Lab Week 2023: "Saved by the Lab"

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, also known as Lab Week, is an opportunity to recognize the role that clinical and public health laboratory professionals play in the health and safety of our patients and communities.

The 2023 Lab Week theme is "Saved by the Lab," celebrating the many lives improved and saved by the expertise, resilience, and innovation of lab professionals.

In Alabama, you can find examples of that expertise, resilience, and innovation at work in the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL), which includes facilities in Prattville and Mobile.

The main BCL facility is the Donald E. Williamson, M.D., State Health Laboratory, which is situated on a 12-acre site at Legends Park in Prattville. The 66,000-square-foot facility includes 21,000 square feet of Biosafety Level-2 space and 4,500 square feet of Biosafety Level-3 space. These state-of-the art Biosafety labs, which are designed to protect researchers from potential contamination and to prevent microorganisms from entering the environment, are designated as follows:

  • Biosafety Level-2 labs are used to study moderate-risk agents that pose a danger if accidentally inhaled, swallowed, or exposed to the skin.
  • Biosafety Level-3 labs are used to study agents that can be transmitted through the air and cause potentially lethal infection.

The design of the Prattville facility allows for a variety of testing environments to cover a number of important areas, ranging from bioterrorism to tuberculosis, newborn screening, COVID-19, and molecular biology work. The Prattville facility is also equipped to provide:

  • Cyanide and trace metal analysis for the purposes of statewide emergency preparation
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C screening
  • Influenza testing
  • Lead testing
  • Rabies testing
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) testing

At the January 2022 dedication ceremony for the Prattville facility, Dr. Donald Williamson, who served ADPH for 29 years, including his tenure as state health officer from 1992 to 2015, said, "This new lab is not only a building to provide public health services, but it is a symbol of public health’s commitment to meeting the health needs of Alabama for generations to come."

The BCL also operates a facility in Mobile. This facility is divided into two branches:

  • Clinical, which performs testing of STD specimens using the same methods as the Prattville facility; and
  • Environmental, which works with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to analyze recreational water sites along the Gulf of Mexico, as well as shellfish growing waters and products.
Visit the BCL to learn more about the challenging and vital work they do for the state of Alabama. Visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to learn more about Biosafety Labs.