For immediate release
May 2, 2018
Kristie Garcia, Public Information Officer,
New Mexico Department of Agriculture
New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Lab receives international accreditation
Certification marks first ever for NMDA’s Veterinary Diagnostic Services Division
(Albuquerque, New Mexico) – For the first time in its existence, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Diagnostic Services Division is a fully-certified International Organization for Standardization (ISO) laboratory.
The ISO 17025 certification means that the Veterinary Diagnostic Services (VDS) lab – which consists of a staff of 14 – has met specific criteria to qualify as an accredited testing lab. The accreditation demonstrates the lab’s capacity to deliver reliable results.
Dr. Tim Hanosh, NMDA’s VDS Division Director, said the certification process took many years and was an amazing effort by the staff.
“People do not realize how much time and effort the laboratorians, the administrative staff and everyone in the lab dedicated to attain this goal,” said Hanosh. “Saying I’m proud is an understatement. The certification speaks for itself.”
Located in Albuquerque, the VDS lab tests numerous animal samples, including carcasses for necropsies (animal autopsies), tissue samples, bacterial swabs, as well as bodily fluids, such as blood, serum and plasma.
The ISO 17025 standards include developing a quality management system, which determines how the laboratory will operate.
“The reason we need a quality management system is to ensure that our quality is at the highest level and to ensure that everybody in the laboratory follows the same standard operating procedures (SOPs),” said Hanosh. “We spent many years putting together this quality system, and it took a lot of time and a lot of effort.”
The document known as the quality manual is the framework for the lab. Everyone is required to read the manual and sign off that they understand it. Lab employees have to prove that they can perform the work successfully. Proficiency tests are administered and have to be successfully completed annually, at minimum. The VDS staff also has a test on the quality management system and on its iPassport database. The test is created by lab staff.
“Everybody supplies questions and answers and has to support their answers,” said Hanosh. “We compile everyone’s questions, we create a test from those questions, and everybody must pass.”
Once the quality system was established, a third party that specializes in ISO 17025 certification performed an audit. The audit included reviewing documentation and standards, as well as observing procedures and interviewing all the employees and laboratorians, in order to determine whether the lab met the ISO standards.
Hanosh said the key to achieving the accreditation was buy-in.
“When we’re going after something with such a magnitude, two different areas are involved – one of those areas is our upper management,” he said. “We must have support from up above, so we have to have buy-in from our secretary of agriculture, our deputy secretary of agriculture and from other key people within NMDA, which we have. And the second area is the lab. What makes it work is that everybody in the lab has to buy in and take some sort of ownership.”
New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said the accreditation reflects the high quality at which the lab operates.
“The accreditation verifies that we have a lab operating at the highest level with a dedicated and professional staff,” said Witte. “We are proud of the services that VDS provides to our citizens and the work they do for animal health.”
Hanosh said depending on the area of the lab in which they work, employees have to read, understand and prove that they’re able to follow certain SOPs that apply to those specific areas.
“So, if you work in the molecular biology lab, you would read all of the molecular SOPs,” he said. “If you worked in administration, you would read all of the admin SOPs, so on and so forth.”
The accreditation is valid for two years. During that time, the same accrediting body will perform a re-audit to ensure the lab continues to meet the standards. Then it will alternate between an on-site audit one year and an online audit the next year.
Hanosh said the accreditation shows the lab is self-critical and also gives the public peace of mind.
“We want to test ourselves to ensure we’re doing the best that we possibly can,” he said. “As far as the public is concerned, New Mexico residents need to know that we have attained the highest level possible for our laboratory. They should have comfort in that the results we produce from our lab are meeting the highest standards possible.”
– NMDA –