Have you ever needed an expert to give a talk or write an article on a specific topic? Where did you go to find your expert? Did you call or email a colleague who knows a colleague who knows a colleague? This is the method I’ve often used, but perhaps there could be a better way. All it would take would be an adjustment/addition to the current AACC member profiles and then “simply” getting all AACC members to completely fill out those member profiles.

The online membership directory is searchable. In addition, that search engine works pretty well. For example, say I need some advice related to drug testing. I can search the membership using the word “toxicology” and get a list of everyone who lists toxicology in their biographical data or areas of interest. So far so good. However, what if I am specifically interested in therapeutic drug monitoring, or pain management testing , or testing athletes for doping? I can actually find an expert in a subsection of this field, IF the member has specified the area of toxicology that he or she is interested in in their biographical information. Which of course is the big “IF” and the proverbial fly in the ointment. Searching for “pain management” currently brings up one AACC member. I’m pretty sure there are more AACC members than that who are involved in drug testing for pain management. So there are limitations to using the current member database to search for an expert. Also, what happens if the expert I need is someone who is knowledgeable about developing laboratory developed tests (LDTs) from scratch, or an expert to discuss the latest statement from the CDC on hepatitis C testing? These are not items people tend to include in a biographical sketch.

My suggestion for improvement would be for the AACC to add a field to the member profile for, say, “knowledge”. Set it up as an easy to fill out, exhaustive list which the member can run down and check every item for which they have an interest or experience.  Include sections for such areas as: technology, physiology and diseases, organ systems, regulatory and compliance, management and information technology, teaching and training. Under “technology” you could include not only specific instrumentation like tandem MS, but you could also include things like assay development. You could even specify immunoassay development or LC/MS/MS assay development. Under “physiology and diseases”, you could include both liver in general and hepatitis specifically. Under “organ systems” you might include acid/base balance or calcium metabolism. Then make the whole thing searchable. If it’s inclusive and searchable, the AACC membership as a whole will benefit, and if it’s easy to fill out, there is more chance the members will complete it. Now finding that elusive expert will be somewhat more straightforward and doable.

For now, if you’re an AACC member and you have not filled out your area of interest and biographical information on your member profile, you’re doing yourself and your colleagues a disservice. And when you do fill it out, be very specific with your interests in the biographical section. Are you knowledgeable about hepatitis testing? Put that down! Include everything that you would want someone to know to be able to find you if they were searching. Your colleagues might actually not realize the extent of your knowledge.