September 22, 2022

While coming back through town from the recycling center yesterday I was on the side street waiting to pull onto the main drag when a car with a large AEL emblem emblazoned on the side door drove past.  I pulled into traffic and noticed a smaller version of the emblem was also on the rear panel.  I had never seen the acronym before and wondered what it stood for.  When we stopped at a traffic light, I got close enough to read the small print beneath the emblem.  It said, American Esoteric Laboratories.  I did not know what that meant but thought that either someone had a good sense of humor or medicine was finally being honest.  It was neither and was not as esoteric as I thought.

When I looked online, I found esoteric testing is the analysis of ‘rare’ substances or molecules that are not performed in a routine clinical laboratory.  Esoteric tests are “niche” assays and often require specialized personnel.  Some of these tests have been or are currently being analyzed using RIA (radioimmunoassay) technique which is both costly and time-consuming.  Esoteric laboratories are beginning to benefit as test volume increases due to population growth and the aging population, an increase in the number of tests per patient, and an increase in esoteric and genomic tests which are part of the trend to customize treatments.  Esoteric tests are generally considered to include Biochemical Genetics, Cytogenetics/FISH, Flow Cytometry, Microbiology, Molecular Genetic Pathology, RBC, Special Studies, Special Coagulation, and Virology.  The tests do seem esoteric.

American Esoteric Laboratories (AEL) is a regional provider of esoteric and clinical laboratory services.  The laboratory offers an extensive test menu of both routine and esoteric testing.  AEL testing locations in Tennessee include the core laboratory in Memphis and AEL East in Knoxville.  Additional AEL laboratories are in Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, and Arkansas.  AEL also operates convenient patient service centers throughout Alabama, Arkansas, the Florida panhandle, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.  AEL is the MidSouth Division of Sonic Healthcare USA.  Sonic Healthcare is a global healthcare company with headquarters in Sydney, Australia, that has grown to become one of the world’s leading healthcare providers.  Sonic has operations in Australia, the US, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Ireland, and New Zealand.  This is truly a globalized medical operation.  Like much of big medicine, I had never heard of it.

THOUGHTS:  When the pandemic began spreading early in 2020 virus testing was done by sending the sample off to an esoteric laboratory.  The word esoteric means obscure or puzzling, and at the onset that was what the virus was.  These specialized laboratories analyzed the rare substances or molecules associated with it.  As testing became more common local labs began to perform the tests, and now over the counter self-tests are readily available.  While there is still much to discover, the virus is no longer seen as obscure and puzzling.  It is something to be tracked, studied, and ever more understood.  Now the esoteric part is why there are still those who deny it exists.  Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.

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