AvitaCare Atlanta Laboratory Director Shaun Lunn never planned on a long-term career in the military. However, the experience he gained during his military service placed an indelible mark on his future career and desire to compassionately care for others.
Some backstory: In 2007, Shaun was looking to make a life change. After graduating from high school and enrolling in a couple of semesters of community college, “I thought, I need to do something different,” he says. With a family history of military service, he considered enrolling in different branches. Then he learned about the Army Reserves’ accelerated medical laboratory science program. “It seemed like a very interesting option at the time,” Shaun says. “I may have been watching way too much ‘House’ (the hit TV show that follows a maverick doctor whose talent is diagnosing rare illnesses). But the scientific and technical engineering challenges of the program really attracted me.”
Shaun signed up, and after eight months in Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and another eight months of clinical training, he earned his associate degree. Soon after, he was mobilized to active duty at Fort Gordon in Georgia, where he would begin three years of service with Kendrick Memorial Blood Center.
Driven by a clear mission and visible impact
Traveling across the country running blood drives, Shaun’s team could draw up to 1,700 units of blood in a four-day donation period. “At the time we were still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says. “We’d process the blood, and within four or five days the units would be in Afghanistan or Iraq for transfusion.
“We had a really clear mission and benefactor from our efforts,” Shaun continues. “There were people downrange who were getting shot and needed blood transfusions. I met a first sergeant who had lost his leg below the knee in service, and he received about 120 units of blood. For context, there are about 10 units in the entire human body.”
When he left the service with the rank of Sergeant (E-5) in 2014, Shaun knew he wanted to continue a career in laboratory sciences in the Atlanta area. After gaining experience at Georgia Cancer Specialists, WellStar, and Piedmont Hospital, he joined AbsoluteCare Atlanta (now AvitaCare Atlanta) in 2022. He currently runs the medical center’s lab operations.
“AvitaCare Atlanta is helping people who really need it.”
Being a member of the AvitaCare Atlanta team is similar in some ways to his military service, Shaun says. “What we were doing in the military had a real impact on people at the end of the line, and I’ve carried that with me, knowing that what we’re doing at AvitaCare Atlanta is helping people who really need it,” he says.
The military also introduced him to a diverse community with a large variety of cultural norms, he says. “That helped me develop compassion for people,” Shaun explains. “It gave me the ability to understand that not everyone needs to be the same, but everyone deserves the right to equitable care.”
Shaun has made a powerful impression on both the lab’s efficiency and its ability to provide AvitaCare Atlanta patients with comprehensive and compassionate care. After redesigning the lab’s workflow and integrating new analyzers, Shaun reports that the lab offers exponentially faster test results, including HIV viral loads and STD testing. While turnaround time was about seven days, patients’ charts are now updated in under four hours.
“Laboratory medicine is a vital, yet often overlooked, part of providing excellent medical care,” Shaun says. “Providers cannot treat patients until they have lab results—and often spend days waiting. We have an opportunity to improve the patient experience by delivering accurate results as quickly as possible, which allows our patient care teams to act far sooner than most clinics.”