June 2006 Mentor of the Month Interview: Robert Christenson
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
    • Professor of Medical and Research Technology
    • University of Maryland School of Medicine
    • Director of Rapid Response Laboratories and Point of Care Services
    • University of Maryland Medical Center
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    • BS, University of Massachusetts
    • Ph.D., Florida State University
    • Postdocoral Fellow, UNC Chapel Hill
    • Assistant Professor of Pathology, Duke University
    • Moved to University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1991
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    Diplomate, American Board of Clinical Chemistry
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    • American Heart Association
    • NACB
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      Wife, Vicki; Sons: Mark 19, Eric 18, Paul 15
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Sports and Gardening
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      Pike's Peak
    • Favorite book/movie
      Forrest Gump
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Went cross country after high school
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    General Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Evidence Based Medicine, Biomarkers of Cardiac Injury.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    Enthusiasm for science, Passion for good data, Collaboration with cardiologists at Duke early in my career.
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    Laboratory Medicine in General, Cardiac Biomarkers, Biomarkers of Cancer.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    Producing good evidence for cardiac troponin and natriuretic peptides, Teaching and Mentoring Students at all levels of training.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    Disciplining employees.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    Mentoring students; excitement of good research data.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    Never take yourself too seriously. Never lose perspective on your core values. Maintain a positive attitude no matter what happens.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    The privilege of making someone's life a bit better through my work. The challenge of lifelong learning about science and laboratory medicine.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    Emphasis on evidence based medicine for what we do. Emergence of proteomics techniques for diagnosis, monitoring, and therapeutic guidance; continued emergence of pharmacogenomics for therapeutic guidance, informatics.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    Striking the balance between finding a niche and being a general laboratory medicine resource.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    Focus on, and develop an area of expertise; if possible, on a high prevalence condition. Probability of achievement is enhanced if one works hard and is on the alert for opportunities; remember that luck is indeed the residue of design. Don't shy from taking leadership positions.
  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.
    Extensive volunteering in leadership positions, reviewing and editing papers, participation in committees, chairing guidelines groups. Funded postdoctoral fellowship program.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    I got started with a poster session at the 1978 AACC meeting in San Francisco . Network with people and let other professionals know you want to get involved. Once involved, come through on assignments and tasks. Give 100% effort and enthusiasm. Be positive.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Write down the characteristics of a professional; live your life so these characteristics are yours. As I tell my kids: respectful everyone; be intimidated by no one.
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