COLA convened its first International Symposium July 30 – August 1, 2006 in order to bring together professionals to discuss the role of laboratory medicine in public health needs and crises.

COLA’s goal is to create a community of leaders through the World Lab Forum that share a vision to improve the quality of laboratory medicine around the world.

"We need to understand where we are in the world as a first step, and to find out some of the common threads – issues we all share – around the world," says Doug Beigel, CEO of COLA. "My insight is that leaders will emerge from different parts of the world to bring about quality in laboratory medicine."

Participants convened for a 2-day symposium in Baltimore to explore a global vision for creating quality in medical laboratory testing through four cafe-style discussions and presentations.

"I have never been to a seminar like this before," says John Nelson, MD, a past president of the American Medical Association. "When I heard the opening speaker, that is what I expected would occur, but what I was not prepared for was the level of engagement of the participants and the breadth of views shared."

Participants in the International Symposium included public health leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the World Medical Association and the World Health Organization; industry leaders from Pfizer, Bio-Rad, and JHPIEGO in the US, and government and industry leaders from Egypt, Southern Africa, India, Singapore, Mexico, Thailand, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and the US.

Several shared visions came from this diverse group of thought leaders as they acknowledged that medical laboratories are the critical front line in diagnosis and treatment of diseases. A few major underlying themes included lab quality and standards, the need to focus on the healthcare system in its entirety as opposed to specific diseases, and the knowledge that labs around the world each have their own specific needs.

"This is one of the few, if not only, forums where people have come together to discuss the application of laboratory quality standards in the international setting," says John Ridderhof of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To learn more about the International Symposium, please visit http://www.worldlabforum.org.