A 50th Anniversary Message from Dr. Olive Kimball

(Last Updated On: October 4, 2023)

by Olive Kimball, EdD (NAACLS CEO: 1993 – 2006)

This essay is a thank you to my lifetime favorite employer. I have had several over time, but the various NAACLS Boards that gave me yet another opportunity to serve higher education were the very best. I am writing because we are celebrating a significant event in NAACLS history, and this is to be a thank you to the NAACLS volunteers I have known. The memories cited here are accurate as I remember them, some 30 years ago, and are treasured.

This may provide a perspective of an early personal role within accreditation and my strong advocacy for the Board of Directors that hired me, as well as others with whom I worked at NAACLS. Coming to the new position, I was aware of the importance of accreditation. Faculty were often required to contribute documents needed by a university accreditor. 

Prior to my employment at NAACLS, I served as an administrator of allied health programs at a university. There, it was clear to me that programmatic accreditation was necessary for a program, especially for graduates. I had been able to foster accreditation for programs in Clinical Laboratory Science, Physical Therapy, and Public Health.  

Before stepping into the office on July 1, 1993, NAACLS had been without a CEO for a year. As I transitioned into the CEO role, the NAACLS Board included me in national meetings where serious issues related to NAACLS’ future were on the agenda. In addition to those serious issues, additional challenges soon revealed themselves at subsequent board meetings.

  1. How was NAACLS to provide the national and professional requirements that were increasingly influential in program accreditation?
  2. With NAACLS programs moving from hospitals to colleges, how could we encourage more programs to invest in NAACLS accreditation in the future?
  3. What would encourage more program faculty to support the accreditation process as site visitors and committee members? 
  4. How might we increase the number of programs seeking NAACLS accreditation?
  5. How could we best understand the roles of sponsoring organizations that provided financial support for NAACLS and how to develop relationships with additional professional organizations that might sponsor NAACLS?   
  6. How could we effectively address these current and emerging issues and carry NAACLS forward with a supportive but limited and changing staff?        

Learning that the new employer was an active and knowledgeable Board was rewarding. They listened to our concerns, provided information and direction, plus followed through on promises to support us in issues that NAACLS needed to address. 

The Board chair I first met was James Newland. He was completing his final term that summer. As a pathologist, he was able to invite me to join him at meetings weeks before I was confirmed as CEO. There were meetings where he explained NAACLS’s role within sponsoring institutions and the increasing federal role in accreditation that had other accreditors concerned. He was a thoughtful, quiet man who answered questions directly with an obvious concern for the future role of NAACLS. The full Board was there when we all met for the 1993 Board meeting in August. 

The incoming chair was Cynthia Wells. It was Cindy who really fostered the organization, rolling headlong into the national efforts supporting accreditation in the early years of the nineties. 

When NAACLS was created in 1973 through agreements from ASCP and ASMT, the founding members were Ina Lea Roe, Colin MacPherson, Ruth French, H.A. Spence, Jerome Benson, and W. Thompson. For many years following 1973, the AMA Council on Medical Education collaborated with health science centers to provide accreditation to individual programs. In 1976, it formed the new Committee on Allied Health and Accreditation (CAHEA) and served as the accrediting organization. It was this accreditation that served NAACLS until 1993.

The founding Board chairs from 1973 – 1982 were Colin Macpherson (1973-1975), Ina Lea Roe (1975 – 1976) and Ruth French (1976 – 1982). Although I never personally met any of these Chairs, the history of their educational contributions was well known. At the NAACLS office, we were fortunate to chat on the phone with Colin occasionally. He continued to serve as a site visitor to programs well into his later years. A picture of him in a smart kilt celebrating with others at an early party in 1973 survived at the NAACLS office. I hope it still does.

In the summer of 1993, the national agency that recognized both regional and specialized accreditors (including NAACLS), was the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation (COPA). It had planned to dissolve in the fall of 1993, so there was the question of what could or would take its place. The Board charged us with keeping close track of progress related to the changes.

Related to this action, we were also charged by the Board with attending an organizational meeting of an emerging council of specialized accrediting agencies. This organization soon became ASPA (the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors) and was a continuing educational resource for a broad spectrum of accreditation staff. It was especially helpful to me for many years as the fields changed over time.

NAACLS was privileged to have been invited to serve on one of the founding committees leading to another national recognition body, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The Board agreed that NAACLS should apply for recognition by CHEA, and we began that process. 

Before these changes were accomplished, the Board had already decided it would be best for NAACLS to have federal recognition in addition to that provided by CHEA in order that programs be eligible to apply for federal support. We applied for USDE recognition. NAACLS later withdrew from the recognition, as the Board at that time felt the department’s requirements began to limit the innovation of NAACLS-accredited programs.

That was a time when being chair of a NAACLS Board perhaps required a more active role than usual. Cindy and I were constantly on the internet or phone together preparing to appear before the USDE Commission on Accreditation. Office staff were also busy preparing numerous documents related to the application and arranging schedules.

By the early 90s, NAACLS accreditation had included HT, HTL, and Cytogenetic programs, plus approval for phlebotomy. I believe it was in 1994 that Pathologist Assistants approached NAACLS to inquire about accreditation. Within a few years, Essentials (a previous designation we used for the Standards) were adopted, site visits began for the Path A programs, and the Board expanded to include an American Association of Pathologists Assistants (AAPA) representative.

Many of these changes to NAACLS provided a need for the Chair and CEO to visit other professional organizations during their meetings. We found that ASCLS always included welcoming sessions for the NAACLS CEO to visit, provide information, and address questions. ASCP did similarly but in a more formal way. The other professional organizations welcomed a visit now and then, and their representatives to NAACLS were always helpful in keeping us informed of their organizations. 

Early on, Board Chairs were mostly ASCP or ASCLS representatives, but as time went on, others were elected. Cindy Wells’ vice chair became Chair Joeline Davidson. She and I were then actively working on Essential development for the Clinical Assistant and Pathology Assistant, plus later the CLS doctorate. A four-year term for chairs became limited to two, and I could work closely with several other Chairs: Kathy Waller, David Gale, Shauna Anderson, and Cheryl Caskey. They helped me round out my years with NAACLS.  

The Chairs also relied on other very capable Board members who were helpful in many ways: various Deans and directors, Members At Large, and Professionals outside of the participating organizations. Over time, they all brought differing and creative perspectives to Board issues.

It was always clear that the Board and staff understood and greatly appreciated the generous contributions of committee members and site visitors. For NAACLS, the Board’s actions relied on information and decisions made by committees. Committees relied on reports from site visitors on-site evaluations made face-to-face. In turn, program faculty and administrators provided information and support to the visitors. The goal of all component supporters of the NAACLS process was to produce qualified graduates and thus assure a standard level of quality patient care. Many Board and committee members also served on committees and as site visitors before, during, and after service on committees or the Board.

 I am proud to have had the good fortune to work with NAACLS Boards, committees, site visitors and loyal staff (who somehow managed to organize it all and make it happen for everyone)! Congratulations and sincere thanks to all!

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