In the past couple of years, the common populace has become familiar with testing themselves for the coronavirus. This has led to the field of diagnostics gaining new popularity and appreciation from the common people, which it did not have before in the pre-pandemic era.
Trying to gain perspective from the head of a medical clinical laboratory on the shifts in the life science industry, especially in the diagnostic field as a result of the pandemic, Insights Success had an insightful conversation with Colleen J. Payne, Founder, CEO, and Director of Operations of MCI Diagnostics Center.
MCI Diagnostic Center is a National Clinical Reference Laboratory servicing all 50 states in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Providing innovation and customization of its services, it is a leading laboratory with a national footprint.
MCI is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Company creating exceptional value for its employees and the clients it serves nationwide. The organization proudly proclaims, “We are the Company that Can.”
Beginnings, Changes, Glass Ceilings
“I started MCI in 1998,” begins Colleen, “I am one of the original founders of the company, and I started this company as a diagnostic radiology firm, meaning we were only doing diagnostic and radiology imaging. Eventually, we turned the company into a full service– making it one of the largest diagnostic laboratories in the State of Oklahoma.”
Later, Colleen changed the trajectory of the company by making it the largest minority serviceable laboratory in the nation. Currently, MCI performs 2,200 different tests or test combinations for laboratory and medical health.
Admiring the success of MCI Diagnostics Center, we asked Colleen whether there were any major challenges she had to encounter on the way. Colleen replied, “Being in business for 26 years is always a challenge. The first thing to keep in mind is that you keep meeting obstacles with glass ceilings and these ceilings always keep moving.”
“Having the ability to continuously grow and understand the climate of growing a small business becomes significant,” shares Colleen, “Because ultimately, you always have larger box companies and laboratories that really don’t want anybody else to be in their space.”
Colleen thinks that while other companies and laboratories might believe that there isn’t enough room for everyone to participate, she is of the belief that there actually is. “Some of our greatest challenges came from our competitors believing that there was no room for a small competitor,” she said.
Provisioning Covid-19 Support
MCI Diagnostic Center is potentially one of the most accredited laboratories in the country. “We have more accreditations and processes than most laboratories,” says Colleen with pride. The organization has cutting-edge technology that allows them to stay at the forefront of delivering good medicine and the best laboratory practices.
During the pandemic, the laboratory equipped itself with facilities to do even the most esoteric testing, helping to save lives across the nation. The organization maintains cutting edge technology for testing and development, enabling them to support the government and the nation at the peak of the pandemic.
Colleen shares, “We were one of the first entrepreneurs that were on the task force with Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s COVID-19 coordinator. The only entrepreneurial laboratory in the country that had the equipment, the manpower, and the technology to provide COVID testing.”
She continues, “Over the years, we have made a lot of technological advances, staying on the cutting edge of equipment, processes, people, and technology to be able to compete in a global market. We have remained at the forefront of understanding what our stakeholders need– what the patients need, and the doctors need. We also have a lot of strategic partners and processes that allow us to be successful in this particular market.”
Leading not only through technological advances, but MCI Diagnostic Center is also leading via medical expertise. The combined medical experience of the organization’s leadership team is over 200 years, consisting of pathologists, compliance, and the services of Colleen..
Enabling Growth and Culture
“One of the ways that MCI has been able to grow continuously is because of technological advances in the medical laboratory space,” opines Colleen. “MCI is one of the most technologically advanced laboratories that you’re probably going to find because we invest in technology and processes. Because of that, we’ve become sort of a mecca when it comes to technology. We have everything geared towards having the fastest and best equipment and being able to get fast results back to the patient and to the referring provider.”
Another factor that enables MCI’s growth is its culture. Colleen says, “We believe in a culture of family. We share responsibilities. We offer extended off-time and flexible schedules. We definitely try to listen to the staff of MCI in terms of having workflow life balances so that our employees all can have the same access to having a healthy lifestyle.”
Colleen tells us, “Prior to the pandemic, no one really knew what laboratory services were. People just understood that we needed to give a specimen for a drug test or for other necessary testing but what we have realize now is that patients are now better informed. They understand how to save their lives.”
Therefore, a lot of MCI’s services are now being geared toward the patient. Colleen explains, “We always thought in terms of the doctor ordering labs with a patient and the patient following the doctor’s orders. But with COVID, people have learned in this country to be empowered to save their own lives.”
So, one of the things that MCI is doing is understanding the needs and requests of patients themselves. The patient can, of course, go to the doctor and get various tests done, but the pandemic has enabled people to understand that they can save their lives by direct ordering their own testing.
MCI is looking at the future of medicine– of every person being almost completely responsible for ensuring that they have the best healthcare. Colleen muses, “I don’t think we knew this prior going into the pandemic, that a lot of the patients could order their own test. If they don’t feel well, they can go and order a test. Coming out of COVID, one of the biggest learnings we have had is that each and every person has the ability to support and save their lives.”
Setting Goals for Expansion
Currently, MCI is the only one of three laboratories that are in all 50 states. It supplies hospitals and has supplier agreements with a number of facilities. But MCI wants to expand on that– Colleen says, “Our goals are aggressive. We are one of the largest Service-Disabled Veteran Woman-Owned laboratories in the country, and we are targeting become one of the super labs. We want to grow our footprint to have a global reach that reaches far beyond what we are doing currently.”
Follow the Dream
Colleen ended the interview with a few words of advice, “I am the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, and to the next generation of aspiring business leaders, I would say– follow the dream. Follow the advances and stay the course if you believe in what you can accomplish. Less than 10% of this country are entrepreneurs, and we make the decision every single day to either stay in or go out of business. And I would always say, just follow the dreams of what you have put in place.”