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Lab Testing Pioneer, Dr. Ray Gambino, Left a Large Imprint on Quest

One of the pioneers of lab testing and overall quality in the industry, Ray Gambino, M.D., passed away on January 1, 2022. He was 95 years old.

"Ray Gambino was larger than life at Quest Diagnostics, a true legend," said Steve Rusckowski, Chairman, CEO & President. "He taught generations of lab directors how to run clinical laboratories and was a national leader in laboratory medicine. His legacy of continually improving quality lives on throughout the country and especially here at Quest, where the greatest recognition of quality for our laboratories is the coveted Gambino Award."

He joined MetPath (the predecessor of Quest Diagnostics) in 1983 and helped guide its national growth from MetPath to Corning Clinical Laboratories and then to Quest Diagnostics.

"Dr. Ray Gambino was one of those transformative people who forever change people, organizations - notably Quest Diagnostics, and industries," said Harvey Kaufman, M.D. Senior Medical Director, Office of Chief Medical Officer. "He also worked on the benches to understand how things worked and could be improved for better diagnostics and better patient care. His explorations went to root causes and his observations were astute."

Known as the 'white streak'

Ray Gambino was affectionately known as the "white streak" for his speed at moving through the laboratories in his white lab coat. He loved teaching, treated his laboratory colleagues like family and is known for instilling the strict quality principles followed today at Quest.

"Dr. Gambino had a true passion for lab medicine," said Jay Wohlgemuth, M.D., SVP and Chief Medical Officer. "He would email and call me with new articles and findings in the diagnostics field frequently from soon after I arrived at Quest and until very recently. On issues involving quality of testing at Quest he was not just persistent but was insistent with me and all others that we take action to improve medical quality. In recent years, he was very proud of what had become of the Quest Gambino Awards which is the cornerstone of our Quality program at Quest."

After many years at our Teterboro, N.J., laboratory, Ray moved to Florida where he ultimately transitioned to the position of Chief Medical Officer Emeritus working part-time at our Miramar lab before fully retiring in 2014 at the age of 88.

His epiphany and impact

Born in New York City, Ray grew up on Long Island. After serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII, Ray attended medical school at the University of Rochester and then finished his residency at St. Luke's Hospital in Milwaukee. In 1961, he became Chief Pathologist at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey and was later appointed full Professor of Pathology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and in 1978 he was appointed Chief Pathologist and Director of Laboratories at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in NYC.

While an intern, Ray had an epiphany -- the labs could do a better job assisting physicians. He knew you could not think about disease, diagnosis, treatment, or monitoring without good lab results. Ray's early innovation in laboratory technology and commitment to quality standards helped push the lab out of the hospital basement and into the national mainstream.

Over his career, Ray trained and greatly influenced many residents including Dr. Paul Brown, founder of MetPath (the predecessor to Quest Diagnostics); Dr. James Powell, the founder of the lab that became LabCorp; Dr. Joseph O'Brien, MetPath's laboratory director; and Dr. Robert Galen, co-author with Ray of the classic book, Beyond Normality, about the predictive value and efficiency of medical diagnoses.

"Dr. Gambino inspired me to work harder, think smarter, and drive towards better solutions," Harvey added. "Generations of laboratorians heard him speak throughout the country and read his commentaries and are indebted for his leadership. We are all grateful for his graceful influence that is his living legacy."   

He is survived by his devoted wife of 68 years, Madeline Russo Gambino; and daughter, Catherine Garroni, a longtime former Quest employee; four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.