- What is your job title and affiliation?
Vice Chair for Diagnostic Development, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1970 and a PhD in Biochemistry from North Dakota State University in 1976. Between undergraduate and graduate years, I spent two years in the US Army Infantry. My entire professional career has occurred at Mayo Clinic. I began employment at Mayo Clinic immediately after completing graduate school as a special project associate in clinical chemistry; the special project was a trial education program to determine if Mayo wished to create a postdoctoral training program in clinical chemistry. I was appointed to the medical staff of Mayo Clinic in 1979 in the Section of Clinical Chemistry. In 1984, I created the Drug Laboratory, and serve as its Director. In 1989, I was appointed Head of the Section of Clinical Chemistry. In 1991, the Clinical Chemistry Section was merged with the Section of Immunology to form the Division of Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, and I was appointed Chair of the Division. In December 2005, I was appointed to the position of Vice Chair, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology at Mayo Clinic and have overall responsibility for the translational diagnostic test development program carried out by the Department.
- What are your Board certifications?
I am a Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Chemistry, certified in Toxicological Chemistry.
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
I am an active member of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and a Fellow of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry.
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
I have been married to Diane for 34 years. We have three sons and three beautiful daughters-in-law who live in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Norfolk VA (respectively by age).
- Favorite activities/hobbies
Outdoor activities, canoeing, motorcycling, ice hockey, downhill skiing, and reading for relaxation.
- Favorite places you have traveled
Australia, Canada, Greece, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Spain. But, we have not finished traveling yet, so I am certain there will be more on my list.
- Favorite book/movie
Book: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; Movie: Top Gun
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
Three week canoe trek from Great Slave Lake to Hudson Bay, Northwest Territories, Canada.
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
My day-to-day clinical activities are in the areas of therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) and pharmacogenomics. I am particularly interested in TDM’s role in the management of transplant patients. Over the course of my career, I have created and implemented 94 in-house developed diagnostic tests, most in the area of TDM. I am also interested in enhancing patient care through the delivery of state-of-the-art clinical laboratory services. My role as Division Chair has allowed me to build and foster an extraordinary professional staff of clinical biochemists, immunologists, and molecular biologists who deliver these services to Mayo Clinic, and to other health care organizations through Mayo Medical Laboratory.
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
I am an opportunist – nobody was interested in TDM at Mayo in the early 1980’s, so I just took it on, with significant encouragement from Dr. Charles Pippenger.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
I am currently examining the clinical value of pharmacogenomics tests.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
I believe my most important contribution to the field has been in promoting awareness of the key role the clinical laboratory plays in the practice of medicine. At Mayo case conferences, I regularly make it a point to highlight the role lab results play in the diagnostic process. I believe I have also played an important role in decision making at Mayo and with the AACC. I consider myself a strong facilitator. Within working groups, I tend to work toward reaching consensus to get things done. At Mayo, I have successfully chaired a number of major institutional committees, and as Past-President of AACC, I believe I advanced the organization’s mission.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
I do not enjoy the bureaucracy associated with the delivery of medical care.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
I go home at the end of the day satisfied that I have made a difference in the life of one or more patients every day. My greatest pleasures come from conversations with clinicians when I can reveal the strengths of the tests we offer to help them make an accurate diagnosis.
- How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
Maintaining a good work-life balance in the laboratory medicine profession is difficult. If you want to add value to the practice of medicine, you have to be available to the clinicians when they need you. That means being around, regularly present in the clinic and at conferences, and prepared to respond with meaningful information at all times (i.e. well-read and current in the field). Participating in family activities was an important part of my life. I made a concerted effort to attend school events, sporting events, and include my family in my travels. We made a point to travel long distance by car so that the family could see and learn the country, and we always planned an annual family late winter ski trip to the Rocky Mountains.
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
Providing the latest in diagnostic testing, which makes a difference every day in the life of patients. I live the Mayo Mission: provide the best care to every patient every day through integrated clinical practice, education and research.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
With the advent of the genomic revolution, we are at the cusp of a whole new way of diagnosing and treating disease. Laboratory medicine will be about the translation of this basic research knowledge into the practice of medicine. Our field is ripe for growth, being pushed along by the rapid evolution of scientific knowledge about the cell, cellular organization and communication, and how those complex processes result in organ and organism function.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a student in this time of explosive scientific knowledge growth. The biggest challenge we all have is keeping up with the rate of scientific advancement.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Enjoy your work, and take pleasure (and pride) from knowing that you make a difference every day in someone’s life.
- 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 enjoyed many years of involvement/participation in AACC. I am convinced the time spent has been valuable to our profession, and it has helped me grow professionally. I also experience the additional benefits of socializing throughout this time, which made it fun. I have met most of my closest friends through my participation in professional organizations.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
I attended my first Midwest Section meeting in Kansas City. A wonderful woman named Virginia Cook from Wichita, KS took me by the arm and introduced me to everybody. Richard Marshall was there – there was no greater promoter than Richard. At that point, my involvement in AACC was cemented. It is important for long term AACC members to serve the role that Virginia played – invite the new members to join in. Advice for the young laboratorian – get involved in your local Section.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
We are working in an exciting field – the work we do affects patient’s lives every day. Take pride in that, commit yourself to service excellence, pay attention to the details, be involved with your clinician partners, and you shall succeed and be happy.