August 2006 Mentor of the Month Interview: Frank Henry Wians, Jr.
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. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
  12. Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
  14. 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?
    • Professor of Pathology
    • Director, Clinical Chemistry
    • Director, Clinical Chemistry Fellowship Program
    • Associate Director, Division of Clinical Pathology
    • Department of Pathology
    • The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    My educational background includes 2 Bachelor's degree, 2 Master's degrees, and a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Harvard University, while my career background includes 4 years as an Air Force medical laboratory specialist, 2 years as a bench-level medical technologist, and 25 years experience as a Director in various capacities, including a Blood Bank, Special Chemistry Branch, Chemistry and Training Branch, Ambulatory Care Center full service clinical laboratory, Clinical Chemistry Service of a multi-lab medical center complex, and Associate Director of a Division of Clinical Pathology.
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    • DABCC
    • FACB
    • MT(ASCP)
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    • ASCP
    • AACC (national and Texas Section)
    • ACB
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      Married for 36 years; 3 sons (Christian – 32; Jason – 30; Joshua – 28)
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Reading/Writing/Editing/Bicycling/Hiking/Movies
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      Japan and Germany
    • Favorite book/movie
      The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes/Captain Horatio Hornblower
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Spent a month visiting several cities in Germany, including Frankfurt, Berlin, and Munich
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    General clinical chemistry topics, including electrophoretic methods/toxicology/immunoassays/method evaluation and validation/ prostate cancer/bladder cancer/tumor markers/obstetrical chemistry/maternal serum screening for NTDs and Down syndrome/Gc protein and acute liver failure/role of osteocalcin in metabolic bone disease.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    Clinical colleagues with an interest in laboratory tests associated with these areas or in the development of better assays for quantifying specific markers (e.g., Gc protein) and the desire to help clinical colleagues with their research interests
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    Electrophoretic methods/toxicology/immunoassays/method evaluation and validation/ prostate cancer/bladder cancer/tumor markers/obstetrical chemistry/maternal serum screening for NTDs and Down syndrome/Gc protein and acute liver failure/role of osteocalcin in metabolic bone disease.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    An understanding of the benefit of equimolar-response prostate-specific antigen (PSA) assays, compared to skewed-response PSA assays, to the diagnostic accuracy of PSA testing in discriminating between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    No, I have had the blessing of a 36-year career in laboratory medicine characterized by 2 important factors: 1) I could not wait to get up in the morning to go to work, and 2) I have never had a dull day in my 36-year career.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    Teaching clinical chemistry topics to pathology residents/clinical chemistry fellows and trying to give them an appreciation for the power of an understanding of these topics to the practice of laboratory medicine. I estimate, conservatively, that I have lectured ~1,000 pathology residents and 6 clinical chemistry fellows over the past 23-year period.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    By not following my example. Unfortunately, I allowed my work to consume my life to the detriment of achieving an optimal work/life balance.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    Learning something new every day or solving a simple or difficult problem.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    Molecular biology/diagnostics is the future! The good news for clinical chemists is that recent advances in genomics are likely to be followed by even greater interest in proteomics and metabolomics that will provide new opportunities for clinical chemists with an interest in protein chemistry/methods.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    The ever increasing amount of knowledge that must be acquired is a challenge for everyone. It is important to develop perspective regarding the value of new laboratory tests that become available. The past two decades has seen many promising tests come and go. An example is myoglobin as an acute cardiac marker. One needs to avoid getting caught in the hype of early publications that may be based on inadequate experimental design. Critical assessment of pathophysiology, experimental design and clinical outcomes is required to avoid wasting resources on laboratory tests that ultimately add little value to the patient’s outcome.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    Learn as much as you can about as many clinical chemistry topics as possible. My personal preference was to know a little about a lot of difference clinical chemistry topics and a lot about only a few topics (i.e., my preference was to be “generalist” clinical chemist, rather than a toxicologist, protein chemist, immunoassay specialist, etc.). With regard to achieving any goals related to clinical chemistry, I offer 3 suggestions: education-education-education! In this field, “knowledge truly is power” and one of the best ways that I found for acquiring knowledge was taking as many AACC Workshops over a sustained period of time as I could and participating in every CE event available to me.
  12. Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
    Participation in AACC as a Workshop/Round Table presenter. Presenter at industry-sponsored events at annual AACC meeting. Serving as a Judge for the annual AACC Poster competition. Serving in the local section of the AACC in any capacity. Writing manuscripts for publication in Clinical Chemistry and serving as an invited Reviewer for the CCJ.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    By becoming known to key individuals in AACC, especially those serving on the AACC Meeting Planning Committee, submitting Abstracts/Posters/Manuscripts for publication in AACC publications, and submitting workshop/round table abstracts on novel topics for consideration for presentation at AACC meetings.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Balance your work life with a strong commitment to family and God in whatever faith you espouse, and above all, avoid becoming “a legend in your own mind.” Humility is a virtue. Lastly, remember the words of John Ruskin and James Autry:

    “Three things are needed for people to be happy in their work: they must be fit for it, must not do too much of it, and must have a sense of success in it.”

    John Ruskin

    "Work can provide the opportunity of spiritual and personal as well as financial growth. If it doesn’t we are wasting far too much of our lives on it.”

    James Autry

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