Scientific luminaries like Keith Porter of the Rockefeller Institute have asserted that a vital step in the birth of a new field is the establishment of specialized journals and institutions. In this session Dr. Roger L. Bertholf describes this process for Laboratory Medicine through an exploration of the field’s eponymous journal.
Journals reflect not only the knowledge of a field but in many ways, its values and this is certainly true for Laboratory Medicine. The unifying effect of this finding as a replacement for the Bulletin of Pathology and the Technical Bulletin of the Registry of Medical Technologists speaks to a strong commitment to acknowledging and respecting the invaluable nature of interprofessional collaboration to pathology. Laboratory Medicine’s success in inculcating this value can be more recent publications that partner with ASCP such as the Pathologist. Along with these persistent values are fears that endure to the present. In its first year of publication, the journal explored the impacts of automation on the finance and employment prospects of laboratory professionals. The studies’ conclusion that high initial pricing is offset by long term testing efficiency and that increased automation will not make laboratory professionals obsolete remains ubiquitous. A final value which while perhaps not as universally recognized as a key feature of pathology as those before is a love of history that I have found to be common among pathologists which is reflected in the luminaries’ section.
While revealing enduring aspects of the field early articles in the journal also speak to the culture of medicine that produced its founders. As those who have read my recent posts well know, the AMA’s propagandistic recruitment video I am a Doctor came out in 1956 and was notable for its usage of NASA training videos portending the doctor’s role in allowing humanity to explore and conquer the stars. The decision to commit much of the first issue to the lunar receiving lab speaks to a desire to firmly place the new journal and with it the field of laboratory medicine at the cutting edge of medical science in a way uniquely powerful to the last generation who spent their early adulthood believing the sky was an insurmountable limit. Perhaps the early editors were simply being more farsighted than I give them credit for as in a recent issue the realities of laboratory science in space were explored bringing the visions of the ’50s into reality.
As a whole this was a session through the history of a single journal revealed the key values which motivate laboratory medicine and my attraction to it as a career.