Founder of now defunct clinical laboratory testing company was supposed to report to prison April 27, but a last-minute legal challenge has delayed that judge’s order
Anatomic pathologists and clinical laboratory leaders who are following the continuing saga of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes may be interested to learn that the former CEO’s attorneys are making last-minute legal moves to delay her prison sentence while she appeals her guilty verdict. At the same time, Holmes appears to be on a mission to revamp her public image.
Apparently, the twists and turns in Holmes’ never-ending story are not yet over when it comes to Theranos, its maligned clinical laboratory technology, and the company’s convicted founder.
On May 7, The New York Times (NYT) profiled Holmes in a massive, 5,000-word story that attempted to portray her as a flawed businessperson who now prefers a simpler life with her partner and two young children.
“I made so many mistakes and there was so much I didn’t know and understand, and I feel like when you do it wrong, it’s like you really internalize it in a deep way,” disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes recently told The New York Times. Anatomic pathologists and clinical laboratory directors impacted by the revelation that Theranos hide the fact that its blood testing technology was faulty may not sympathize with Holmes’ position. (Photo copyright: Stuart Isett/Fortune Global Forum.)
Legal Team Secures Last-Minute Delay in Holmes’ Surrender
Holmes admitted to the news outlet that the deep voice she used in public, along with her black turtleneck sweaters, were part of a character she created.
“I believed it would be how I would be good at business and taken seriously and not taken as a little girl or a girl who didn’t have good technical ideas,” Holmes told the NYT. “Maybe people picked up on that not being authentic, since it wasn’t.”
However, on April 26, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed her surrender date until that court rules on Holmes’ latest bid to stay free while she appeals her conviction, The Washington Post reported.
Just days earlier on April 10, a district court judge ruled that Holmes would not stay free while her appeal progresses. The 9th Circuit announcement curtailed the district court ruling. It is not known when the 9th Circuit will issue a decision in the matter.
New York Times Reports on Holmes’ Change in Personality
The somewhat odd New York Times profile of Holmes varied between reflections on her past crimes and on her current personal life, where she is known as “Liz.”
“In case you’re wondering, Holmes speaks in a soft, slightly low, but totally unremarkable voice—no hint of the throaty contralto she used while running her blood-testing startup Theranos, now defunct,” the NYT reported.
Holmes still lives in California with her partner, Billy Evans (whose parents own a luxury hotel chain), and their two children: a son who is almost two years old and a daughter born in February. She works at home for a rape-crisis hotline.
Balwani, Theranos’ former President and Chief Operating Officer, began his 12-year, 11-month prison sentence on April 20 in a Southern California facility for his role in defrauding Theranos investors, KTVU TV reported. Balwani has also appealed his conviction on the 12 fraud charges.
Holmes reiterated to the NYT past statements she made in court that Balwani allegedly exerted social and sexual control over her when they both worked at Theranos and were in a romantic relationship.
“She lived by entrepreneurial tenets that she said Balwani told her she needed to follow in order to succeed,” the NYT reported. “These included not sleeping for more than five hours, going vegan, getting to the office daily by 5 a.m., no alcohol.”
“[I] deferred to [Balwani] in the areas he oversaw because I believed he knew better than I did,” including on clinical lab activities at Theranos, Holmes said.
Balwani’s attorneys dismissed Holmes’ allegations, as they have in the past.
Clinical laboratory professionals can reasonably make two broad observations from the continuing saga of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes:
Justice for healthcare crimes is often deferred for those who have influence and money.
Holmes’ image overhaul may be a last-ditch effort to sway public opinion about her, in the event that she receives a new jury trial as a result of her appeal.
Dark Daily will continue to keep you updated on further developments in this case.
It was a special and unusual moment for this mother and son duo as they applied for acceptance into residency programs and were both matched on the same day
Pathologists and other clinical laboratory scientists who underwent the matching process will be interested to learn how a mother and son were matched on the same day as part of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) 2023 Match Day.
Match Day is the next step for medical and medical technology students to be placed into desired training programs in chosen specialties. According to the NRMP website, pairings are determined by a mathematical algorithm to match applicants with residency positions.
Cao, 54, is currently a research scientist/professor at the University of Kansas. She graduated from medical school in China and spent 10 years practicing internal medicine there before immigrating with her family to the US in 2006. Liu, 26, is finishing his oncology studies at the Medical College of Wisconsin where he expects to graduate in May.
