Medical lab professionals celebrated April 22-28

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
They may not be a familiar face to the average patient of the clinic, but they examine the smallest microbiological specimen's of our bodies. From white blood cells to bacteria to protein to fungus- laboratory professionals at the Malmstrom Air Force Base clinic have seen it all.

In 2011 alone, Malmstrom's laboratory professionals analyzed 63 proficiency tests to ensure procedures were performed properly. According to Sykes, they have received 100 percent accuracy annually. They completed more than 78,000 laboratory tests and examinations in areas covering hematology, microbiology, urinalysis and immunology.

Established by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, April 22-28 is National Medical Lab Professionals Week. It is a week to honor more than 300,000 medical laboratory professionals around the country who perform and interpret more than 10 billion laboratory tests every year.

Since last year's celebration, Malmstrom's laboratory professionals have accumulated several awards, accomplishments and a Stripes for Exceptional Performers promotion. The team is led by Maj. Marybeth Luna, 341st Medical Support Squadron chief of lab services. Not only is she the president of the Society of Armed Forces Medical Laboratory Scientists, but she has had an article published in Military Medical/CBRN Technology magazine.

Other staff members include Geoff Fallon, 341st MDSS medical laboratory technician/floor supervisor; Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Sykes, 341st MDSS NCO in charge of the laboratory; as well as Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Shields; Staff Sgt. Justin Bloomfield; Senior Airman Leslie Balliew and Senior Airman Kevin Gleason, all 341st MDSS medical laboratory technicians. Shields is currently deployed.

After cross-training from security forces, Fallon discovered his niche. He has worked at Malmstrom's lab since 1993 and accumulated several Civilian of the Year awards. His most recent award was 2011 Civilian of the 2nd Quarter. He is responsible for ensuring all sections and quality control are in range.

Despite his awards, he says his greatest accomplishments lie in molding young Airmen.

"Many Airmen come in here as senior airmen and leave as staff sergeants or technical sergeants," Fallon said. "My biggest reward comes from seeing them grow into leaders so they can run a lab one day."

Current NCO in charge, Sykes, has been at Malmstrom for more than eight years. She has also held the 5/6 Alliance vice president since October, 2011 and is a Victim's Advocate.

With the help of Sykes' and Luna's nomination, Shields received a STEP promotion to technical sergeant March 3.

"He deserved to go to the next level," Sykes said. "He was ready to be a technical sergeant and I know he can step in and run this laboratory."

Bloomfield has been in the Air Force for five years. He says lab week is a time to get eyes on the medical lab technicians for the work they do in helping doctors diagnose patients. He is preparing for the upcoming College of American Pathologists inspection by going through checklists meticulously to ensure the medical laboratory achieves their accreditation.

Balliew was recently named Air Force Global Strike Command Laboratory Technician of the Year. In 2011 alone, she earned the title of distinguished graduate at Airman Leadership School, attained a Community College of the Air Force degree and worked call logs on accounts of up to $15,000 a month. She was also the 341st Medical Group booster club secretary.

"Balliew is a top Airman," Sykes said. "She was submitted for the award because any task we gave her, instead of doing 100 percent, she did 120 percent, all the time, and in a professional manner."

Joining the laboratory from Germany is the newest member of the team - Gleason. Before joining the Air Force, he says he didn't know the lab technician job existed.

"Lab week is the one week a year we are acknowledged for what we do instead of being in the background," Gleason said.