Lauren Singelakis, M.S. ’18, is the senior administrative director of system-wide laboratory operations at Mount Sinai Health System — a network that includes eight hospitals and employs over 42,000 people. She manages operations across all clinical lab locations, which conduct coronavirus (COVID-19) patient testing for the entire Mount Sinai network. These test results, in turn, provide data to physicians so they can diagnose patients and make decisions about treatment.
As Singelakis directs Mount Sinai’s laboratory, a vital operation saving the lives of New Yorkers, she draws on her Mercy College master’s program in health services management — a program she says elevated her leadership and management skills.
“I think back quite often on classes I took at Mercy that gave me operational prowess in communication, dealing with staff, working with unions, working with a wide range of different kinds of people, navigating disparities in healthcare and insurance, strategizing about non-clinical concerns. People are anxious right now, even healthcare professionals. Something I’m always thinking about is how to communicate transparently about what's going on and how to be a leader.”
Mount Sinai has been on the forefront of preparing for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and treating New Yorkers. When the first patients got sick in New York City, Mount Sinai built a new lab to test if patients had contracted the virus. Once up and running, the focus quickly shifted to establishing antibody testing to identify individuals who may have immunity to COVID-19 after overcoming the virus, and who may be candidates to donate plasma to sick patients. Singelakis reported that the FDA recently granted an emergency use authorization for Mount Sinai’s antibody test, meaning that other healthcare facilities may soon be able to administer the Mount Sinai test.
“Statistics show that 70% of medical decisions are based on lab testing,” Singelakis explained. In this way, the lab supports work throughout the entire Mount Sinai network. The clinical lab also operates the blood bank, which provides blood for trauma victims and surgeries.
Because of her experience, Singelakis was prepared when COVID-19 first arrived in New York City. For example, she stocked the lab with supplies such as transport media and swabs. She also planned for Mount Sinai’s scaling of clinical labs to meet patient testing needs. This required considerations such as ensuring adequate staffing at all lab locations and the increased staffing of certain shifts in order to quickly process patient samples.
“I've been in the business for 23 years, so I've been through West Nile virus, H1N1, SARS and MERS,” explained Singelakis. “Although this pandemic is more severe than others in terms of magnitude and scale, this is what we’ve trained for across our entire careers.” She explains that every epidemic or new infectious disease gives laboratorians — people who work in laboratories — additional perspective on how to prepare for the next epidemic or disease.
The work itself and its potential impact are what keep her motivated through the long days. “Despite the number of hours we’ve worked, we're all in this together. The lab plays a pivotal role behind the scenes, so we are there to support the doctors, the nurses, the people who are actually treating the patients. At the end of the day, there's a patient behind each sample. And if we can help save them or lessen the disease for any of them, that's why we do this work.”
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