Hefei Liu, MD (left), a radiation oncology student at Medical College of Wisconsin, and his mom hematologist Wenjing Cao, MD, PhD (right), a research scientist and professor at the University of Kansas, matched residencies on the same day during the annual National Resident Matching Program 2023 Match Day. Pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists know how exciting this day can be for residency applicants. (Photo copyright: Good Morning America.)
Pair Express Their Excitement, Awe
The matching program will take the pair to different locations for their training. Cao will be headed to the clinical pathology residency program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Liu to the University of Pennsylvania for the radiation oncology residency program, Good Morning America noted.
“When she told me she was going to reapply this year and it was the same year I was applying, I thought, this could actually happen. Somehow it did and it’s still incredible to me,” Liu said.
Cao is also thrilled. “This is incredible and amazing, something I feel very excited about. I never thought I would go through this process with my son together,” she told Good Morning America.
National Resident Matching Program
Though this is a special and rare moment, it’s not the first time the NRMP matched a parent/child in the Main Residency Match. However, Stephanie Bartek, Senior Communications Analyst for the NRMP, told Dark Daily that the NRMP does not track whether applicants are related, so there is no way to provide odds of it occurring.
The NRMP has matched physicians to residency training programs since 1952, but in 1984 it formalized the Medical Specialties Matching Program (MSMP) which matches physicians into fellowships and subspecialty training programs.
The first fellowship match was for Colon and Rectal Surgery. Since then, the NRMP has grown the MSMP to 73 subspecialties in 20 separate fellowship Matches, according to an NRMP press release.
The report shows 13,919 active applicants competed for 13,365 fellowship positions offered by 5,734 programs, according to the press release.
“For the past 70 years, the NRMP has been proud to play a part in helping physicians transition into residency training and begin careers serving their patients and community,” she added.
Age is Only a Number
Cao hopes her match will impact individuals who are holding back from following their desires.
“I hope my story can inspire so many others like me, at my age, [in their] 50s, and as a mother, as a woman, as an immigrant, [anyone] can pursue their dream, as long as you want it,” she said. “It’s your dream, put hard work on it. Keep positive. Stay motivated. You can get it.”
Her son Liu mirrored her sentiment. “If you see your parents or any of your family members who are interested in pursuing medicine and they have an interest, but they clearly have some sort of obstacles in their life, you should … be supportive of them and encourage them to pursue that dream because I think with dedication, hard work, and sometimes just even luck, that you can truly achieve your success.”
With the demand for pathologists in the United States outstripping the supply, Wenjing Cao, MD, PhD, may have her pick of positions when she finishes her pathology residency program and any pathology fellowship programs she may undertake.
The presentation was made in front of 950 attendees. During the presentation, several of McGonnagle’s peers described the multiple ways that he regularly supports the profession of clinical laboratory medicine.
In 1986, McGonnagle was engaged by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) to develop the concept of a new, tabloid-sized, color magazine to be called CAP Today. It was January 1987 when monthly publication of CAP Today formally commenced.
During last week’s Executive War College on Diagnostic, Laboratory, and Pathology Management in New Orleans, Bob McGonnagle (center right) was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his 38 years as Publisher of CAP Today, along with his innumerable contributions to advancing the clinical laboratory and anatomic pathology professions. McGonnagle is joined by Robert Michel, founder of the Executive War College on his right; Al Lui, MD, of Innovative Pathology Medical Group on his far right; and Stan Schofield of Compass Group on his left. (Photo copyright: The Dark Report.)
38 Years as Publisher of CAP Today Magazine
But McGonnagle’s duties as publisher are just the starting point of the contributions McGonnagle has made to the House of Laboratory Medicine in the past 38 years. He is regularly seen at pathology and lab meetings, conferences, and workshops throughout the United States and overseas. As a speaker and moderator, he is much in demand. He is often asked to sit in during strategic retreats and think tanks organized by laboratory associations, lab organizations, and lab vendors.
During the presentation ceremony, three of McGonnagle’s peers offered insights and examples of his unstinting support of pathologists, lab managers, and companies serving medical laboratories. First to speak was Stan Schofield, Managing Principal at Compass Group and past CEO of NorDx Laboratories in Scarborough, Maine.
“Bob McGonnagle is excellent as a moderator for conferences, meetings, and conventions and will always say ‘yes’ when asked to serve,” Schofield observed. “He is quick to recognize and adapt to emerging issues. He processes information from various parts of the lab industry, then generates insights and information all can understand and use to the benefit of their respective labs and pathology groups.”
