American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
June 2005 Mentor of the Month Interview: Emily Winn-Deen
Biography
  1. What is your job title and affiliation?
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
  3. What are your Board certifications?
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
  7. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
  8. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
  9. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
  10. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
  11. Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
  12. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
  13. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Biography
  1. What is your job title and affiliation?
    Emily S. Winn-Deen, Ph.D.
    Vice President
    Strategic Planning and Business Development
    Cepheid
    Sunnyvale, CA
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    I have a B.S. in chemistry from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA (1974) and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Boston University, Boston, MA (1978). I have split my working career between classical clinical chemistry reagent development (Bayer and Behring Diagnostics), technology development (Applied Biosystems), applied research (Oncor, Celera Genomics) and business management (Roche Molecular Systems, Cepheid).
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    I have worked in industry my whole career, so do not have any Board certifications. I was elected as a Fellow in the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) in 2000.
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    I am most involved with AACC and am currently a member of the Molecular Pathology Division and the Industry Division. Over the course of my career I have also participated in the management of the San Diego and Northern California Sections and have served on the Annual Meeting and Oak Ridge organizing committees. I am also a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      I have been married to my husband Ron Deen for over 20 years. We have 3 children, Geoff (UCSD ‘02), Ben (Virginia Tech ’06) and Amanda (UCSC ’07). We also have two dogs that fill our empty nest while the kids are away at college.
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      I bicycle in the summer and ski in the winter, I also sing soprano with the Schola Cantorum, a choral group based out of Stanford.
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      I love to travel. Probably the most interesting trip I have taken to date was a cultural exchange of genetics professionals in China and Mongolia. For vacation, you just can’t beat Lake Tahoe for year round beauty and relaxation.
    • Favorite book/movie
      I read all the time, mostly action adventure and mystery novels for pleasure. The best non-fiction I have read lately was Jim Collins’ book on management style entitled “Good to Great”.
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Raising 3 kids to adulthood is certainly the most challenging and rewarding adventure of my life. Aside from that, probably the most challenging was going skiing in Vermont with a bunch of accomplished skiers when I was just a beginner. They didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with taking a novice on a black diamond trail! Recently I’ve tried white water rafting and rode a mule down into the Grand Canyon.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    While I began my career working in classical clinical chemistry and immunoassays, I have spent the last 15 years working in molecular diagnostics, specializing in genetics and oncology.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    I got excited about clinical chemistry initially through a one semester class in clinical chemistry that I took as an elective my senior year of college. The lab for that class was actually a rotation through a local hospital lab and blood bank where I was exposed for the first time to the techniques used by clinical labs. I consciously looked for graduate schools that were associated with a medical center, and worked on a protein in the coagulation cascade, plasminiogen, for my graduate project. My first job was with Ames Division of Miles Labs in Elkhart, IN, where I met Helen Free. She made sure the first thing all new scientist there did was to join AACC, and the rest is history!
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    My current focus is on understanding the association between genetics and disease. This covers germline genetics for monogenic and polygenic disease, and pharmacogenetics, as well as the somatic changes that take place as part of tumor formation.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    I have been a passionate advocate for the introduction of molecular diagnostics into the practice of medicine. I have contributed to the field through technology development (12 patents in this area), through teaching at numerous workshops and lectures, through founding of the AACC’s Molecular Pathology Division and serving as it first Chair as well as the Newsletter editor for the first 10 years, and through advocacy for change in medical practice through work in the public policy arena. I currently advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services in this area by serving on his Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society (SACGHS).
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    Excellence in all aspects of lab medicine is important for patient care. I personally enjoy being on the leading edge for new technology, and would definitely characterize myself as an early adopter.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    Twice in my career I have had to shut down programs and lay people off. This is always a difficult situation, particularly if you are also affected by the lay-off. Ironically, in both these situations I learned how adversity can also bring a group of people together in a way that just doesn’t happen in good times. I found out how strong a team I had been part of, and am still in touch with many of these people years later.
  7. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    The thing that keeps me going every day is the knowledge that what I am doing will make a difference in a patient’s life.
  8. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a crystal ball to help me answer these types of questions. I predict that we will see electronic medical records moving to the forefront. This will help enormously with the practice of lab medicine, as it will make it much easier for the physician to review trends in a patient’s lab results over time and to keep important facts about patient history in mind when treating for their current presentation. I am hoping that a better personalization of the treatment and management of patients as individuals rather than just as groups will come along with this advance.
