The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System – Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) at Dover Air Force Base passed their recent quality assessment inspection with flying colors.
To maintain their accreditation, the lab is assessed by the American National Standards Institute – American Society of Quality Control National Accreditation Board every four years. Four levels of standards are looked at during the assessment:
- International Organization for Standardization 17025 international standards for testing or calibration laboratories
- ANAB Accreditation Requirements 3028 national accreditation standards
- FBI Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories which are discipline-specific standards
- AFDIL’s own collection of standard operating procedures and other documents
The evaluation team was made up of subject matter experts from local, state or federal laboratories who are or previously had been qualified analysts in the DNA discipline and well versed in accreditation standards.
The evaluators spent three days interviewing AFDIL staff members, reviewed internal records and observed laboratory operation to verify compliance with standards.
“Preparation for our accreditation is a continuous process,” said Mark Wadhams, ARP Sciences, LLC, quality manager and quality management section-AFDIL contractor. “One of the main goals of accreditation to the ISO standards is to show constant improvement.”
Approximately two months before the assessment team conducted their site visit, AFDIL staff members were busy uploading copies of their standard operating procedures, general policies and standard practices for casework to the assessment team.
“It’s like preparing for a college class,” said Patterson. “They read all the material before class so they can come in and have a discussion and ask questions about the material.”
AFDIL staff also had to provide a list of staff changes, all the validations that have been completed since the last assessment along with those summary write-ups for their review, proficiency records and show conformance to educational requirements.
“Getting ready for an assessment, whether internal or external, I check for things common to the laboratories, such as making sure reagents are properly labeled, tested, have expiration dates and are properly stored,” said Patterson. “It’s like going into a kitchen and making sure food is being stored in the freezer if they need to be and ingredients are not expired. The reagents are our ingredients, and we need to make sure that our employees are using the correct ingredients and recipes by making sure we have the most updated protocols.”
On the fourth day, the ANAB team sat down with senior AFDIL staff and went over the assessment. There they revealed that zero findings were found during the duration of their visit.
“I’m very proud of how our team did during the assessment and the zero findings by outside DNA forensic SME validates the expertise of the AFMES-AFDIL team in regards to human DNA Identification,” said Dr. Tim McMahon, AFMES DoD DNA Operations director. “We are routinely being evaluated so this reflects the hard work they’ve put in.”
Featured Image: Sean Patterson, ARP Sciences, LLC, quality management section DNA analyst, checks expiration dates on reagents in the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System – Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. Image and story adapted from original by Nicole Leidholm, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.