Interview with A Distinguished Colleague: Dr.Greg Miller
Sharon Geaghan, MD
I had a chance to catch up with Greg via a virtual interview, and he shares his insights with you as the second in a series of conversations with distinguished colleagues in our discipline
Q1. How did you come to the career decision to choose Clinical Chemistry as your profession?
I was lucky that a graduate student ahead of me learned about clinical chemistry and got me interested. Otherwise I would be mired in some drab research lab and would have missed all the excitement of clinical laboratory medicine.
Q2. Did you have a mentor and if so what did he/she teach you?
My mentor was Hanns-Dieter Gruemer with whom I trained at the Ohio State University Hospital when it was one of the top fellowship programs in the country. One of the important things he taught me is not to “polish the polish” meaning that a lab test only has to be as good as is needed for its use in patient care; we now call this “fit for purpose.” Another key learning experience was the importance of networking with colleagues. I still have collaborations with people I met during my training days at OSU and those friendships have led to many other productive collaborations over the years.
Q3. For newer chemists, do you have any pearls of wisdom for career development ?
One of the recommendations I give people is to make yourself useful to your employer and to any professional commitment. A job and a career are about how you can contribute to a team effort. Try to find a mentor, who may be at your institution or elsewhere, to help you find opportunities to get involved and to network with colleagues. Volunteer for projects and be sure your contribution is meaningful, correct and on time. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact it is foolish not to do so and will build trust. Just make sure you deliver on commitments, the rest will take care of itself.
Q4. What is your most enjoyable part of your professional work?
At this point in my career, I most enjoy creating opportunities for younger laboratory professionals to get engaged in contributing to advances in our field. I also get a lot of satisfaction from working on projects that will improve laboratory medicine on a national and international level. For example, I am co-chairing, with my good friend and colleague Gary Myers, AACC’s initiative to create the International Consortium for Harmonization of Clinical Laboratory Results (see www.harmonization.net). And there is my day job at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center that is as much fun today as when I started 35 years ago. I think we are all attracted to this field because of our desire to provide high quality laboratory service to patients and for public health. Doing that is quite satisfying.
Q5. What is the hardest part of your professional work?
The most challenging part is maintaining competence with advances in science and technology. There are so many exciting professional activities that it is a challenge to keep all the balls in the air and find time for self-learning. However, for a typical type A baby boomer, what more can one ask for?
Q6. The next generation of chemists have been characterized as looking for work-life balance; do you have advice for them in managing that balance from your experience?
Based on my previous response, I may be the wrong guy to ask. Even us more senior folks have had to deal with work-life balance, it is not really new. However, finding the balance is a challenge that each person must grapple with and we all have different expectations. I remind myself that one must be healthy and happy to be professionally productive over the long haul; so it is essential to make time for activities to ensure those attributes in life. I consider myself lucky that I really enjoy my professional work so it is easy for me to spend a lot of time on it. Learning organizational skills, how to prioritize and how to manage time can help to fit in as much as possible.
Q7. What developments would you most like to see occur in the field, over the next 5 years?
Medicine is increasingly dependent on evidence based practice guidelines. Many of those guidelines depend on laboratory results. I would like to see clinical laboratory professionals be part of the clinical society guidelines development teams. In addition, achieving more uniform and harmonized results from different laboratory measurement procedures would be a significant improvement in the quality of health care.