Success in Patient Care Results Begins with an Integrated Medical Team: New ASCP President Says

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Joel M. Shilling, MD, FASCP, installed as new president at 2012 ASCP annual meeting in Boston.

As he takes the helm as the 2012–2013 President of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), Joel M. Shilling, MD, FASCP, compares the collaboration needed for the patient care team to that required in the sport of dragon boating.

Dragon boats—a relatively new sport in the United States—involve a 40- to 48-foot canoe with 20 crew members, each using paddles and following orders of a commander, who communicates a strong, organized plan.

“The goal is to get your boat over the finish line first,” said Dr. Shilling, Medical Director for Quest Diagnostics in Portland, Ore., and an avid dragon-boat enthusiast. “To do this, you must have a leader up front to give clear commands that are agreed upon by the team and enunciated loudly. To energize your team, you need certain words stated loudly at a certain time so that everyone in the boat can hear you. It is implicit that this is how you do it—over and over again.”

Dr. Shilling makes clear his analogy: A patient improvement team must involve not only the laboratory pathologist and laboratory professionals, but also the treating physician and radiologist.

“We are limited by resources,” he said. “To meet patients’ needs, we have to do the right tests, at the right time, for the right reason. The laboratory professionals and the pathologist can help the clinician select the most effective test to get to the diagnosis, and then they will select the most efficient therapy.”

These tenets are embraced in the plan that ASCP has created of Stronger Together, supported by four values—Knowledge, Advancement, Collaboration, and Global Community. Stronger Together is about connecting two distinct sides of the laboratory—pathologists and laboratory professionals—as the entire laboratory team; about forging alliances with other like-minded organizations; and about developing multidisciplinary healthcare teams that include pathologists and laboratory professionals to ensure the optimum patient outcomes.

Growing up in the small town of Ashland, Ohio, 60 miles south of Cleveland, he knew that he wanted to be a pathologist, influenced in part by his father, a pathologist who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The younger Shilling followed in the family tradition and entered the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., where his mother, father, and several uncles had attended. In his junior year, he was admitted to the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, where he completed his medical degree and residencies in clinical and anatomic pathology.

In the late 1970s, Dr. Shilling began his long volunteer involvement with ASCP. Over the years, he has served on the ASCP Board of Registry Chemistry Test Committee and the ASCP Research and Development Committee, chaired the Board of Governors Board of Registry, directed ASCP-sponsored Regional Training Institutes, and served as ASCP Representative to the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science.

These experiences have taught him the importance of collaboration. “You learn about working together, forming a team, learning and listening, and working with other leaders and administrators to learn the tools of the trade, to have an open mind,” Dr. Shilling said.

It wasn’t until 1989 that he made his first connection between collaboration and dragon boating. The hospital he then worked for had a dragon boating team and advertised for members who could paddle. “I hopped on and sat in the front,” he said, with bemusement. “The person sitting in front is the called the “stroker” who, together with the “caller,” sets the pace. I really liked that.”

More About ASCP
Founded in 1922 in Chicago, ASCP is a medical professional society with more than 100,000 member board-certified anatomic and clinical pathologists, pathology residents and fellows, laboratory professionals, and students. ASCP provides excellence in education, certification, and advocacy on behalf of patients, pathologists, and laboratory professionals.

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