May 2006 Mentor of the Month Interview: Elizabeth Rohlfs
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. In what area(s) do you specialize?
  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 scientist 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?
    Technical Director, Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory Genzyme Genetics.
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    I have a BA in Zoology from Connecticut College and a PhD in Pathology from Boston University . I completed fellowships in Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Molecular Genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . Prior to Genzyme, I was Assistant Director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina.
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    I am board certified in Clinical Molecular Genetics by the American Board of Medical Genetics.
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    I have served as Secretary to the AACC Division of Molecular Pathology and as AACC liaison to the CAP/ACMG Biochemical and Molecular Genetics Resource Committee. I am currently participating in several initiatives led by the CDC and AMP (Association for Molecular Pathology) to develop quality control materials for molecular genetics and am working with the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) on the development of international guidelines for molecular genetic testing.
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    My husband and I have enjoyed traveling to many different places but enjoy the beauty and serenity of northern British Columbia above all others. Outside of work I spend as many hours as possible riding my horse in cross country hunt events.
Career
  1. In what area(s) do you specialize?
    Clinical Molecular Genetics for inherited genetic diseases, pharmacogenetics and cancer.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    While doing a post-doc at Duke University in molecular pharmacology I read about the work that was being done at the University of North Carolina Molecular Genetics Lab. At that time there were few molecular genetics labs that were testing for a relatively limited number of diseases. It seemed that the field had huge potential for helping patients and families in a way that had not been possible in the past. I also felt this would be a great way to combine the laboratory work that I enjoyed with patient care.
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    Currently my focus has been on the developing link between molecular diagnostics and therapeutics.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    Being able to contribute both ideas and data to the revision of the ABMG (American Board of Medical Genetics) guidelines for cystic fibrosis carrier screening.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    No not really. The many aspects of laboratory medicine (management, clinical practice, regulatory, development, research) are what make the field so interesting.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    Working with both students and staff to mentor or assist them with their careers is very rewarding as well as the delivery of the best, most comprehensive results to the patient. Because the field is so dynamic it can be a challenge to keep up with the pace and stay current with the changes in the field.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    It is important to be organized and focused on your priorities. Know when to take a break from your career and devote time to outside activities that you really enjoy.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    The development of new technologies, putting those technologies into practice and the expanding field of molecular diagnostics.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    I am probably biased because of the field in which I work, but molecular methods have become increasing important over the last ten years and I expect that to continue in the future.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    Finding the first good position where you can establish your reputation and develop a niche is critical to getting your career started. It helps to have a good mentor, contacts in the field, some exposure at meetings and through professional societies, such as the AACC.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientist in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    Get into a good fellowship program where you can have many opportunities and exposure to different aspects of laboratory medicine. When opportunities present themselves, no matter how small, take them. Waiting for the perfect opportunity that offers a clear path is often a mistake, take some chances. It is also important to be involved in professional organizations and attend their meetings. I have met many scientists at poster sessions that have ended up as important collaborators.
  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.
    I have participated in committees, reviewed abstracts for the annual meeting and question sets for the ABCC Board exam in Molecular Diagnostics.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    I suggest attending national meetings. If your mentor is active in a particular organization they can help you to make connections and recommend you for committee appointments. When you are on the committees participate and add value and you will be asked again.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Having read many of the mentor interviews, I find that this forum is providing very sage advice to young clinical laboratorians.
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