American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
July 2007 Mentor of the Month Interview: Mary Lou Gantzer
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?
    I am the Vice-president of Clinical & Scientific Affairs at Dade Behring Inc.
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    I received my Bachelor of Chemistry degree from the University of Minnesota , and continued my studies there for an MS in Bioorganic and Biophysical Chemistry. My thesis work involved isolating and characterizing transport ATPases. After finishing my Masters, I worked briefly in breast cancer research (early days of estrogen receptor investigations) at the University of Minnesota and quickly realized that I needed a Ph.D. for the kind of work I wanted to do. I was soon on my way to Charlottesville , Virginia and “Mr. Jefferson's University” to pursue a Ph. D. in biophysical chemistry. My thesis work again involved the transport ATPases, continuing and expanding what I had done during my Masters work. I stayed at the University of Virginia a year longer for a post-doctoral fellowship in bio-electrical analytical chemistry.
    I then received an offer from what was then Miles Laboratories (and later became Bayer Diagnostics) to join the R&D staff in Elkhart , IN working on in vitro diagnostics, and I was quickly hooked!! I “moved up the ranks” in Miles/Bayer, always in R&D, and moved to Dade Behring in the fall of 1998.
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    I'm one of those folks who never heard of clinical chemistry while I was in school, and have therefore not had any formal training in clinical chemistry. Certification is not necessary for a successful industry career.
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    During my undergraduate and grad school days I was a member of the American Chemical Society, and continued in ACS when I joined Miles, serving as an officer in the local section for many years; I have since dropped my ACS membership in favor of AACC. Shortly after joining Miles, I first heard of the AACC and clinical chemistry, and immediately joined. I am also a Fellow of the NACB and a member of the American Heart Association
    I am in my second term as a member of the Board of the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (formerly NCCLS), and also serve as the Chair of the CLSI Financial Audit Committee and Chair of the Quality and Ethics Committee.
    I am the Corporate Representative for Dade Behring to the IFCC.
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      I have two sisters, one brother, four nieces, one nephew and two great nieces. They all live in the Midwest , so I don't get to see them as often as I would like, but we have a great time when we get together!
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      I have two passions – needlework and beading! I go to “needlework school” for a week every year to learn new things, and more recently, have gone to beading classes, too!!
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      This is a difficult question! I have enjoyed every place I've had the opportunity to visit, both in the US and other parts of the world. I still have lots of places on my list that I want to visit – I tend to not go back to the places I've already been.
    • Favorite book/movie
      I enjoy mysteries and thrillers, and tend to read everything from Robert Ludlum, Patricia Cornwell, Catherine Coulter and James Patterson.
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      I guess the most adventurous thing I've done is travel in foreign countries by myself.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    There are so many fascinating, exciting areas to explore, and as my career has progressed I've had the opportunity to focus in various areas. While at Miles, I specialized in the development of urine chemistry products (the well-known “dipsticks”) for several years, including instrument development. Since joining Dade Behring, my focus has expanded into several areas, most notably cardiac biomarkers.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    My interest in chemistry started in high school – I had a tremendous instructor, and found the subject fascinating. I was also very interested in medicine, and found the perfect match when I was introduced to in vitro diagnostics and clinical chemistry.
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    My main interest is in cardiac biomarkers, followed closely by markers of renal function.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    I would say there are two areas that I would consider most important: contributing to the development of products that improve diagnosis and patient care and being active in AACC and CLSI.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    I haven't found anything (so far) in my career unappealing. At one point in time, I thought I was going to get an assignment related to developing fecal tests – I didn't get that assignment, and have always been thankful for that!
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    Without question, the most rewarding experience I've had was serving as AACC President, followed by being chair of the Annual Meeting Organizing Committee.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    I think I'm still searching for it! I try every day to find some time to devote to non-work related items (like needlework), even if it is only a brief time.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    Every day presents new learning opportunities and challenges! Knowing that what you do every day contributes to improvements in diagnosis and care of patients is a great feeling!
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    Several potential early markers for cardiovascular disease are under exploration, and I think some will emerge as significant for identifying individuals at increased risk for development of CVD, allowing early therapeutic intervention. In a broader sense, I think personalized medicine is not that far away.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    I'm not sure that the challenges today are significantly different than they have been for many years: keeping up with technology advances, work/life balance, etc.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    Identify what excites you in your career, and go after it! Accept new challenges as learning opportunities, and don't be afraid to take some risks along the way.
  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.
    Where do I begin? I feel that I have gotten far more back from involvement in AACC and other organizations than I have given. Being involved obviously takes time and energy, but the rewards are great. I truly believe that I would not be where I am today if I hadn't been involved! Hopefully, I have helped guide others to get involved and advance their careers as well.
  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 in local section activities (Chicago Section), and met people like Helen and Al Free, Lem Bowie, and Steve Kahn who encouraged me to stay active in the section, and to pursue opportunities at the national level as well. I think the most valuable advice I can give is to make your interest in being involved known, and always, always, always follow through on what you commit to do.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Get involved – it is truly rewarding! Also, be persistent – it may take a few tries before you get elected to an office in the section, or get asked to serve on a committee.