PART ONE – THE DARK AGE OF MEDICAL LABORATORY PRACTICE IN NIGERIA AND LESSONS FOR THE MODERN DAY MLS.
AMLSN marked her golden jubilee in November, 2014. It was an occasion full of excitement, panache and untamed joy. The outgoing president of AMLSN was generous in praise and accolades to personalities that carried the burden of professional emancipation and image projection of a hitherto unheralded but critically indispensible part of total medical practice globally. As he cascaded down memory lane from one decade to another, highlighting the critical junctions, interludes and milestones in the metamorphosis of the profession, audience couldn’t help but punctuated his free-flowing oratory with yells and heroic pandemonium.
The speech revealed on the one hand a catalogue of achievers and achievements and on the other hand a compendium of monstrous gangsters of tyrants and oppressors that littered the rough but celebrated path to our golden age. The present day MLS could not believe the humble, ignoble and humiliated path the founding fathers towed towards the emancipation of a profession that has been aptly referred to as the backbone of modern medicine.
Indeed it has been a long and tortuous walk to jubilee. It has been a walk from captivity to relative freedom. A drift from uncharitable designations such as ‘Microscopists’ for our astute Parasitologists, ‘culture boys’ for our revered bacteriologist, ‘microtome boys’ for our most esteemed histoscientists and the most degrading lab boys designation for our noble Medical Laboratory Scientists. Today the designation is unambiguously spelt out in the MLS Act, 2003. It is succinctly captured by the clear visionary eyes of our fore fathers as represented in our anthem ‘’Masters not toddlers, Med lab scientist all over the land are tributaries of talents’’
Peculiar with the Stone Age, our heroes past worked with the remotest of tools and technologies, many in the process paid the supreme prize in the war against infectious agents. They did not have the biosafety facilities and containment laboratories we now have, yet they fought on gallantly and won the war against deadly infectious diseases such as whooping cough, anthrax, influenza amongst others. They used their tongues to test for abnormal substances in urine. During their time, nothing was automated; they had to go through the lengthy, cumbersome manual procedures and processes. They came out with authentic reliable and reproducible results that significantly helped in eradication of the early epidemics. They were very few in number yet catered for all Nigerians within their reach with unmatched success. They were least paid yet they put their minds and lives to work to safe their generation. Some are now peasants with debilitated health conditions groaning around with no affluence or recognition for their many years of fruitful service
Their dedication is awake up call to the present day MLS. We must arise to professional integrity and ethical servitude. We must challenge ourselves to GLP and TQM. We must first ask ourselves questions on the persistence and re-emergence of public health challenges before we ask questions of remunerations. We must first face our job squarely before we face and accuse other colleagues in the health team for threatening to take over our jobs. It is a golden age for MLS. We must therefore rebrand from the bench outwards. We must ensure the patient is treated as king and the sanctity of our oath remains sacrosanct and unblemished. Welcome to the golden era of Med Lab practice in Nigeria.