Next to speak was pathologist Al Lui, MD, President and Medical Director, at Innovative Pathology Medical Group in Torrance, California. Lui has been active on committees and initiatives of CAP for decades. “Recognition of Bob McGonnagle’s past and continuing contributions to the profession of pathology and laboratory medicine is long overdue,” he said.
McGonnagle as Farmer, Fan of Classical Music, and Oenophile
Lui then presented slides that showed the range of McGonnagle’s activities outside of his publishing responsibilities. For example, Bob is remote manager of two inherited family farms in Iowa that produce corn, soybeans, and cattle. His wife competes in equestrian events. They are wine aficionados and close personal friends with one of Napa Valley’s most respected vintners.
One key figure in McGonnagle’s publishing activities is the Editor of CAP TodaySherrie Rice. She has served in this role since 1987 and thus has collaborated with Bob for the 38 years of CAP Today’s publication. “His leadership of the periodicals department at the CAP has been brilliant and working alongside him for more than three decades has been the gift of a lifetime,” Rice noted.
Rice also described an underappreciated aspect of McGonnagle’s efforts as Publisher. “Bob constantly works to connect the IVD manufacturers and lab vendors with labs that need and benefit from these solutions,” she noted. “He is quick to recognize emerging technologies and help explain them with in-depth stories in CAP Today that help pathologists and lab managers better understand when such innovations are ready to be implemented.”
A Career That Spans Five Decades
As McGonnagle was handed his Lifetime Achievement Award, Robert Michel, Founder of the Executive War College and Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily and its sister publication The Dark Report, made several observations. “Bob McGonnagle has all the hallmarks of a loyal friend. He is always willing to help and never asks for anything in return,” Michel noted. “He is discreet and trustworthy, with keen powers of observation and analysis. Our profession is blessed that his career and contributions have spanned five decades.”
All of Bob McGonnagle’s colleagues, friends, and associates are encouraged to use social media to send him congratulations and notes of appreciation for his 38 years of service as Publisher of CAP Today, and for his many contributions to the clinical laboratory and pathology professions.
Here are social media links where it would be appropriate to post comments about Bob McGonnagle, with best wishes, congratulations, and examples of his selfless support:
Executives and pathologists from many of the nation’s most prominent clinical laboratories are on their way to the Crescent City today to share best practices, hear case studies from innovative labs, and network
All this is happening amidst important changes to healthcare and medicine in the United States. “Today, the US healthcare system is transforming itself at a steady pace,” explained Robert L. Michel, Editor-in-Chief of The Dark Report and Founder of the Executive War College. “Big multi-hospital health systems are merging with each other, and payers are slashing reimbursement for many medical lab tests, even as healthcare consumers want direct access to clinical laboratory tests and the full record of their lab test history.
“Each of these developments has major implications in how clinical laboratories serve their parent organizations, offer services directly to consumers, and negotiate with payers for fair reimbursement as in-network providers,” Michel added. “Attending the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management equips lab leaders with the tools they’ll need to make smart decisions during these challenging times.”
Now in its 28th year, the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management convenes April 25-26 in New Orleans. Executive War College extends to a third day with three full-day workshops: LEAN fundamentals for lab leaders, a genetic testing program track, and a digital pathology track. Learn more at www.ExecutiveWarCollege.com. (Photo copyright: The Dark Intelligence Group.)
Challenges and Opportunities for Clinical Laboratories
With major changes unfolding in the delivery and reimbursement of clinical services, clinical laboratory and pathology practice leaders need effective ways to respond to the evolving needs of physicians, patients, and payers. As The Dark Report has often covered, three overlapping areas are a source of tension and financial pressure for labs:
Day-to-day pressures to manage costs in the clinical laboratory or pathology practice.
The growing demand for genetic testing, accompanied by reimbursement challenges.
Evolving consumer expectations in how they receive medical care and interact with providers.
Addressing all three issues and much more, the 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management features more than 80 sessions with up to 125 lab managers, consultants, vendors, and in vitro diagnostic (IVD) experts as speakers and panelists.
Old-School Lab Rules Have Evolved into New-School Lab Rules
Tuesday’s keynote general sessions (to be reported exclusively in Wednesday’s Dark Daily ebriefing) will include four points of interest for clinical laboratory and pathology leaders who are managing change and pursuing new opportunities:
Positioning the lab to prosper by serving healthcare’s new consumers, new care models, new payment models, and more, with Michel at the podium.
