By the time Alice Balasco, laboratory data analyst, completed high school, she knew she wanted to work in a laboratory. Alice’s neighbor was a lab manager at a community hospital and helped her get a part-time job in the lab washing glassware. The experience exposed Alice to the vital role laboratory professionals play in health care and patient advocacy. In fact, 70% of today’s medical decisions depend on the data gathered in laboratory testing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In college, Alice learned how to collect blood and conduct clinical laboratory tests to detect, diagnose, monitor and treat disease. Her education helped launch a career that used her STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and applied them in a team setting that benefitted patients.
“I’ve always thought of data as information which can be acted upon,” Alice said. “It’s information that will help the quality of a patient’s medical care.”
After working in laboratories for nearly 5 decades, including 31 years at Akron Children’s, Alice retires on July 23. She looks forward to spending time with her family, playing with her grandchildren, gardening, reading, traveling and attending music concerts and sports events.
What brought you to Children’s?
I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and had worked at Children’s for a year after college graduation and before getting married. We moved during my husband’s military service. After that ended, we lived in Maryland with our 3 young children. We wanted a bigger house and realized we could find what we wanted for less money in Akron. After we moved back, I saw that Children’s was hiring a part-time lab worker. I had liked working at Children’s before and knew it offered a family-friendly work environment. I applied and was hired by Jim Malone and Sandy McLaughlin, who had been a professional contact at my job in Maryland.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I’ve always been part of Children’s pathology and laboratory medicine department, where I’ve held different roles. Initially, I was a cytogenetics technologist, performing chromosome analysis and tissue culture. As our Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics (ACHP) locations began to expand outpatient care, training and technical and regulatory support in point-of-care testing was needed. I took a new role as outreach coordinator to provide that support, later adding programs in newborn screening and nurses’ phlebotomy training to my responsibilities. Fifteen years ago, the laboratory data analyst position was created. I was taking business administration courses and welcomed getting involved in researching and analyzing health care data to support our projects and partnerships. It allowed me to contribute to Children’s business intelligence gathering, work with multidisciplinary teams and provide insights to improve our clinical processes. One example is laboratory response time reports, which monitors how quickly providers receive critical results after lab testing. In addition to being a regulatory requirement, monitoring critical result notifications improves patient safety.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
While working in brand new positions, I’ve created processes that helped define workflows and impacted actions that led to improvements in the laboratory’s quality, safety and reporting.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
Laboratory technological improvements have made it easier for us to provide answers quickly, which helps our patients and their families make decisions and access medical care. For example, our cytogenetics laboratory now uses fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), a laboratory technique that allows us to detect and locate a specific DNA location on a chromosome. Something that once took weeks now takes a day. Another example is the ability to identify many types of infectious bacteria and viruses in an hour, which used to take days, or sometimes weeks.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
It’s the involvement I’ve had working on projects with people from many areas within Children’s. Sometimes, we’ll work together for a year or more on a project. When we see the results and realize the positive differences we made, it’s a happy moment.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Learn as much as you can about your role and get involved with activities and employees outside of your department.
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
I listen to rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop, mostly in my car.
What’s the last book your read?
“The Astronaut Wives Club” by Lily Koppel.