The 509th Medical Lab - the behind-the-scenes cure

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry
  • 509th Public Affairs
Proper health is essential to the human life. Even in today's modern, medically advanced society, we battle diseases, illnesses and various other ailments.

At Whiteman Air Force Base, the 509th Medical Lab faces these issues on a daily basis, and strives to find cures and promote good health for members of Team Whiteman.

The Medical Lab's role is to provide important medical information to all providers, whether they are working with Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) patients, uniformed members on regular medical status or dependents, said Maj. Neil Helbling, 509th Medical Group flight commander. This data helps providers make accurate diagnoses for patients.

The PRP aspect is perhaps the busiest of the lab's missions, as it includes, among others, all Airmen who work with or around the B-2, such as crew chiefs, Defenders and firefighters, said Staff Sgt. Raul Loyo, 509th Medical Group laboratory technician.

These diagnoses the lab provides must be as accurate as possible, because a patient may suspect a medical problem, but be drawing the wrong conclusion about what is causing it, said Royo.

"The information we provide supports [medical providers'] conclusion[s] or helps them to eliminate what possibilit[ies] they have considered..." said Helbling. "It is helpful information to the doctors."

To verify what the root cause of the issue might be, medical technicians draw blood and collect urine samples.

The greatest hazard for lab technicians is exposure to patients who have contagious diseases, said Helbling. Techs take precautions to minimize exposure by following procedures called "universal precautions;" some of these include wearing lab coats and gloves, using "safety areas" for opening bottles that contain bodily fluid, and many others.

The workload stays consistently heavy for the techs in the lab.

"We do on average around 5,000 tests per month. We might perform 20 or 30 tests on the same person," said Helbling. "Some people come in for a simple PHA appointment; they might have an HIV screen or a lipid panel, which would be your cholesterol check."

"The age ranges from pediatrics for little babies all the way up to geriatrics for the elderly and retired," he said.

The medical lab does not distribute or prescribe medicine; they simply run tests on urine samples, blood, and any other biological element from the human body. These tests are critical, however, in helping doctors diagnosis conditions and prescribe treatment for them.

So, next time you get assistance from your doctor or pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, remember that it was made possible by the dedicated technicians of the 509th Medical Lab.