Dr. Henry Wong, Clinical Assay Development Scientist
Dr. Henry Wong, Clinical Assay Development Scientist
Matthew Manor

As a patient or family member, it’s likely a phrase you’ve heard, but have given little thought. “We’ve sent your sample to the lab and are running some tests.” But have you ever wondered what kind of tests they are running? Or, how do we know if the test is accurate?

At Kingston Health Sciences Centre you can’t answer those two questions without mentioning Dr. Henry Wong, KHSC’s Clinical Assay Development Scientist. Dr. Wong is responsible for developing and overseeing diagnostic assays (tests) for the Molecular Microbiology, Genetics, and Cytogenetics labs.

“My role is to help bring in new testing that we may not have in house or improve on the tests that we do have. Since I arrived at KHSC in 2014 I have been able to help expand the testing menu at KHSC by bringing in tests that we used to send away to Toronto, Ottawa, or even the United States. Performing this testing in house allows us to provide a quicker diagnosis for our clinicians and patients.”

“I spend a lot of time speaking with our peers in other hospitals and reading published scientific papers to learn what others are working on and what might be beneficial to have at KHSC. Before COVID, we also spent a lot of time going to conferences to learn about the latest and greatest developments in our field. It’s all about tuning our tools to best serve our ever changing patient landscape.”

Aside from bringing in the newest tests for our patients and families, Dr. Wong also spends a lot of time ensuring all the tests we offer are, most importantly, accurate. 

“We do a lot of monitoring to make sure tests are working properly and making tweaks to ensure they keep working properly. I think it’s important for people to know that when your sample goes to the lab it just doesn’t disappear into a machine that pops out a result. Each test has a whole team involved and includes a lot of check and balances to ensure it’s accurate.”

While the last couple years has been particularly busy testing COVID-19 samples, a few months into the pandemic KHSC’s lab was chosen as just one of four in the province to perform additional genomic sequencing on COVID samples. This allowed for near real-time surveillance information on COVID variants (e.g. Alpha, Delta and Omicron) that are circulating in the local community.

“We were doing huge volumes of COVID testing during certain waves of the pandemic, sometimes as many as 1,500 per day and then we were asked to provide the genomic sequencing because we have the next-generation sequencing expertise from our molecular genetics department.

We were able to find space in the labs to form a new department (Infectious Diseases Sequencing) and brought in all of the equipment and staff to have this new COVID genomics testing go live in about four weeks. It was a real team effort.”

Aside from COVID testing, Dr. Wong has been expanding the molecular genetics testing menu by using PCR and sequencing technologies used for COVID to identify other diseases, looking for markers in patients with cardiac diseases and cancer. Another of his projects that streamlines the rapid prenatal screening is also very close to implementation.

This week is Medical Laboratory Week, which highlights the huge role that laboratory teams play in delivering the highest level of patient care. Join us in thanking our labs team for the work they do here at KHSC each day.