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Under the Scope: February 2024

Nominee: Mailouts Team

Mailouts TeamNominator: Jim Ross

The recent weather event starting on January 12 created one of the biggest shipping disruptions in specimen mailout history for UIHC. The snowfall occurring in the days following and subsequent ice in the FedEx shipping hub in Memphis affected pathology's specimen shipments for 2 weeks. The mailouts team of Andy Long, Dawn Kousheh, Jessica Love, Alex Winder, Devon Carey, and Emily Richards, worked heroically to save over two thousand samples that were scheduled to be shipped over this two-week period. The team worked with providers to hold specimen collections, communicated daily with our primary shipping agents for status updates, held specimens to maintain correct storage conditions, and found alternate methods of shipping specimens that were critical. Their efforts resulted in 5 samples being rejected due to viability so far. This team shows a commitment to quality care at UIHC.

How long have you been working in Pathology?
Dawn: I have been working in Mailouts since 2008, but I have been with the hospital much longer.
Devon: I started out in Phlebotomy in 2007 and moved to Mailouts in 2017.
Andrew: I started in 2009.
Alex: I started in Pathology in 2005 but moved to Mailouts in 2010.

What do you enjoy about working here?
Dawn: You get to learn something new every day. We get to handle a variety of samples here.
Alex: Yeah, we get to learn a lot of new things. There is always new technology coming in or new methodologies for testing.
Devon: We also receive some interesting samples.
Dawn: One time we received a bat. There were also some bladder stones that looked like river stones.
Alex: We have received all sorts of strange things. The bat, toes, an apple.
Devon: The apple one was interesting. It was just this apple the owner had picked from their tree and sent in to be tested for radiation. They were worried radiation from a nearby telephone line contaminating their apples. It had a handwritten note and everything with it.
Andrew: I think it also fun to work with so many areas of the hospital. So many sections need help with testing, so we get to work with a variety specimens and people.

The January 12th snowstorm caused huge shipping disruptions. How did you all tackle that challenge?
Andrew: It was a two-week endeavor. We did not hear anything about delays from FedEx, so we thought we were good to ship after the storm. It was not until we tried shipping things out that they notified us of delays. Some of our shipments go through the South, and when snow hits there it really affects the shipping process. They just do not have the infrastructure to handle snow and cold temperatures like we do in Iowa.
Alex: Yeah, we had to check the situation day-by-day. Getting through it was half luck and half combining our experience and knowledge.
Dawn: Our biggest priority through the whole thing was trying to keep the viability of the samples.
Devon: Sometimes we had to take risks sending a sample out because otherwise it would lose viability here.
Alex: Specimens can last an average of 9 days before viability significantly drops. Ideally, you want it to get to where it needs to be in 2-3 days.
Andrew: Some samples need to be kept at room temperature while other’s need to be refrigerated. At one point we could see that FedEx had our specimens sitting on the tarmac in Cedar Rapids for 4 days. Those samples needed to be stored at room temperature and chances are they were frozen at that point. Eventually, we started getting more consistent information from FedEx. We had to monitor our tracking information to see what was actually moving and make decisions to ship or not based on that.
Devon: Some specimens are easy to get again if viability is lost like blood draws, but other ones are a challenge. We had to pool all our knowledge together to decide what to ship and when to keep that viability.
Dawn: If we were able to keep specimens safe and viable here, we did that rather than risking it getting caught up in the shipping system.

What is your dream vacation?
Dawn: I would like to go to the Andes.
Alex: Thailand for sure. I want to try to food.
Andrew: I would like to go to Tonga because it is the only place in the world that will let you dive with humpback whales.
Devon: I would like to visit Japan someday for the culture and food.

If money was not a factor, what other profession would you choose?
Dawn: Law because I have an interest in politics.
Alex: I think I would like to be a bike courier. It would be nice to ride around listening to music while I deliver stuff.
Devon: I would like to be an automobile/motorcycle mechanic and run my own shop.
Andrew: Something space related. It would be cool to run a business with that deals with exploration machinery or deorbiting space junk.