Meet Our QC Lab Team Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

April 29, 2022


April 24th to 30th was National Medical Laboratory Week – a week where we honor and celebrate laboratory professionals. This annually celebrated event is not only a chance to celebrate laboratory professionals’ hard work but an opportunity to educate about the critical role that laboratories play in health care. Unfortunately, laboratory professionals are sometimes overlooked, and this fact is quite an injustice because laboratory workers have a massive impact on our healthcare.

Laboratory services comprise only 2.3% of U.S. healthcare expenditures, yet laboratory medicine is integral to the healthcare system and the patients it serves. Diagnostic tests are the backbone of the medical field and play a role in more than 70% of healthcare decisions in the United States. There are more than 2,000 different laboratory tests available on blood and body fluids, and over 7 billion laboratory tests are performed in the United States each year. This figure is the baseline number of tests, not including the nearly 1 billion additional COVID-19 tests during the pandemic!

Laboratory tests improve overall health and better disease management throughout an individual’s lifespan. In addition to testing performed to diagnose specific conditions and monitor treatment, lifelong health screenings are a cost-effective preventative measure that can detect risk early, leading to better prognoses and more favorable outcomes. 

How a sample is collected and handled can greatly affect results. Mistakes made prior to samples being tested comprise greater than 70% of lab-related errors. This includes collecting the sample in the wrong container, specimen quality issues, and sample mix-ups.

This is why COPAN’s products and the education instructional guides that we provide are so important in the medical field. COPAN’s automation products also help support Laboratory Professionals by decreasing workload and the volume of repetitive tasks, which can lead to fatigue and potential mistakes. This valuable laboratory automation can also help prevent mixups, transcription errors, and accessioning errors. COPAN also provides specimen collection and transport products that allow clinicians to collect high-quality specimens.

COPAN has an excellent QC Laboratory Team that ensures these products meet quality standards and specifications. The team has many responsibilities, including microbiology and environmental validations of new production machines and continuous bioburden monitoring of work areas. The team also manages sterilization validation and experimentation. 

The team also manages the writing, training, and execution of all the SOPs related to product quality control and works with OEM clients to help develop, validate, and implement custom product formulations. In short, this QC Laboratory Team is the final line in the medical device manufacturing process and checks whether the soon-to-be delivered product is free of flaws and contamination and performs as expected.

One of their biggest achievements lately is that the Murrieta and Carlsbad sites have been cross-trained and are fully capable of performing all duties between sites. This is very important as the team tries to remain dynamic with all the new accounts and media being produced.

Meet COPAN’s QC Laboratory Team

In the words of Darnell Thorpe, the QC Laboratory Team Manager,  “I couldn’t say enough about this team. Every member has unique talents and perspectives that they bring to the table – we are all imperfect individuals, but collectively, we become perfect.”

Darnell Thorpe is the Quality Control Laboratory Manager managing the QC Laboratory Team. Before working with COPAN, Darnell was a Supervisor at Labcorp Darnell was fascinated with robotics and enjoyed working with COPAN’s automation. In 2017 he expressed interest in changing careers to one of COPAN’s Field Service Engineers (FSE) and was soon offered a job as a Field Service Engineer trainer. 

After a few years, Darnell changed roles and became an Applications Specialist for WASP® and WASPlab®. He was in the position for about a year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and COPAN Diagnostics saw a massive expansion to produce viral transport media products to keep up with staggering demand. This expansion required a larger and more developed QC Laboratory. Darnell accepted the role of QC Laboratory Manager early in 2020 and has been in that role ever since. 

Darnell has a growth mindset, and he loves working for COPAN, where he feels his work and efforts are appreciated. In his view, the level of confidence and trust that has been given to him helps him have confidence in himself to succeed.

Darnell loves staying active and the outdoors. He can often be found enjoying the sun on the beach in Coronado. Darnell was in the Navy for several years but never stepped foot on a ship. He worked at a Navy medical center blood bank laboratory at the time, so he never had the opportunity.

Barbara LaLuz is the Jr. Quality Assurance Manager for COPAN Diagnostics. Her current responsibilities serve in a dual capacity in both the quality control and laboratory teams. Barbara oversees environmental controls, sterility processes, validations, product performance, and the final release of many of the products COPAN Diagnostics produces. 

