Wednesday, 07 February 2018 13:07

Tips on Becoming a Clinical Microbiology Laboratory Director

Clinical Micro Lab DirectorAs a bench-level clinical microbiologist, you see a lot of what happens in a clinical laboratory. And while many like to stay on the “front lines,” you may aspire to oversee all of the functions of a clinical laboratory. Becoming a clinical microbiology laboratory director requires not only knowledge of the clinical laboratory but also skills in analysis, problem-solving, personnel management and more.

Here are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd:

  • Go back to school and get your doctorate.
    The majority of directors of a large clinical microbiology laboratory have a doctoral degree. According to CLIA law (CFR Part 493, Subpart M), a director of a laboratory that performs high- complexity testing must hold an earned doctoral degree from an accredited institution and may be a Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.), Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.), or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) certified by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)-approved medical board. In laboratories that perform only moderately complex testing, multiple years of experience may replace the need for doctoral training, although this pathway is less common and may be supplanted by Joint Commission requirements for board certification of medical staff. Of course, this is a significant investment of your money and time, but this step is needed to gain a better understanding of microbiology and related sciences. It will also open doors for networking and job opportunities that will help you gain the experience needed to become a laboratory director.
  • Be a team player.
    Take on as many supervisory tasks as you can because it is just as important to gain nontechnical skills, like organizational and personnel management, as it is to be an expert in clinical microbiology. Working on your administrative skills will round out your resume.

  • Participate in professional societies.
    Joining a professional society will give you access to career development resources and events (i.e. listservswebinarscareer advancement guides and clinical guidelines).  These resources will help you build your nontechnical skills and network within the clinical community.

  • Stay away from research positions as a way to gain experience.
    The time spent actually working in a clinical laboratory is what counts for board certification in clinical microbiology. Experience in a research laboratory is not always taken into account, as it does not provide the necessary experience. By working exclusively in a clinical laboratory, you gain experience in quality assurance/quality control, technical troubleshooting, and problem-solving, all of which are important in growing professionally in the laboratory.

  • Apply for a Committee on Postdoctoral Educational Programs (CPEP) or Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) fellowship.
    CPEP and ACGME fellowships train you to work at the director level in a clinical laboratory. ACGME fellowships are a one-year program for physicians only. CPEP is a two-year fellowship program that prepares doctoral-level scientists and physicians for leadership roles in the medical and public health laboratory microbiology or immunology professions. You must have a doctoral degree to apply for a CPEP fellowship. Many CPEP graduates go on to become certified by a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-approved medical board and direct a clinical microbiology or immunology laboratory.

  • Become American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) certified.
    The ABMM certifies doctoral-level microbiologists to direct medical and public health microbiology laboratories. ABMM certification is recognized by federal and state governmental agencies as a significant step toward meeting licensure requirements to direct laboratories engaged in the microbiological diagnosis of human disease. It is recognized under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 final rule and in all 12 states that require licensure to direct a clinical laboratory. Becoming ABMM certified is a critical step in becoming eligible to direct a clinical laboratory and proves you have the skills needed to do so.


Apply for this year’s ABMM exam by April 1.  

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