth in this sector is faster than average, clinical laboratories across the nation have reported difficulties in recruiting new staff,” said Liggins. “This program is COLA’s way of helping to alleviate that worker shortage in the future.”

After the initial success of the MLPW 2011 Give Back Day in Baltimore, Md., COLA has continued the program annually, expanding to include local high schools, community colleges, universities and other venues. As the program has expanded, COLA staff members give presentations describing a day in the life of the typical medical laboratory professional, demonstrate simple laboratory tests and conduct fun experiments with participants.

“Our program now includes additional career presentations at schools, science expos and other venues; mentoring opportunities for interested students; and expanded scholarship support aid for students interested in medical laboratory careers,” explained Liggins. 

COLA’s Give Back Days feature a number of campaigns to increase awareness of the laboratory’s role in the healthcare industry and promote it as a viable career option. In addition to the outreach and continuing education programs offered during Give Back Day, COLA also offers scholarships to aspiring laboratorians and endowments to education programs catering towards future medical laboratory technologists.

 “We are also launching a course for allied health professionals, emphasizing the components of good clinical laboratory practices,” continued Liggins. “Designed for nurses and other healthcare personnel who work in hospitals, clinics and physician’s offices, the course will provide non-laboratorians with a basic knowledge of quality laboratory testing procedures in healthcare settings.”

The course, “Fundamentals of Clinical Laboratory Testing,” will be offered through Howard Community College’s continuing education program.  COLA hopes to expand the program elsewhere throughout the U.S. in the future.

MLPW is a time to celebrate the work of laboratories across the country, but why not use the spotlight to promote the profession among the rest of the industry and potential co-workers? In addition to their Give Back Days, COLA is also in the process of implementing “COLA Giving Back 365 Days a Year,” which will expand on areas already covered and include a new disaster relief program. AS Part of MLPW, COLA encourages laboratories everywhere to take part in COLA’s Give Back program with a free kit offered on their website (


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