Barbara has many years of experience working in quality roles for several medical device companies over her career. She worked in Puerto Rico as a quality technician for Abbott cardiovascular products and then in a similar capacity for Covidien (acquired by Medtronic). Barbara started working with COPAN in September 2015 as a Control Assistant Production (CAP) and was soon promoted to Production Supervisor. She was trained in Italy in 2016 as a Laboratory Assistant and tasked with reopening the quality laboratory at Copan Diagnostics.

When asked why she likes working for COPAN, she said, “I’ve been working in medical devices for many years, and the sense of belonging and camaraderie is something special. No matter what level you are at, the way we communicate with each other is fantastic. No manager or director sits in their high tower giving orders; the door is always open, and we all work together to get the job done. The trust I have been given with minimal micromanagement has truly been empowering.”

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Barbara assisted in the ramp-up of the new COPAN facility in Carlsbad and worked alongside Darnell Thorpe, Jacob Nelson, and Luke Cohen to validate and process product QC samples and environmental samples for the new production lines. Her team has since expanded, and her position has evolved into her current management role.

Barbara enjoys spending time outdoors and loves to beat the beach and go camping with her husband. They love to travel in their RV and ride their ATV all over California. She considers herself a lifelong learner and, loves reading fiction, biographies, and has a passion for poetry. Barbara and her husband go offroading in the desert in their Jeep and enjoy exploring new trails.

Patricia (Patty) Marroquin has been working with COPAN for about a year. She was originally hired in formulations, where she mixed various OEM buffers, solutions, and broths, but now enjoys a dual role in both formulations and assisting the QC Laboratory Team to assist in many tasks like assistance with bioburden and sterility testing.   

Patty pointed out that quality and formulation are interdependent, although the roles are different, and she enjoys both aspects. In formulation, she loves dealing with the various chemicals and recipes and the fact that she has the freedom to set her own rhythm to meet her goals. She also enjoys the day-to-day variety in her work. 

Patty has had many years of experience in quality. She previously worked in the quality department at Oakley for 12 years. She primarily tested military protective eyewear and sunglasses that met specifications and ANSI and ISO requirements. She would test these products for ballistics, degradation, optics, durability, and performance.

Patty reflected that she loves working for the Laboratory team and COPAN in general because the company feels like working with a family.  She said, “The quality team is a great team to work with and filled with genuine people who make you feel welcome. They have a way about them that makes you feel like you have been here a long time, even if you are new. A large part of why I like my job is the people.”  

Outside of work, Patty enjoys spending time with her husband and teenage daughter and loves activities with them, like going to the movies and having fun at amusement parks. Patty loves Harry Potter. Although she enjoys the movies, she considers the books superior because the details and emotions are better captured in writing.

Giovana has been working with COPAN for about a year as a Lab Assistant. Her responsibilities include environmental testing, air quality monitoring, bioburden control, product sterility testing, surface testing, and water testing. She also monitors samples to make sure products are acceptable and ready to pass their mandatory safety quarantine periods before being released to customers.

Giovana’s background is in the medical laboratory environment. She spent six years with Quest Diagnostics performing numerous lab tests of patient samples and enjoyed responsibilities in quality, environmental monitoring, quality documentation, and training. 

When asked what she likes about working in the quality laboratory with COPAN, she said, “I like the variety in my day-to-day tasks and that I really get to go more in-depth in the quality aspects than previous jobs. The variety and changing nature of the work keeps me on my toes and makes my work really interesting. I also have a great team to work with.”

Outside of work, Giovana loves to build and create things; she enjoys growing house plants, woodworking, and furniture making. Giovana also enjoys the creative nature of cooking and baking. She keeps an R&D mindset to many of her passions and loves to creatively tweak recipes to see how the changes affect the dish. In addition, she loves to test new recipes and experiment to find the best methods. She also loves reading Harry Potter and watching movies. 

Giovana is a gearhead and enjoys building and customizing cars. She is currently working on her Ford Mustang. When she gets out of her rebuilt and customized car, she enjoys surprising people with the fact that she is a woman who works on cars!

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