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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Why You Shouldn’t Wait for the DCLS

Published August 13, 2011 6:18 PM by Glen McDaniel

The opening keynote address of the annual ASCLS meeting in Atlanta was delivered by two physicians, Dr. Laposata (a pathologist) and Dr. Meisel (an internist) discussing in point-counterpoint fashion what way clinical laboratorian' s view their role in healthcare.

 They both agreed on the value of clinical laboratory to medical decision making, but Dr. Meisel the internist longed for a more direct consultative, educational, proactive approach by the MLS. That direct appeal from a practicing physician got the crowd all riled up and there was much discussion along the lines of, "Great, finally someone realizes that we are important, smart and have a great deal to offer."

Whenever this sort of discussion occurs the doctorate in clinical lab science (DCLS) inevitably comes up. But then a reality check is due. Planning for the DCLS has been around for at least 22 years (that's right, it's been at least that long), the process of getting a new program up and running is a long, convoluted, expensive process and we should not come up with excuses for not proactively practicing our profession right here, right now.

Much of my professional life has been devoted to advocacy for the professional and to preaching the gospel of a proud, independent, inter-dependent, competent practitioner who is an equal member of the healthcare team. I have written and given talks on how every MLS (and MLT) can start practicing (not just working) right where they are right now.

A recent article in ASCLS Today, written by Dr. Shirlene McKenzie (veteran laboratorian, past president of ASCLS and educator) and Dr. Vicki Freeman laid out the DCLS journey, starting with the 1989 ASCLS position paper that declared the DCLS as the terminal CLS degree.

The article outlines the process of developing a program and getting t approved by the university, getting accreditation, offering a program as a collaborative effort among several universities. They also pointed new requirements that mandates new for web-based programs offered across state lines. It is very likely a DCLS will fall into that category.

So do we just sit around and wait for the DCLS before we dare speak to physicians as equals, before we offer interpretive reporting, before we express an opinion on the selection and interpretation on laboratory tests? How about expressing an opinion on public health matters as others like physicians, nurses and pharmacists routinely do?

If we choose the wait-and-see route, I predict that 22 years from now we could very well be in the same position we are today. That is not to suggest the DCLS will never be realized. This just means we should not wait, we cannot afford to wait. Most importantly we can never use any event, any person or any promise as an excuse not to act today; not to be full practitioners right now. Today!


I had read numerous articles and presentations that discussed DCLS and yet we are still years away from having a program in place.  It is true that creating a new doctoral program take more time and effort than most people think but why ramp up the excitement of the laboratory community so early?  While laboratorians should be made aware of the work in progress, but we really don't need so many articles published presenting essentially same information over and over.  Beside getting the program up and running, I would hope that there are more discussion and communication on how potential students can finance the program.  As the tuition cost keep going up in a few years, tuition, fee and books alone will likely cost students around $6000 a quarter (not including room and board as I assume most DCLS programs will be entirely online).  If the degree take 5 years to complete,  that's potential $100,000 in loan that a DCLS student need to take to complete a brand new degree.  That is close to what medical school students had to borrow.  Beside getting the DCLS program approved, getting funding for potential students should be priority.

Helen Kwan October 31, 2011 4:31 AM

This article is so true and so inspiring. Thank you. Over my career I feel like I have been stifled. I am usually the only one who will speak up and give information. My fello team members think we should be silent or refer doctors to the pathologist even if we know the  answer to something. I never understand that. Guess what if we cat ignorant doctors will belive we really are ignorant. Very, very true article.

Jascinth Thomas, Clinical Lab Scientist August 14, 2011 11:50 AM
Modesto CA

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