March 2007 Mentor of the Month Interview: Catherine Hammett-Stabler
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?
    My academic appointment is Associate Professor of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina , Chapel Hill , NC . I'm also one of the Associate Directors of the Core Laboratory; McLendon Clinical Laboratories at UNC Hospitals. In this role I serve as the director of the Toxicology, Clinical Pharmacology, Special Chemistry, and Pediatric Metabolism Laboratories.
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    I received my BA from Rollins College , a small, liberal arts school, where I majored in chemistry. I obtained my MS from the University of Florida in pathology and my PhD from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in experimental pathology.
    I've worked in a variety of positions in research, clinical, and forensic laboratories. After completing my masters I moved to Birmingham where I worked as a research assistant/associate in the Department of Pathology. While in this position, I also obtained my doctorate. I left UAB to obtain forensic experience at the US Air Force Drug Testing Lab, Brooks AFB in San Antonio . A few years later, I was recruited back to the University of Florida to take a position that included responsibility for the masters program I'd gone through; this was very exciting and meaningful to me as I saw this as an opportunity to give back something to the university that provided me with a good education. Then, about seven years ago the opportunity at UNC became available. Each position has given me unique opportunities for growth and development
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    I have both NRCC clinical chemist and ABCC certifications.
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    AACC, NACB, and Sigma Xi
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      My husband, Tom is at that “other institution of higher learning up the road” (aka, Duke) where he's involved in osteoarthritis research. My step-daughter Mary and her family are in St Andrews , Scotland for two years where her husband is seeking his doctorate in theology (we miss our two grandsons) and my step-daughter, Rachel, graduates from the University of Alabama Law School this spring!
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Backpacking and hiking with Tom and other friends from the Vulcan Trail Association, working with Tom on projects around the house, photography, music and sitting on the front porch reading
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      Haven't found too many places I didn't like - there are lots of trails that are at the top of my list in the Southeast, the Sierras, and the Wind River Range; and then there's St Joseph State Park where our group meets each winter.
    • Favorite book/movie
      I love to read, so I have lots of favorite authors: Anne George, Robert Heinlein, Dave Barry, Tony Hillerman are a few. There are a few movies I enjoy no matter how many times I've seen them: The Dream is Alive, Danny's Deck Chair, Big Fish are a few.
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Most people will expect me to talk about one of our backpacking trips – but I have to say taking up ice skating when I finished my PhD. Growing up, I'd loved watching it on TV and wanted to try, but the nearest rink was over 50 miles away. I signed up for lessons at a rink in Birmingham and had a blast! I skated with the Birmingham Figure Skating Club for about 6 years and competed in free style, pairs and precision.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    I've always consider myself a generalist but I particularly enjoy endocrinology and TDM/ toxicology.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    I was indirectly introduced to clinical chemistry by my college advisor, Herbert Hellwege. Dr. Hellwege served as a consultant to several environmental and pathology labs, one of which was the Lewis C. Herring Lab. Herring was (and still is) one of the world's leading labs for kidney stone analysis. Dr. Herring had donated several x-ray diffractometers to the school and several times a month, they would ask Dr. Hellwege to do some analyses on-campus. One day during my sophomore year, he asked if I'd like to help with these analyses, and I did until graduation. It was a wonderful introduction to one of the more esoteric and unique areas of clinical chemistry. My interest in TDM and toxicology began when I worked in a research lab focusing on the relationship between cytochrome P450 and the toxicity of benzo(a)pyrine. During this time, I also took advantage of UF's benefit of being able to take courses free. One semester, I saw Jack Gudat was giving one on “Clinical Chemistry and Toxicology” – I loved it!
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    My clinical interests are primarily toxicology, TDM, endocrinology. I'm involved in two very different research studies: one involves pain management while the other deals with osteoporosis.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    Teaching others how to use our results.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    I have been luckier than most in that I have been able to learn and grow with every job I have had. As mentioned earlier, each job has provided me the opportunity to learn something that has proven useful in my career. I decided a long time ago to take the bad with the good, focus on the good and just deal with the annoyances - the lessons and skills learned through dealing with difficult situations will prove useful as they are skills that will be utilized continually .
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    The most rewarding moments have been to witness the success of a student or trainee, particularly those who have struggled. Some of the most challenging moments involved decisions regarding when to stay and deciding when to take a challenge and leave.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    Make lists to help organize yourself. Take advantage of every moment you have with your family, no matter how small.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    You never know what you will see or learn.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    We'll see more emphasis on proteomics.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    Same as happened with generations before – 1. Keeping up with technological and scientific discoveries outside of laboratory medicine. Many of these will find their way into lab med. Try to skim Science or another general journal each week. 2. Recognizing that you have to keep up with regulatory changes.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    Goals are highly personal. Find your passion, determine what you need to do to make it happen and be aware of the world around you.
  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.
    By volunteering my time.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    Chemistry News (now CLN) I read that they were going to form an Editorial Advisory Board. Interested members were asked to volunteer by writing a letter expressing interest and why. I enjoyed the magazine and this sounded like something I would like to do. So I sat down and composed a letter. While working on CCN, I asked Joe Micelli who was active in the TDM/Tox division to edit a special section – he agreed to if I would join the division. A few years later I was elected to the executive committee as member at large and am now concluding my 14th year on the committee
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    SYCL gives you opportunities most have not had before. Take advantage of them and be willing to help others.
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