The Power of Laboratory Medicine in the Community: Harvey's Gang

The Lab - typically a mysterious place for patients and their families. With the help of visible pathologists and organizations such as the one you are going to read about, the wizard that is the lab is coming out from behind the curtain to reveal what often seems like magic to patients and loved ones. This not only affects individual lives, but the greater community and provides a critical link to a new standard of care which empowers patients through education and compassion.


A boy named Harvey

In March 2013, Harvey was your everyday kid in the UK, going to school and playing with friends. Harvey had the common run of childhood illnesses over the preceding winter months and wasn’t his usual bright self. After his third visit to the doctor, blood tests were ordered to find out why Harvey had been experiencing these illnesses.


Expecting the usual wait time for results, Harvey’s parents, Richard and Claire, were surprised when they were contacted just two hours after Harvey had his blood drawn. His parents were told to bring Harvey to the hospital as soon as possible as he required an urgent blood transfusion. His Hgb was just 3.6 g/dL; the normal range is 12.5-13.5 g/dL. Harvey was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).


Harvey didn’t let his illness get him down. In fact, his curiosity was piqued each time he had his blood drawn. So, the staff, seeing that he was interested, took him on a tour of the lab. He got to see exactly what happened to his blood and even got to bring his own blood samples to the laboratory for processing. This is where Harvey met Malcolm Robinson, a biomedical scientist in the lab. Harvey’s life and the lives of children around the world would soon be changed.


Sadly, 564 days after his AML diagnosis Harvey passed away. But Harvey’s story doesn’t end there. Remember Malcolm Robinson? A consultant pediatrician had told Malcolm that 7 other critically ill children also wanted a tour of the laboratory. Fulfilling his promise to Claire that the hospital would make Harvey famous, “Harvey’s Gang” was born. Eleven days after Harvey’s funeral, William, age 4, became the first member of Harvey’s Gang. Just like Harvey, he was named a “Trainee Scientist” and given a tour of the lab.


Harvey’s Gang originated at the hospital where Harvey was admitted. With broad support from the biomedical science community in the UK, over 100 children at 10 hospital systems are now members of Harvey’s Gang. But there’s more!


The growth of Harvey’s Gang was so phenomenal, the UK Board of Harvey’s Gang began exploring opportunities to bring the organization to the US. A subsidiary was established and Harvey’s Gang USA was created. Chartered in New York State, Harvey’s Gang USA is proud to be the 100th site!


A look ahead

With Harvey’s Gang taking anchor in New York state, the organization has its sights set high. By 2025, the organization plans to reach 75% of Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) affiliated hospitals. The organization is also planning to include non-CHA affiliate hospitals as well. In addition to CHA, Harvey’s Gang is exploring partnerships with College of American Pathologists and American Society for Clinical Pathology.


Like many organizations and efforts, Harvey’s Gang has been affected by the pandemic, limiting Harvey’s Gang tours. But just as Harvey’s Gang began with a dream and a purpose, so it will continue with this same dream and purpose. The pandemic is a temporary halt. Just as Harvey was brave and persevered in spite of his cancer, Harvey’s Gang will persevere as well.


Laboratory medicine is critical not just in diagnosing and treating illness, but also in bringing education and comfort to the community. We plan to continue this series highlighting various organizations and projects that continue to bring the lab out from behind the curtain and into the communities they serve. Let us know about your efforts to bring the lab into the community by emailing Kristin at kmitchener@instapathbio.com.


For more information on Harvey’s Gang and to learn more about how you can help, visit www.harveysgang.com or email Harvey's Gang USA leader Joseph Keary at jkeary@harveysgangusa.org.


Photo credit: Harvey's Gang


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