New lab equips Fargo for faster diagnoses

Combining locations improves testing times for patients, collaboration for providers

Two Sanford Health researchers share a microscope at the lab.

At a small ceremony in Fargo, North Dakota, a big addition officially made its debut to the world. Sanford Laboratories Amber Valley opened up just blocks away from the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, combining various departments from three different labs under one new roof.

“We expect to see a major decrease in turnaround time, and we’re already starting to see that as a result of being here for a few weeks,” said Dr. Angie Wood, department chair of pathology in Fargo. “We’re receiving our slides in a much timelier manner. We can walk down the hallway to any and all of our colleagues, just show a case instead of having to ship things across town.

“When we order additional levels on tissue or other studies that are going to help us make the correct diagnosis, those are coming out to us same day in a lot of instances now instead of next day. So it’s been really, really exciting and gratifying to see that.”

Multiple services in one lab

The new 18,000-square-foot lab houses multiple service lines, including pathology, cytology, flow cytometry and microbiology. Areas that couldn’t communicate as easily before can now come together for speedy consultations among specialists and a quicker diagnosis for the patient.

“A lot of times there’s cases that are very complex that come through our practice,” said Tony Breding, Sanford’s senior director of laboratory and pathology operations. “We have a very sub-specialized pathology practice where Dr. (Michael) McFall for instance, specializes in skin.

“So if he had a case that he was worried about, other implications let’s say, where he needed to consult with potentially one of our hematopathologists, he can now very easily take that case from his office, walk it across the hallway and very easily be able to consult with one of our three hemapaths, Dr. (Anthony-Osei) Safo, Dr. (Yongsheng) Ren or Dr. (Michelle) Bianco, and get some real-time feedback.”

COVID-19 testing still a priority

Of course, COVID-19 testing has been a priority during the pandemic, and it remains so at the new lab as well.

“We have 18,000 square feet of laboratory dedicated space here, and you’d think with the pandemic, you know, being one year in, and then just the sheer volume of tests that we’ve had to perform, that there’d be a pretty sizable footprint for COVID testing,” said Breding.

“When realistically some of our biggest workhorses for COVID testing have been these little guys right here. Very small footprint. We’ve got two on this side and three more on this side, but when you look at a lab this big, that’s the power of molecular technology and being able to do things through PCR (polymerase chain reaction), you can get a lot done with a small footprint.”

All about the patient

Ultimately though, all of the equipment and all of the experts are here to serve patients.

“Most of us have experienced that waiting game of having a sample drawn or a tissue removed and wondering, ‘Is it cancer?’ And if we haven’t experienced that ourselves, we know somebody who has, and we understand the emotional tension that that causes,” said Dr. Wood.

“And we don’t want people to have to suffer through that any longer than they have to. So there’s that emotional aspect, but then there’s also the practical aspect: With some diagnoses it’s important to make the diagnosis as quickly as possible because the sooner you start treating the patient, the better the prognosis and the outcome.”

Thanks to the new lab in Fargo, and all of the people working inside these walls, turnaround time will move faster, and with it, patient care will continue to improve at Sanford Health.

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Posted In Company News, Coronavirus, Fargo, News, Pathology

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