Blood_Typing_Close_UpWhen you give blood, the people you mainly interact with are nurses. But there are other professionals who play an integral role in the blood donation process.

“The most critical part involves the behind the scenes work performed by Clinical Laboratory Scientists,” said Janelle Chiasera, Ph.D., interim chair of the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences at UAB. “They assure that the blood products you receive are compatible with your blood and safe for you from a disease transmission perspective.”

Clinical Laboratory Scientists test red blood cells, plasma and platelets for infectious diseases including HIV, hepatitis, West Nile Virus as well as complex immunohematology testing.

“If blood that is incompatible is transfused, it can result in a fatal reaction,” said Michelle Brown, MS, MLS, an assistant professor in the Clinical Laboratory Science program.

Clinical Laboratory Scientists who work in the blood bank must have a thorough background in genetics, immunology, blood groups, collection and storage of blood and components, immune mechanisms, component therapy, transfusion of the fetus and newborn and complications of transfusion.

“It is essential that they effectively communicate vital information when blood components will be ready for transfusion and complications in compatibility testing with the entire healthcare team,” said Brown.

While January is National Blood Donation Month, Chiasera said she see’s first hand why it’s critical people donate on a regular basis.

“Every two seconds, someone requires blood,” said Chiasera. “If only one percent more people donated blood, blood shortages would become rare events.”