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A chairman’s farewell: Saudi Arabia ASCPi Advisory Board

Friday, April 18, 2014

Nikolaos Chantziantoniou, BSc, ART(CSMLS), CFIAC

In August 2008, I had reported the onset of ASCPi certification in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.1 In October 2013 I formally completed my tenure as Chairman of the Saudi Arabia ASCPi Advisory Board. The five-year-plus journey since the rain forests of Panama has marked historic milestones and surpassed expectations. I now pass-on the baton with this short farewell commentary.

Particularly in the past ten years Saudi Arabia has witnessed unprecedented development in many sectors; but perhaps no more so than in the Medical and Higher Education sectors with the establishment of exceptional medical and academic institutions throughout the Kingdom. The medical institutions, many of them being large tertiary centers supported by comprehensive diagnostic laboratory services, created an acute demand; the academic institutions thereafter followed suit providing relief through newly-graduating human capital. The noteworthy expansion of services from student through to patient clearly reflects vision and investment, securely setting the Kingdom onto a path reaching far beyond the current horizons. Against this backdrop, professional certification for those graduating for, and those practicing in, the clinical laboratory sciences became a mature endeavor.

In a meeting in Panama on April 4, 2008, I represented the Kingdom defending its need for ASCPi certification by presenting the background dynamics. Soon thereafter, the organization granted our request, inviting my participation as Chairman of the Saudi Arabia Advisory Board. I accepted the task, and promptly formed my supporting team (Dr. Hanaa S. Bamefleh; Mr. Abdullah Al Angery; Ms. Victoria Rani Leo). The Chapter was thus formalized. And we set forth with an ambitious strategy characterized by various endpoints which, ultimately, became milestones.

The underlying objective was to establish a specific endpoint to post-baccalaureate, targeted, medical laboratory science education. Essentially, professional certification would introduce an additional level of graduation to reflect entry-level knowledge and skill; both of which, combined, would then reflect awareness of discipline-specific standards of practice. Therefore professional certification would also provide a natural progression from academics to occupation. And this approach would ultimately reveal the suitability and effectiveness of both the academic institution and that of its graduates. However this triangulated relationship linking demand through to relief would not have an endpoint; it would, instead, upgrade infinitely the institution, the graduate, and the profession. With this rationale, each stakeholder stands to be a winner.

From the more recent issues of the ASCPi International Certification Report one quickly realizes the accomplishments of the overall venture and the vastness of territory covered by the participating Boards throughout the world. The Consortium has grown substantially since 2008. Nearly every continent now has its own baton. In many global regions outside the Unites States of America, ASCPi certification has become a beacon - a recognized acknowledgement of professional knowledge and proficiency. Moreover in other regions, it has also transformed the essence of professional certification into a national identity, whereby ASCPi certification has been instituted as being mandatory and exclusive.

I applaud all visionaries that share in this quest. From the sidelines I have taken notice of the energy invested in promoting ASCPi certification in the European arena, and most particularly in my birth-land Greece by the team led by Dionysis Vourtsis. I recently had the pleasure of discussing these developments with him, and do wish him, and his team, greater success in their work. It is definitely through these efforts that professional certification takes on a purpose and significance; and particularly in regions where the clinical laboratory sciences may remain obscure or under-estimated. It is my personal hope that ASCPi will also instill an impetus for healthcare establishments to revisit and assess the effectiveness of their systems overall.

All new ventures are difficult, but when also aiming for an international audience, the challenges are unique, oftentimes daunting. One foremost challenge perhaps is the variety of languages used in clinical laboratory practice world-wide; the mosaics that define cultures and nationalities must be another. The ASCPi venture has sequentially accommodated these challenges, and continues to expand into unchartered realms with success. The venture itself is now mature, multi-lingual, multi-discipline, and has acquired its own momentum.

If one word could possibly embody my personal input, it would very likely need to be: Awareness. I made it a task and target to make ASCPi a familiar entity.

During my tenure I was always surprised by the inquiries raised from all levels of profession and skill. It became obvious that the concept had taken hold. Being a Clinical Lecturer at King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh, and coordinating the Diagnostic Cytology Program, our efforts were also substantiated by the formalization of the all-new Saudi Society of Cytopathology. In this setting, ASCPi certification created a link in the chain of events leading to ongoing professional education and recognition.

My team and I envisioned every opportunity to raise awareness. We engaged in promotional ventures with the formal institutions in the Kingdom. One foremost event was our presence at the 2nd Annual Conference to Update Laboratory Quality and Accreditation, conducted in Al Khobar, June 2011. In addition, all cytopathology symposia during my tenure displayed promotional materials provided by the ASCPi, with specific mention in presentations and newsletters.

Through this farewell I sincerely thank the ASCPi organization and officials for their consideration, guidance and support along the way. Particular thanks are also directed toward my team, all of whom eagerly supported my ideas and directions. All superiors and mentors that collaborated with me are likewise acknowledged herewith.

I wish the ASCPi ongoing success in its worthy quest.

  1. Chantziantoniou N. ASCPi Certification for Saudi Arabia. ASCPi International Certification Report, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2008.



Nikolaos Chantziantoniou, BSc, ART(CSMLS), CFIAC

Sidra Medical and Research Center

Department of Pathology, Cytology Section

Qatar Foundation

Doha, Qatar