  9. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    I think the biggest challenge facing young scientists in general is to find a field they love to work in. Science just seems to be getting bigger, and with so many choices, it becomes hard to stumble on the right thing by chance. Rotations through all aspects of lab medicine should help a young trainee identify the areas that excite them the most, and allow them to focus on those areas. The other thing we all need to accept is that there are very few jobs where we love every single thing about the job. The trick is to recharge yourself with the fun part, and to act responsibly in carrying out the part that is just work.
  10. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    The first part of any scientist’s goals needs to be to get the education and training required to have a solid foundation for a career filled with lifelong learning. Change is a part of science and medicine, so you need to embrace the challenge to learn new things rather than to fear/dread it. The second is to work for/with people you can model as mentors. Think about where you would like to go with your career, and seek out individuals who are there today and can help you move your career in the right direction.
  11. Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
    Being an active participant in the AACC at any level will help you make friends, identify colleagues who you can learn from or discuss areas of common concern. My volunteerism has also been essential for making changes required by the profession in general to move forward. I firmly believe in the old Shaker saying that “many hands make light work” and that working together with colleagues on a project of mutual interest is both personally and professionally rewarding. Below you will find the list of things I have done formally with AACC over the years. Any member can find a group of like-minded individuals where their input and energy can help keep the profession vibrant.
    • Annual Symposium Chair, Gene Probe Technology: From Theory to Practice, San Diego Section of the AACC, 1986
    • Vice-Chair, San Diego Section of the AACC, 1987
    • Program Chair, Gene Probe Technology II: The San Diego Conference, 1987
    • Chair, San Diego Section of the AACC, 1988
    • Conference Committee, The San Diego Conference: Practical Aspects of Molecular Probes, San Diego Section of the AACC, 1988
    • Conference Committee, Chemical Approaches to Infectious Disease Diagnosis, Northern California Section of the AACC, 1989-1991
    • Chair, Molecular Pathology Division, AACC, 1989-1992
    • Newsletter Editor, Molecular Pathology Division, AACC, 1989-1998
    • Conference Committee, The San Diego Conference on Nucleic Acids, Molecular Pathology Division/San Diego Section of the AACC, 1991-1995
    • Conference Committee, Pacifichem '92: Tumor Markers, Northern California Section of the AACC, 1992
    • ACCENT Officer, Northern California Section of the AACC, 1992
    • Conference Committee, Pacifichem '93, Northern California Section of the AACC, 1993
    • Secretary, Northern California Section of the AACC, 1993
    • Member, NCCLS Subcommittee on Molecular Genetics, 1993-2000
    • Nominating Committee Chair, Northern California Section of the AACC, 1995
    • Editorial Board, Molecular Diagnosis, 1995-1998
    • EduTrak Co-chair, 1997 AACC Annual Meeting Organizing Committee
    • Nominating Committee Chair, Molecular Pathology Division, AACC, 1998
    • Planning Group Member, National Cancer Institute’s Translating Technologies Workshop, 1998-1999
    • Panel Member and Advisor, National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network, 1999-2002
    • Member, AACC Task Force on the San Diego Conference, 1999
    • Member, AACC Oak Ridge Conference Organizing Committee, 1999-2000
    • Member, AACC Pharmacogenomics Committee, 1999-2001
    • AACC Representative to the SACGT Working Group on Genetic Test Classification, 2000
    • AACC Representative to the CDC Genetic Testing Lab Forum, 2000
    • AACC Representative to the CLIAC Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing, 2000
    • Chair, AACC Oak Ridge Conference Organizing Committee, 2001-2003
    • Editorial Board, Journal of the Clinical Ligand Assay Society, 2001-present
    • Proteomics EduTrak Chair, 2002 AACC Annual Meeting
    • Observer, NCCLS Subcommittee on Determining Clinical Utility of Genetic Tests, 2002-present
    • Member, HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society, 2003-2006
    • Member, NCCLS Subcommittee on Genetic Methods, MM-1A Revision, 2003-present
    • Member, CDC Working Group on Developing Quality Control Materials for Genetic Testing, 2003-present
  12. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    First, become a member of the most relevant organization to your profession. Second, call the membership office and ask how you can become involved. Attend a local or national meeting, both for your own education as well as for the contacts it will bring. Careers are built on both abilities as well as on the network of people you know and can call on as the need arises. Volunteer what ever time you have to spare – large or small – and don’t just look for the immediate reward. You never know when one random good deed will bear fruit later in life.
  13. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Please get involved, and do not feel intimidated about contacting someone who is farther along in their career for advice. As scientists, we all know that more data leads to better decisions, so ask lots of questions. Above all, find a job you love. Life is too short to spend all those hours at one that is just work!