A champion for strengthening laboratory systems and improving diagnostic laboratory testing in the global south, Dr. Lucy A. Perrone has been appointed as the inaugural Donald B. Rix Professor in Laboratory Quality at UBC.
Dr. Perrone will continue to build UBC’s world-leading education and training programs in laboratory quality. She also aims to launch new collaborations to help address health disparities in British Columbia (B.C.) and across North America by improving access to diagnostic laboratory testing in rural communities.
The new position, based in UBC’s department of pathology and laboratory medicine, is supported by the Rix Family Foundation in memory of Dr. Donald Rix, CM, OBC (1931-2009), founder of Metro McNair Laboratory and later MDS Metro, the predecessor to LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services BC, the largest private medical laboratory in Canada. The foundation’s philanthropic support of an academic leadership position in laboratory quality is one-of-a-kind.
“This opportunity stems from a unique individual who was passionate about ensuring quality in laboratory medicine. I think there’s a lot of potential to make Dr. Rix’s passion infectious and inspire the next generation of laboratory professionals to promote laboratory quality,” says Dr. Perrone. “I’m excited to be a good steward of the ongoing programs and bring my own ideas and perspectives as we innovate.”
Building on the legacy of Dr. Michael Noble, professor emeritus of pathology and laboratory medicine and longtime colleague of Dr. Rix, Dr. Perrone will lead the accredited Clinical Microbiology Proficiency Testing program, an external quality assurance provider for Canadian and international laboratories, and the Program Office for Laboratory Quality Management, home of the certificate course accredited by UBC Continuing Professional Development. She will also create new education and training programs in laboratory quality and expand research on diagnostic testing access and patient safety.
“The diagnostic landscape is rapidly evolving and the need to promote laboratory quality is greater than ever, but I’m up for the challenge,” says Dr. Perrone. “I want to honour the innovative spirit and tenacity of Dr. Rix and Dr. Noble as I look to expand the impact of our programs.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 114 billion laboratory tests are ordered around the world annually to help diagnose, treat, monitor and prevent disease in patients. Safety, quality and cost-effectiveness are essential when 70 per cent of today’s medical decisions are made based on laboratory test results.
Dr. Perrone began her career working on highly pathogenic respiratory diseases with pandemic potential such as avian influenza and SARS. After completing her Master of Public Health and PhD, she joined the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention global influenza surveillance program to support countries in the detection of emerging influenza strains and development of their laboratory capacity.
For Dr. Perrone, the recent pandemic felt personal. COVID-19 highlighted the importance of investments in laboratory strengthening and quality, but also revealed ongoing challenges such as oversight of testing quality and workforce training and mobilization. She is currently leading an analysis of the impact external quality assurance programs can have on diagnostic accuracy, including the scale-up of SARS-CoV-2 testing in community-based sites.
Dr. Perrone’s work supports the World Health Organization, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and ministries of health to address critical gaps in testing access and quality to prepare for future pandemics.
Global approach to laboratory quality
Dr. Perrone has worked on global laboratory strengthening in 25 countries over the past 14 years. At the University of Washington, she led projects in the Middle East, Zambia, Cambodia and Côte d’Ivoire. She met Dr. Noble in 2015 and soon became affiliate faculty at UBC, collaborating with Dr. Noble to enable international students from low- and middle-income countries to pursue the Laboratory Quality Management certificate he created. By maintaining her international relationships, Dr. Perrone will promote the visibility of UBC’s laboratory quality programs globally.
I’ll invite practitioners and subject matter experts from across B.C., Canada and the world to be involved in UBC’s programs to give our learners the opportunity to network across the field of laboratory medicine. I want our programs to be inclusive of diverse voices and perspectives in laboratory medicine because it makes for a richer learning experience for students—and it’s a lot of fun for faculty too.
Dr. Lucy A. Perrone, Donald B. Rix Professor in Laboratory Quality at UBC
In collaboration with UBC colleagues in the School of Population and Public Health and department of family practice, Dr. Perrone aims to develop new research and applied practice that improve access to laboratory testing among BIPOC and rural communities in B.C., and drive policy change by working closely with the Ministry of Health, First Nations Health Authority and provincial health services.
“My first priority in this new role is to really listen and understand the challenges,” says Dr. Perrone.
Through her work in the global south, she observed a project in Malawi that uses drones to circumvent geospatial challenges and deliver vaccines and blood/blood products to remote communities.
“Why shouldn’t we apply best practices and lessons learned working elsewhere to address similar challenges here? How can we improve access to quality diagnostics for remote communities? My approach is to talk to the people who have been living the challenges and the people working on the problems—we need to come up with solutions together,” she says.
Dr. Zu-Hua Gao, head of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, welcomes Dr. Perrone to UBC.
“The Rix Family Foundation’s generous gift will ensure the legacies of Drs. Rix and Noble in laboratory quality will continue, thus enhancing public health and acute care in our province and country,” says Dr. Gao.
For more information about supporting laboratory quality at UBC, please contact Aaron Carveth at firstname.lastname@example.org.