- What is your job title and affiliation?
I am the President of BIOSAFE Laboratories, Inc., and the Chief Scientific Officer of BIOSAFE Medical Technologies, Inc. BIOSAFE Medical Technologies develops blood collection and transport systems to facilitate self-collected direct access testing. BIOSAFE Laboratories is a clinical laboratory that performs the clinical testing on the self-collected samples.
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background
I received my bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Upon completion of my degree I worked as a technologist in the Clinical Chemistry laboratory at the UIC Medical Center. I continued my education as a graduate student in Clinical Chemistry, and received my Master’s Degree while continuing to work as laboratory supervisor, and later manager of the Core Laboratory at UIC. My doctoral studies were also completed at UIC in Pathology, where my research focused on the homocysteine and its relationship to platelet function in the pathogenesis of ischemic stroke.
- 1986 B.S., Medical Laboratory Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago
- 1991 M.S., Clinical Chemistry, University of Illinois, Chicago
- 1999 Ph.D., Pathology, University of Illinois, Chicago University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois:
- 1985 Student Assistant, Chemical Pathology Laboratory
- 1986 Medical Technologist, Chemical Pathology Laboratory
- 1987 Senior Technologist, Chemical Pathology Laboratory
- 1988 Supervisor, Chemical Pathology Laboratory
- 1992 Laboratory Manager, Chemical Pathology and Core Laboratory BIOSAFE Laboratories, Inc., Chicago, Illinois:
- 1999 Assistant Laboratory Director
- 2000 Laboratory Director
- 2001 Senior Vice President and Director of Clinical Trials
- 2002 Chief Scientific Officer, BIOSAFE Medical Technologies, Inc.
- 2003 President, BIOSAFE Laboratories, Inc.
It was actually through the AACC that I came to learn about BIOSAFE, and how BIOSAFE learned of me. The faxed announcement for my research talk at an AACC Chicago Section seminar reached the desk of the head of R&D at BIOSAFE, who contacted me and asked me to come in for an interview. The rest is part of my employment history, as I joined BIOSAFE in 1999 as their Laboratory Director. My role here has expanded into research and development of new medical devices, directing our validation through clinical trials, and overseeing regulatory submissions with the Food and Drug Administration.
- What are your Board certifications?
I am an ASCP-certified medical technologist (1986)
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
I have been involved with the Chicago Section since my days as a student in the 80’s. My mentor was Dr. Robert Williams, who encouraged me to become involved in the AACC as a networking tool, and to stay current in the field. My involvement grew from being a member of the program committee, to later becoming corresponding secretary and chair. At the national level, I have assisted in several aspects of the annual meeting, have been a member of the local sections taskforce, and currently serve as a member of the Board of Editors for Clinical Laboratory News.
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
My wife is also a certified Medical Technologist, and we met in the medical technology program at UIC, and worked together as students in the hospital laboratories. We have 5 children, ranging in age from 9 to 17.
- Favorite activities/hobbies
While I enjoy golfing, much of my time is consumed with the kid’s activities. I enjoy coaching boy’s baseball and girl’s softball. I still find time to break away every so often to fish with my dad.
- Favorite places you have traveled
Honeymooned in Hawaii, which was beautiful. Escaped to the Bahamas for a weekend, which was fabulous. Experienced the splendor of the Canadian wilderness.
- Favorite book/movie
My favorite holiday movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. But I have to say that the movie that I could always drop everything and watch is Groundhog Day.
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
I went castle-hopping when I visited Germany and Austria with colleagues at BIOSAFE. Navigating through the backroads in a foreign country, in an ice storm, without the benefit of a tour guide and no cellular phone is about as adventurous as I get.
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
While I specialize in Clinical Chemistry, I have taken graduate courses in Microbiology, Immunology and Hematology. My doctorate is in Pathology, which means that I am quite familiar with Histology and Cellular Morphology.
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
I liked the diversity of Clinical Chemistry, which encompassed everything from the colorimetric principles of glucose testing, through the chromatographic principals of toxicology. At the UIC medical center, Chemistry served as the hub of all of the coordination of hospital laboratory testing. I loved the STAT nature of the Chemistry Lab, full of its challenges, and knowing that so many medical decisions were hinging on your ability to deliver results as accurately and quickly as possible. I was able to see first-hand the innovations that sculpted the changes of chemistry laboratory operations in the 80’s, such as the Kodak Ektachem and the Abbott TDx. These platform technologies enabled hospital labs to expand their menu, provide faster testing for assays that were previously classified as esoteric, and developed a new generation of multi-tasking technologists.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
My current research interests include finding novel approaches to testing self-collected blood, as I believe that enabling people to patrol their own health will lead to improved overall health care.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
I was part of the development team at BIOSAFE that brought the first ever FDA cleared home test system for Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Since this product was introduced in 2001, we have helped many previously undiagnosed people discover that their thyroid was the underlying cause of many of their generalized symptoms. We have also developed the first ever immediate response anemia screen, which has been cleared for over-the-counter use by the FDA. My graduate work in homocysteine and platelet function contributed to the body of knowledge related to the pathogenesis of ischemic stroke, and had a tremendous impact on the way that stroke was managed to prevent subsequent events.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
Quite honestly the salaries of starting technologists make it very difficult to recruit promising scientists into the field. While many opportunities exist for technologists outside the laboratory, not enough have been done in our profession to mentor the young talent.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
Trying to raise a family on a medical technologist’s salary was challenging, and led to my decision to continue my education. The rewards were actually immediate as the advanced degrees were completed. I was very fortunate to be able to continue schooling while working full time. Finding a flexible employer who recognized the benefit of supporting advanced education was the key.
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
What excites me is that the job is never the same two days in a row. There are always new challenges ahead of me. My favorite part is when I hear that I have changed someone’s life.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
I believe that we will see continued growth in the areas of chronic disease management, not only for diabetics, and heart disease patients, but also for individuals with allergy and asthma, oncologic conditions, multiple sclerosis, and chronic infectious diseases. Disease management has evolved into a partnership between the patient and a team of health professionals, which will involves patient education, self-testing, and specific therapeutic regimens to improve outcomes, delay or prevent the onset of complications, and returning to or maintaining a high quality of one’s health.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
With so many medical technology programs phased out or closing, maintaining a quality technical staff amidst a dwindling workforce will challenge all of us. Today’s young scientists are tomorrow’s supervisors and directors.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Make yourself visible. Get out of your laboratories and start networking with laboratorians from neighboring labs, and learn about what others health care professionals are doing in their fields. Attend your local section meetings and educational programs. Offer to help at the educational programs, write a summary or article for your local section newsletter. Your involvement is time well invested.
- 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 served in many capacities for the AACC Chicago Section, holding nearly all of the elected offices. My most memorable year was when I served as Chair-Elect in 2000, and was responsible for the educational programs for the local section, as well as hosting a Chicago Section program at the 50th Anniversary meeting. That year saw an increase in attendance at our programs and helped to revitalize our section.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
I became involved in the AACC while I was a student, assisting my academic advisor by monitoring the educational programs of the AACC Chicago Section. I saw that attendance at the Local Section Meetings was important in 2 ways. First, it provided laboratory professionals with opportunities for continuing education. Second, it provided the opportunity to build a tremendous network of colleagues from a multitude of backgrounds. Many of these individuals that I met 20 years ago remain my close and trusted colleagues.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Never stop learning. Continue to read your professional journals, embrace the new technologies, and attend continuing education programs. Innovative thinking will prevent your obsolescence.