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No. 3, 2013


Julie Tans-Kersten Wins the NTCA 2013 Ed Desmond Laboratorian of the Year Award

Julie Tans-Kersten, Advanced Microbiologist, State TB Laboratory Program Coordinator, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, won the 2013 National Tuberculosis Controllers Association (NTCA) Laboratorian of the Year Award. Julie was nominated by Lorna Will, RN, MA, Director, Respiratory and International Health Unit, in the Wisconsin Division of Public Health. Julie has been the Wisconsin Laboratory Tuberculosis Program Coordinator since 2004.

Julie Tans-Kersten Wins the NTCA 2013 Ed Desmond Laboratorian of the Year Award

Lorna writes of Julie in her nomination: "Julie never ceases to amaze me with her knowledge and professionalism. The population of Wisconsin has the extreme good fortune of having Julie as our Tuberculosis Program Coordinator at the State Laboratory of Hygiene. She is not only conscientious, efficient, and extremely knowledgeable, but she holds impeccable standards when it comes to her work in the laboratory, as well as with other professionals. Julie often acts as advisor and guide to not only laboratories around Wisconsin, but also throughout the country. She was one of the distinguished speakers at the 2011 NTCA conference in Atlanta. She is an invaluable asset to public health departments and clinicians throughout our state.

"Julie often acts as an advocate for the State Tuberculosis Program as well as for the patients, by monitoring requests and testing results. She fosters the development of technical skills and provides crucial support and guidance to local laboratories within the state and to local health department staff by coordinating an annual training for local laboratories, public health partners, and healthcare providers. Her dedication alone is commendable. Julie often spends her nights and weekends working on projects that will better her department, her staff, and the Wisconsin Tuberculosis Program."

Dave Warshauer, Deputy Director, Communicable Disease Division at Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, provided this introduction to Julie's award: "[Julie] has established a strong and respected relationship with our state TB Controllers and maintains a state TB laboratory network that provides quality laboratory services to the citizens of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Mycobacteriology Laboratory Network is recognized as a model for the country under her leadership. Julie is recognized as a leader in the TB laboratory community by the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and has participated in many activities and projects that contributed to TB elimination efforts and the advancement quality laboratory services. She is dedicated to her work and constantly strives to improve our laboratory and TB control efforts. She's a pleasure to work with and I congratulate her on accomplishments and on her recognition as winner of the Ed Desmond Award."

The DTBE Laboratory Branch congratulates Julie Tans-Kersten on this well-deserved honor!

—Submitted by Frances Tyrrell, MPH, MT (ASCP), SM
Div of TB Elimination

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Unveiling the Mysteries of TB Laboratory Testing:
A Laboratory Education Toolkit Designed for TB Field Staff

The day-to-day business of TB control depends on the collection of specimens for laboratory testing and the reviewing of laboratory results. Programmatic decisions, like reporting a TB case to the state, prioritizing a contact investigation, or changing a patient’s TB medication regimen, use laboratory results as a guide. The importance of laboratory results is clear—but how many TB field staff (TB control workers in state and local TB control programs) truly understand the specific tests or prerequisites for producing these results?

For the past year, staff from the City of Houston’s Bureau of TB Control and Public Health Laboratory have worked side by side to unveil the mysteries of the laboratory for field staff. TB control staff toured the TB laboratory with subject matter experts to get a start-to-finish overview of testing. The TB field staff met several times to take photos of laboratory equipment, such as the MGIT 960 or HPLC, and to further refine their understanding of sputum testing procedures. They consulted with state and local TB laboratory subject matter experts to learn about proper methods for collecting specimens in community settings outside of clinics, as well.

As a result of their collaborative efforts, the team created a multiphase laboratory education toolkit. Recently presented at this year's National TB Conference, the first phase includes a number of handouts, which include

  • What You Need to Know About QuantiFERON-Gold (QFT),
  • What You Need to Know About Collecting Sputum, and
  • The series, What You Need to Know About Testing Sputum:
    • Acid-fast Bacilli (AFB) Direct Smear
    • Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT)
    • Culture Media Inoculation
    • Growth Detection on Culture Media
    • Culture Identification
    • TB Drug Susceptibility Testing

Each handout takes a comprehensive view of commonly collected specimens for TB testing. The material describes the specimen, the purpose of the test, tips to help collect a high-quality specimen, and how it is processed in the laboratory. This straight-forward approach is designed with TB field staff in mind. The material reinforces the importance of quality specimen collection by explaining how the laboratory results assist in TB control program day-to-day functions, while providing insight into the laboratory's complex testing procedures.

Currently, this team has begun work on the second phase of the toolkit. In this phase, they will develop a variety of visual media and lesson plans to accompany the handouts. These additional features will make it easier to incorporate the toolkit into formal group trainings. Local, state, and federal partners will be able to download the toolkit once the team launches its new website, as well. Be on the lookout for these new developments in 2014!

By implementing this tool in your program's training, your TB field staff can gain a big-picture view of the procedures for specimen collection, in addition to understanding the rationale behind each test. TB field staff will be better prepared to collect high quality specimens. If you would like to receive more information about the laboratory education toolkit, please contact Nydia Palacios ( Copies of the Phase One laboratory handouts are available upon e-mail request to Nydia.

—Reported by Gregory R. Dufour, MPH, Microbiologist Supervisor;
Nydia Palacios, Public Health Advisor, CDC/DTBE
Houston Department of Health and Human Services

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