How old-school lab rules have evolved into new-school lab rules and ways to transition the lab through today’s disrupters in healthcare and the clinical laboratory marketplace, with Stan Schofield, Managing Principal of the Compass Group.
Wednesday’s keynotes conclude with a panel discussion on delivering value to physicians, patients, and payers with lab testing services.
Clinical Labs, Payers, and Health Plans Swamped by Genetic Test Claims
Attendees of the 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management may notice a greater emphasis on whole genome sequencing and genetic testing this year.
As regular coverage and analysis in The Dark Report has pointed out, clinical laboratories, payers, and health plans face challenges with the explosion of genetic testing. Several Executive War College Master Classes will explore critical management issues of genetic and genomic testing, including laboratory benefit management programs, coverage decisions, payer relations, and best coding practices, as well as genetic test stewardship.
This year’s Executive War College also devotes a one-day intensive session on how community hospitals and local labs can set up and offer genetic tests and next-generation sequencing services. This third-day track features more than a dozen experts including:
During these sessions, attendees will be introduced to “dry labs” and “virtual CLIA labs.” These new terms differentiate the two organizations that process genetic data generated by “wet labs,” annotate it, and provide analysis and interpretation for referring physicians.
State of the Industry: Clinical Lab, Private Practice Pathology, Genetic Testing, IVD, and More
For lab consultants, executives, and directors interested in state-of-the-industry Q/A and discussions concerning commercial laboratories, private-practice pathology, and in vitro diagnostics companies, a range of breakout sessions, panels, and roundtables will cover:
Action steps to protect pathologists’ income and boost practice revenue.
Important developments in laboratory legal, regulatory, and compliance requirements.
New developments in clinical laboratory certification and accreditation, including the most common deficiencies and how to reach “assessment ready” status.
An update on the IVD industry and what’s working in today’s post-pandemic market for lab vendors and their customers.
Federal government updates on issues of concern to clinical laboratories, including PAMA, the VALID Act, and more.
Long-time attendees will notice the inclusion of “Diagnostics” into the Executive War College moniker. It’s an important addition, Michel explained for Dark Daily.
“In the recent past, ‘clinical laboratory’ and ‘anatomic pathology’ were terms that sufficiently described the profession of laboratory medicine,” he noted. “However, a subtle but significant change has occurred in recent years. The term ‘diagnostics’ has become a common description for medical testing, along with other diagnostic areas such as radiology and imaging.”
Key managers of medical laboratories, pathology groups, and in vitro diagnostics have much to gain from attending the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management, now in its 28th year. Look for continued coverage through social media channels, at Dark Daily, and in The Dark Report.
The 2023 conference comes as clinical laboratories, diagnostics companies, and anatomic pathology practices wrestle with budgets that are strained by inflation, supply chain woes, and the faltering financial performance of parent hospitals and health systems. Meanwhile, lab hiring managers continue to face a severe staffing shortage of diagnostics employees.
“The current twin trends of hospitals losing money and labs struggling to maintain adequate staffing is without parallel in my 30 years of covering the clinical laboratory, diagnostics, and pathology sectors,” said Robert Michel, Founder of the Executive War College and Editor-in-Chief at Dark Daily. “This is a perfect storm that threatens the ability of labs to sustain high-quality testing services in a financially-sustainable manner. At the 2023 Executive War College, we are going to help participants get through this predicament by giving them innovative insights and best-in-class expertise they can take back and implement in their clinical labs and pathology groups.”
“Staffing and supply chain difficulties are not the only burdens facing clinical laboratories,” said Robert Michel (above), Founder of the Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management. “Equally stressful forces are altering how providers, payers, and healthcare consumers access medical laboratory testing and pay for those services.” (Photo copyright: The Dark Intelligence Group.)
Earning New Revenue Will Take Center Stage at 2023 Executive War College
The full agenda for the 2023 Executive War College has not yet been released, but attendees can expect to see keynote presentations and sessions devoted to pressing topics in the diagnostics and laboratory industries. Among them is how to best position the clinical lab as a growing revenue source.
“With financial pressures mounting, we intend to present cutting-edge advice from innovative clinical laboratories, diagnostics companies, and pathology practices about how they earn new revenue—whether that be through creating business opportunities in the community, uncovering new test reimbursements, or using technology to improve existing processes,” Michel explained.
