December 2005 Mentor of the Month Interview: Mitchell Scott
- What is your job title and affiliation?
I am Professor of Pathology and Immunology, Department of Pathology and Immunology, Division of Laboratory Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine and Co-Medical Director, Clinical Chemistry, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, MO
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background
I obtained my Ph.D. in Immunology at Washington University and then did a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Chemistry at Washington University under Jack Ladenson and Moon Nahm. I then spent two years in the diagnostic industry, which, while not for me, proved invaluable upon my return to academia.
- What are your Board certifications?
I am ABCC certified in clinical chemistry.
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
- AACC – Current President
- Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists (ACLPS)
- Past-President of ABCC and past-secretary/treasurer of COMACC
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
My wife, Barbara (Frey) and I celebrated our 30th Anniversary this year and we have two daughters Katherine, who is obtaining her Master’s degree in speech pathology, and Jennifer, who is a senior at Washington University majoring in psychology.
- Favorite activities/hobbies
Travel, photography, swimming for exercise, rigorous walking with my wife and our Labrador retriever, and enjoying good wine and malts with certain characters I’ll not name here.
- Favorite places you have traveled
Tough one. Have to say I have enjoyed everywhere I have traveled and have great memories from all the places we have visited. If forced to name the top three I would probably say Western Australia, Greek Islands and Spain but if you ask tomorrow it would probably be different.
- Favorite book/movie
Book - Otto Folin by Sam Meites
Movies – Major League and The Castle
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
My wife and I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge last month and the Great Wall earlier this year. Taking an SUV with absolutely bald tires from Asmara, Eritrea, at an elevation of 8000 feet to the Red Sea in a distance of about 50 miles was particularly exciting!
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
During graduate school one of the post-docs in our department was a clinical pathology resident doing research in a lab where I was doing a lot of my experiments. His name was Moon Nahm and when he took a junior faculty position he asked me to post-doc with him and to look at this thing called a clinical chemistry fellowship under Jack Ladenson. Moon and I had quite a good run on the basic research side of things and I also fell in love with laboratory medicine. My training in the early 80’s here at Washington U was the best thing I ever did and I am still here today with what I feel is one of the best jobs in our field.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
For many years I did basic B cell immunology work in collaboration with Dr. Nahm and others but as my clinical and teaching duties increased my research shifted toward more applied projects including clinical test development and test utilization studies which continues to be the focus of my lab today.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
Training as many fellows and residents as I have, it is a real joy to see so many of our past trainees become successful. Introducing this field to young scientists at basic science meetings for the last 15 years has lead many to enter laboratory medicine as a career. I have also performed clinical studies that have helped many new diagnostic tests come to the market.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
The regulatory and coding side of our business does not excite me. Thank goodness we have people who really like these things. I also get tired of hearing laboratory people say that we do not get enough respect. We have to earn respect because it won’t just happen by complaining about it!
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
Things that come to mind include: receiving the AACC Contributions in Education award; every time one of our trainees tells me they have found their first job; watching the impact factor of Clinical Chemistry surpass journals such as the Journal of Immunology and JBC and; serving the AACC this year as President - a truly enjoyable and rewarding experience!
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
Being able to help a resident/fellow solve a clinical problem or to make a decision that you know improved delivery of lab services and improved care are things that keep you coming back for more. Irritating Jack Ladenson and Ann Gronowski is also a lot of fun.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
I feel we are entering the next “Golden Age” of laboratory medicine. So many new tests for diagnosis, risk assessment, therapeutic direction, etc. are on the horizon that will need validation and utilization studies. This is occurring at the same time that the population is aging, the median age of pathologists and lab directors is getting older and reimbursement is shrinking. Taken together, the convergence of these scientific, demographic and economic events will provide new and numerous opportunities to laboratory medicine for some time to come.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
Eleven very smart people have already answered this and the following questions already and it is tough to add to what they have said.Nevertheless, identifying what you like best to do and deciding what percentage of time you will wear each of the three hats we have (research, teaching, clinical practice) is always a challenge.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Obtain strong research skills regardless of the path you plan to take. The ability to synthesize and critically evaluate the literature and to develop hypotheses will serve you well the rest of your life no matter what you do. Choose a mentor that will help develop your skills and teach you how to communicate well.
- Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
I have been able to give back to our field because of strong support and understanding from my wife and from my coworkers in St. Louis. Without Barb, Jack and Ann’s support I could never have become as involved as I have in AACC. Hopefully some of my initiatives as President this year, including recruitment of more young scientists to the field, increased awareness of AACC and laboratory medicine in clinician societies and continued success of the journal will be viewed as contributions that continued or enhanced the efforts of my predecessors and other leaders of the organization.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
I first volunteered in 1988 to be a Meeting Chair for a Midwest Local Section meeting and soon found myself chair of the Midwest Section. From there I got involved with the Membership Committee, Oak Ridge Conference Committee, the Editorial Board of Clinical Chemistry and many other committees and task forces. If you want to be involved let leaders of the organization know that you do. They are always looking for volunteers and they need to SYCL not recycle. Local section and division jobs are a great place to start in AACC.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Take your job seriously, but not yourself! Finally, read the previous eleven editions of this interview. There are a lot of pearls.