“Pure Science”: How Basics at the Bench Drive Lab Results and Innovation
This Laboratory Professionals Week, we honor the innovators, collaborators and colleagues who have gone above and beyond behind the scenes to meet patient need. Today, ACLA is celebrating Noël Pusey, a medical laboratory scientist at ARUP Laboratories, who says the basics of scientific practice are what propel him forward every day.
Like many young college students, ARUP Laboratories’ Noël Pusey wasn’t sure where he wanted to focus his career path. A lover of both art and science, Noël decided to study microbiology before switching his major to medical technology – and ultimately diving headfirst into a career in laboratory science.
As a blood bank specialist in the Immunohematology Reference Lab (IRL) at ARUP Laboratories, Noël has been using his creative fire to help solve laboratory puzzles in transfusion medicine for nearly three decades.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” says Noël. “The careful work of laboratorians has always been the foundation of critical medical decision-making.”
“You do need to have a bit of a creative approach because it’s all problem-solving and trying to figure out what they can’t figure out somewhere else,” Noël explains.
ARUP’s IRL handles both routine and complex serological testing for hospitals across the United States so that patients in need of blood transfusions are matched with the most suitable donors. This work demands painstaking accuracy because the outcome for a patient is so critical – it can literally mean the difference between life and death.
“It seems a little trite to say, ‘the patient comes first,’” says Noël. “But that’s what we do: make sure the patient can receive a safe transfusion as quickly as possible. They are waiting on us to provide the answer.”
For Noël, the bigger the diagnostic challenge, the better. Recently, a patient developed several antibodies to the donor blood they had recently received. His lab scrambled to diagnose the issue (a delayed transfusion reaction) and found a solution that stabilized the patient.
“It’s fun to find those rare situations and to see the science at work,” he recalls.
It’s a big part of why Noël loves what he does “on the bench.” Technology advancements like molecular genotypes and automation have created new ways for lab professionals to do their work – think titrating robots – but sometimes it comes back to the basics.
“The main things we still use are test tubes and drops of blood,” says Noël. “It’s more of the pure science. It’s how things work and why things work.”