- What is your job title and affiliation?
Professor and Chief of Clinical Chemistry at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX .
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
I received my B.S. from the University of Houston (Chemistry), and M.S. and Ph.D. from Texas A & M University . After graduation, I fulfilled military service requirement as Captain, Medical Service Corps stationed at the First US Army Medical Laboratory at Ft. Meade , MD. This two-year military “post doc” appointment introduced me to the field of laboratory medicine.
- What are your Board certifications?
Ligand Assay Certification , Clinical Ligand Assay Society and Fellow, NACB
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
AACC, NACB, American Society for Clinical Oncology, International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine (ISOBM)
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
Married with two sons.
- Favorite activities/hobbies
My hobby is a small cattle ranch, one hour west of Houston , which I operate and manage in my spare time. I will retire there in a few more years.
- Favorite places you have traveled
Hawaii , Eastern Europe (East Germany and Czech Republic), Far East (Japan, China and Taiwan).
- Favorite book/movie
No favorites, I enjoy most books and movies.
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
Barracuda fishing 100 miles offshore Texas coast and level 4 white water rafting in Colorado.
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
Development and validation of cancer diagnostics for early detection of disease, selection of chemo/hormone therapy, predicting response to therapy, and early detection of recurrence.
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
I accepted my first and only position in Clinical Chemistry at a cancer hospital, which dictated my interests in cancer for the following 38 years.
- Were there any mentors that were instrumental in your career development? Please describe.
Sure, they were: Col. Robert G. Trahan, my supervisor at the first US Army Medical Laboratory; Geoffrey M. Brittin, M.D., my supervisor at MD Anderson Cancer Center for the first two years of my career; and Morton K. Schwatrz, Chief of Clinical Chemistry at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in New York City. My early supervisors introduced me to the field of clinical laboratory testing and academic laboratory medicine. I patterned my research and professional career after that of Dr. Schwartz. Each of these men played an important part in my career development.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
Cancer diagnostics and translational research (moving research findings into clinical practice). Specifically today, developing assays for circulating tumor cells, circulating DNA and micro RNA and defining their clinical utilities in the clinical management of cancer.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
Moving research tests into clinical practice such as protein tumor markers (CEA, AFP, HCG, LDH, B2M, estrogen and progesterone receptors), circulating DNA (promoter regions of tumor suppressor genes for prostate cancer detection), mRNA survivin for bladder cancer detection and circulating tumor cell assays.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
No, although the administrative duties are becoming overwhelming at times.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
It is always nice to receive peer recognition such as awards, appointment to advisory panels, and invitations to serve as a consultant. But to me, the personal knowledge that I have helped to improve the care of a particular patient gives me the most reward. To me, trying to meet all of the expectations of an academic/clinical career is the most challenging effort.
- How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
The balance is not always perfect. There are times when things must get out of balance to accomplish a goal. Then you must offset that in an equal and opposite direction, so that in the end all is balanced.
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
I truly look forward to making a significant contribution to the field, patients and/or my research every day I come to work.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
This is an amazing time to be involved in laboratory medicine. In the field of cancer, I predict that within 10 years and maybe less, no major treatment decisions will be made without first consulting a laboratory test.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
Trying to maintain an academic career in a clinical field and competing with MD clinical pathologists.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Any suggestions on how to achieve them? Become aware of the advantages and limitations that each position presents. Benefit from the advantages and don't get caught up in the limitations. For example, you may take a position in a clinical laboratory to learn the field and then move on at the appropriate time from academia into industry, diagnostic or pharma or business.
- Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
Contributions to post graduate education, and continuing education have been facilitated by the AACC. Opportunities to serve on Committees have also been facilitated by the organization or by networking through other AACC members.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
By volunteering to serve on committees. This is what I recommend to all of my trainees
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Take every opportunity to learn as much as you can. Learn from others how to effectively use your time and energy. Know your limits and don't take on more than you can be successful in accomplishing.