Last spring’s gathering of the Executive War College featured 10 keynotes, 55 sessions, and three post-conference workshops. Participants at the upcoming 2023 Executive War College conference can expect a similar bonanza of educational and professional development options, as well as collaborative networking breaks, luncheons, and receptions.
“The chance to meet innovative peers from across the country, share lab-related challenges with them, and compare effective solutions makes the Executive War College a cost-effective investment for any laboratory administrator, executive, or business-minded pathologist,” Michel added.
Diagnostics Services Will Be Better Reflected at 2023 Conference
For the first time, the conference’s moniker directly reflects the diagnostic work associated with clinical laboratories and pathology groups.
“Long-time attendees will notice that we tweaked the Executive War College’s full title to emphasize ‘diagnostics.’ That term is an important addition,” Michel noted.
“In the recent past, ‘clinical laboratory’ and ‘anatomic pathology’ were terms that sufficiently described the profession of laboratory medicine,” he continued. “However, a subtle but significant change has occurred in recent years. The term ‘diagnostics’ has become a common description for medical testing, along with other diagnostic areas such as radiology and imaging.”
Keep an eye on the conference’s website, ExecutiveWarCollege.com, for updates about the upcoming program and to see the session topics and speakers as they are confirmed and announced.
“The Executive War College is the top gathering for lab leaders to learn from the profession’s best innovators and gain insights they will need to keep their laboratories at the cutting edge of clinical excellence in a financially sustainable manner,” Michel concluded.
Register today to ensure places for you and your management team at the 2023 Executive War College on Diagnostics, Clinical Laboratory, and Pathology Management. Click here for early registration discounts.
In an article for STAT, former FDA Commissioners Scott Gottlieb, MD (left), and Mark McClellan, MD, PhD (right), wrote, “The FDA is currently working from an outdated regulatory playbook that has left gaps in its oversight of safety and effectiveness and makes it more difficult to introduce new innovations. The [VALID Act] would strengthen protections for consumers and patients for both diagnostic tests and cosmetics and make it easier for manufacturers to introduce better products.” (Photo copyrights: FDA/American Well.)
Political Parties Negotiating
At press time, a draft spending bill had not yet been introduced to Congress as lawmakers from both political parties negotiate funding levels.
A source told The Dark Report that until legislators hammer out those details, add-ons such as the VALID Act or SALSA are stalled. There is no guarantee either lab measure will be added to the spending bill.
“We don’t have agreements to do virtually anything,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to reporters on Dec. 6, according to Reuters. “We don’t even have an overall agreement on how much we want to spend,” he added. Reuters reported that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate were $25 billion apart in their proposals.
Congress could also pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open for a short time, which would allow lawmakers more opportunity to negotiate.
Former FDA Chiefs Weigh In
Meanwhile, proponents of the VALID Act have publicly turned the heat up for the bill. For example, STAT recently ran two commentaries—including a joint piece from a pair of former FDA commissioners—in support of the VALID Act.
“The VALID Act would create a consistent standard for all tests, regardless of the kind of facility they were developed in or made in, as well as a modern regulatory framework that’s uniquely designed for the recent and emerging technologies being used to develop tests,” wrote Scott Gottlieb, MD, and Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, in STAT on Dec. 5.
Gottlieb and McClellan served as FDA commissioners from 2017-2019 and 2002-2004 respectively. They both currently serve on various boards for biotech and healthcare companies.
Pathologists, Clinical Lab Directors Express Concerns about VALID Act
Opponents of the VALID Act contend that LDT innovation will be stifled if clinical laboratories, particularly those at academic medical centers, need to spend the time and money to go through formal FDA approval. There is evidence that working pathologists in academic settings have legitimate concerns about the negative consequences that might result if the VALID Act was passed as currently written.
In “Might Valid Act Support Be Waning in Congress?” The Dark Report covered how on June 1 more than 290 pathologists and clinical laboratory directors sent a grassroots letter to a Senate committee asking for a series of concessions to be made for academic medical center labs under the VALID Act.
It is reasonable to assert that the majority of clinical laboratory professionals and pathologists are supportive of the SALSA bill, which would stop the next round of scheduled price cuts—as much as a 15% price reduction to many tests—to the Medicare Part B Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLFS). That is not true of support for the VALID Act, as currently written. Sizeable segments of the diagnostics industry have taken opposing positions regarding passage of that legislation.
For these reasons, both bills will be closely watched in coming weeks as Congress works to fund the federal government while, at the same time, incorporating a variety of other bills under the omnibus bill, which is a considered a “must pass” by many senators and representatives.