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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

ASCLS and CLMA Talks Break Down Luckily

Published October 13, 2012 2:12 PM by Glen McDaniel

I recently learned that the merger talks between two laboratory organizations ASCLS and CLMA have broken down.  Now it might surprise you that as a long time, avid advocate of professional unification,  I was not really devastated by this news.

Here's some background.  ASCLS, an organization  to which I have belonged  since the eighties (1980's in case anyone is wondering) when they were the  American Society for Medical Technology (ASMT). I am deeply impressed with their history and proactive stance over the years. ASCLS, by whatever name, has always cooperated with any organization or industry partner that advocates for the profession. The joint national meeting with AACC and joint local meetings with various organizations are the most obvious examples. These are laudable and successful collaborations to be sure.

In my biased opinion ASCLS is the preeminent organization for medical laboratorians in a number of ways

-It is an organization of non-physician laboratorians for laboratorians (by the people for the people).  ASCLS members are not affiliate or associate members of a physician organization.

-It has a focused membership. It is for laboratorians and does not have co-equal medical assistant or dental assistant members, for example.

-It is a generalist organization so it welcomes scientists regardless of specialization or level of practice

- It is solely a membership organization. I firmly believe that certification and membership functions should be separated. Doing both certainly generates more revenue but can also be a conflict of interest in my opinion..

-ASCLS was in the forefront of defining a clear scope of practice, levels of practice and advocating for continuing education as a requirement for continued certification.

I mention all of this to explain why I am pro-ASCLS and believe firmly in its basic tenets. I am all in favor of joint efforts up to and including unification of our splintered professional organizations. Unity is strength. Unification makes the joint organization more viable; at the same time that it shows a credible, unified face to the public and legislators. When as a profession we want to address an issue, who speaks for the organization? When the issue of personnel licensure comes up, for example, the dissenting voices are often all treated equally so legislators simply back off and fail to act.

My hesitation regarding the unification of ASCLS and CLMA is that the talks may have been conducted in a way that suggests "my way or the highway." When an organization requests unification talks ( as CLMA did) it's a clear sign that the "requesting organization"  sees very definite advantages for itself and feels in a way it has more to gain from the union.

Given that need to strengthen your organizational future by addressing areas of weakness, talks cannot be approached in an aggressive manner or with the intent of total takeover. I often hear from many clinical laboratorians who are still mourning the dissolution of NCA into ASCP. In the ASCP Board of Certification they see no remnants of NCA in terms of nomenclature, philosophy or governance.

 It seems to them more like a hostile takeover by ASCP. That is not good. I am simply repeating what many readers have expressed to me.

I think ASCLS has a clear vision, voice and value system. While there will have to be give and take in any unification (or cooperative) effort, those core values should never be compromised. Ever. So am I sad that the talks broke down given the demands I heard were being made? I am far from being disappointed.  Honestly, I am a little relieved.


We need one organization that truly represents us. ASCP is for pathologists, CLMA is for managers, AACC is for chemists. AMT is for everyone not only med techs. ASCLS could be the best organization but it is expensive and they dont really offer much for membership. I thinnk they are all too greedy to unite.

Maria C November 7, 2012 10:23 AM
Dallas TX

I dont know teh real story behind the closing of NCA but that was one of the saddest time of my professional life. Here we had a certification agency just for US. It deveoped the name clinical lab scientist, it required CEUs. It was respected by employers finally.

Then they basically locked up shop and gave it all to ASCP who has like 4 or 5 different titles ( MT, MLS, international MT blah blah) They stopped using the beloved CLS title and rolled everyone into ASCP. I would prefer that if they didnt keep the CLS/NCA names at least come up with something totally new.

Now it's just that ASCP gobbled up NCA and kept on going as the same old ASCP.

Joy Carter October 14, 2012 3:18 PM
Denver CO

I didnt even know about those talks. But I have been a part of  joint ventures or take overs by diffrent companies including a hospital system I worked for.

Generally the richer one or bigger one can pretty much dictate the terms of the agreement. I know this wasnt a case of a buyout or anything. But generally the bigger company with the most money controls the name, policies and so on. If  organizations are serious about working together they as you say they have to give and take. To me CLMA is like a small manager organization It seems like ASCLS should carry the clout.

Stephen C October 13, 2012 4:12 PM
New York NY

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