AACC through its Global Lab Quality Initiative (GLQI) fosters the international exchange of ideas between clinical laboratorians and scientists on best practices. In 2017, GLQI continued its work in both Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region with workshops in Hangzhou, China; Punta del Este, Uruguay; and San Jose, Costa Rica. In a separate collaboration with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and in conjunction with the Colegio Nacional de Bacteriología’s annual congress, AACC also just held a half-day symposium in Cali, Colombia, to elevate the conversation around newborn screening for metabolic diseases in Latin America.

Early Diagnosis of Genetic Disorders Saves Children’s Lives: A Discussion on Merits and Process to Successfully Implement Newborn Screening covered the technical and practical aspects of establishing a successful laboratory for newborn screening. The symposium, held on October 13, presented real-world cases from the Uruguay, the United States, and Colombia. One of its featured speakers, AACC President Michael J. Bennett, PhD, FRCPath, FACB, DABCC, spoke on the practical need for developing a population screening program for biochemical genetic diseases. His anticipation is the symposium will serve as a catalyst for starting newborn screening for multiple metabolic diseases in Colombia. “This is a growing area of interest in many Latin American countries and I hope that this initiative sparks more interest and activity in several countries,” Bennett told CLN Stat. In all, more than 80 clinical laboratory professionals from Colombia attended the event.

This special symposium capped off another successful year in AACC’s efforts to provide lab training and education in low-income and middle-income countries. GLQI launched in 2011 with formation of the Latin American Working Group (LAWG) led by Rosa Sierra-Amor, PhD, and expanded to the Asia-Pacific region in 2016 with guidance from the Asia-Pacific Working Group, chaired by Victoria Zhang, PhD. So far AACC has sponsored 16 workshops in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.

GLQI workshops are an excellent tool for laboratorians, Sierra-Amor told CLN Stat. The expertise in host countries may vary, but the workshop content is always useful in helping labs initiate or make changes to their quality control/quality management programs, she said. Workshop participants and LAWG members both benefit greatly from the workshops and the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, she added. “It has been very rewarding to find them very motivated and interested in attending the AACC workshops,” she said.

After successful workshops in Chongqing and Hangzhou, China,  Zhang is now working to identify other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that could benefit from a GLQI workshop, as she assembles a new working group whose focus is on areas outside of China. Zhang is excited and optimistic about these efforts. “Seeing the big impact that we have had and the positive influence in new regions is very motivating for me,” she said. “From the global level, we’re making a difference and doing what we’re supposed to be doing as an international organization. We’re using our expertise to engage, enhance, and improve clinical diagnostic practices in local communities for the betterment of healthcare on a global scale.”