Cracking the CBC Code: Essentials of CBC Testing and Unmasking Leukemia, Anemia, and Mimics Through Smear Sleuthing (Half Day)

Sunday, July 28, 2024
1:30 PM – 4:30 PM US Central Time
McCormick Place Chicago


This course covers the essentials of the Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential, including regulatory and quality components of automated testing, and peripheral blood smear review indications. Blood smear review requires a broad knowledge base, pattern-recognition skills, and data integration to appropriately pursue follow-up testing for diagnosis. We will focus on CBC with smear review interpretation to distinguish reactive from neoplastic cell populations, appropriate flagging of critical findings such as hemolytic anemia, and confirmation of CBC results. The course will be a mixture of didactics with audience polling and guided inquiry learning (e.g., facilitated group activities including virtual slide review) by speakers with expertise in medical laboratory science, hematopathology, and clinical chemistry.

Target Audience

This activity is designed for lab supervisors, lab directors (and/or assistant directors), lab managers (supervisory and/or non-supervisory), medical technologists, and in-training individuals.

Prerequisite Knowledge 

General knowledge regarding the following items will be helpful, but not required:

  • Peripheral blood cellular composition in healthy and disease states
  • Automated hematology analyzer methodology basics
  • Regulatory aspects of the clinical laboratory

What to Bring

A fully charged electronic device (e.g. laptop, tablet) is strongly recommended, but not required; virtual slides are viewable on smartphones, but smaller displays may make interaction with session exercises more challenging.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the basic analytical, quality, and regulatory considerations of automated complete blood count analyzers.
  • Distinguish reactive from neoplastic populations in peripheral blood smear review.
  • Recognize critical blood smear findings that must trigger notification to clinical providers.


Mark Girton, MD, ABPath, DABCC | University of Michigan

David Maciak, MHA, MLS(ASCP)CM | Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine

Nam Ku, MD, ABPath | University of California, Los Angeles

Maria (Ria) Vergara-Lluri, MD, ABPath | Keck School of Medicine of USC

Course Outline

  1. Introduction on the Basics of Hematology (40 mins.)
    Explore hematology fundamentals, focusing on CBC instrumentation, lab accreditation, and triggers for manual blood smear reviews.
    Activities: Lecture with audience polls by David Maciak; discussion of lab checklist items, QC and QA procedures.

    Break (10 mins.)

  2. Focus on Leukocytes (70 mins.)
    Delve into leukocyte identification, signs of neoplasia, and differentiating leukemia types, with a focus on myeloid and lymphoid proliferations.
    Activities: Lecture and participant polling with Nam Ku and Mark Girton; virtual slide review with facilitated case discussions.

    Break (10 mins.)

  3. RBCs and Platelets/Anisopoikilocytosis and Other Big Words (40 mins.)
    Discover critical RBC and platelet findings, including congenital abnormalities and infectious organisms in blood smears.
    Activities: Lecture and participant polling with Maria (Ria) Vergara-Lluri; virtual slide review with facilitated case discussions.

  4. Pearls & Pitfalls (10-20 mins.)
    Summarizes key course points and potential diagnostic pitfalls in hematology.
    Activities: Interactive session with Q&A, led by Mark Girton.