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(Speaker Term: July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2016)


Thomas S. Alexander, Ph.D., D(ABMLI) (term: 7/1/14 through 6/30/16)

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Summa Health System

525 E. Market Street

Akron, OH  44304


Phone:  330-375-3719

Fax:  330-375-6530

E-mail: alexandt@summahealth.org    



Primary Division:  V (Clinical & Molecular Diagnostic Immunology)

Secondary Division:  C (Clinical Microbiology)         



HIV and Syphilis Serological Testing in the 21st Century 

The advent of automated treponemal specific antibody assays and the 4th generation HIV assay has necessitated new diagnostic algorithms for these sexually transmitted diseases (HIV and Syphillis).  While these assays have improved the overall diagnostic accuracy of testing, in certain situations a third level of testing is required increasing turnaround time and cost compared to the two levels of testing in the classic algorithms.  This talk will explore the various algorithms and how well (or poorly) they perform in the clinical arena.                                                 


CSI Immunology: Case Studies from a Clinical Immunology Laboratory

Clinical laboratory directors are often faced with unusual situations that were not covered in their training.  Examples include physicians ordering tests incorrectly, physicians sending the same test to more than one laboratory and receiving different results, laboratories receiving follow up specimens that are inconsistent with previous results, as well as regulatory and administrative hurdles that must be addressed.  This talk will review actual clinical and administrative case histories from a clinical immunology laboratory, how they were investigated and their resolution, where applicable. 


Autoantibodies in Diagnosis: Are All Methods Created Equal

Immunofluorescence (IFA) has long been the standard for detecting anti-nuclear and other autoantibodies.  However, this technique is subjectively evaluated and is labor intensive.  Recent attempts to automate the IFA procedure include slide preparation instruments coupled to image analysis platforms.  Advances in ELISA and Multiplex techniques for autoantibody detection provide another option resulting in objective interpretations and automation, reducing the cost and requirement for experienced technologists.  But does each method yield clinically appropriate, comparable results?   This talk reviews clinical and laboratory strengths and weaknesses of the various methods.     


Molecular vs. Serological Diagnostics Assays: When to Use Which

Infections caused by organisms which are difficult to culture have long been diagnosed by serological techniques.  Molecular methods offer increased analytical and clinical sensitivity and may provide increased specificity.  The molecular techniques require experienced technologists and/or additional equipment and are thus more expensive to perform.  This talk will compare diagnostic regimens for many infectious diseases with recommendations as to when each method is preferred. 


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH – Thomas S. Alexander, Ph.D., D(ABMLI)

Tom Alexander has over 35 years of experience in immunology, with 30 years of that directing the clinical immunology laboratory at Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio.  He is also the Research Director for the Summa Health System Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Director of Clinical Pathology at Summa Western Reserve Hospital.  He is Board Certified by the American Board of Medical Laboratory Immunology (ABMLI), and holds academic appointments at the Northeast Ohio Medical University and the University of Akron.  Dr. Alexander has served as President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Immunologists, Chair of the ABMLI and Chair of the Diagnostic Immunology Division of the American Society for Microbiology.  He has over 60 publications and national/international meeting presentations.  He is an Editor of Clinical and Vaccine Immunology and is the Immunology editor for LabQ.  He has lectured nationally and internationally on HIV laboratory assays, flow cytometry, and autoimmunity.


CV is available by request from adempsey@asmusa.org at ASM Headquarters 



If I had to pick out one quality that I have nurtured over the past 30 years, it is an ability to make complex subjects understandable to non-specialists, and this trait is especially useful for immunology, a subject which is not easy to comprehend.  Although my first exposure to immunology was in an undergraduate microbiology course, I have found that most microbiologists have only a basic understanding of the role the immune system plays in both the pathology of and the recovery from infectious diseases.  As an ASM Distinguished Lecturer, I hope to improve microbiologists’ knowledge and understanding of the role of the clinical immunology laboratory.  I have been fortunate to practice during a shift in diagnostic technology from antibody detection to molecular methods.  Each of these techniques has its place in the clinical immunology laboratory and my background gives me the ability to address the relative utility of these methods.


I have always found ASM to be a source of pertinent information provided by excellent scientists and communicators and am honored to have the opportunity to continue that tradition as an ASM Distinguished Lecturer.   



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