American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
April 2008 Mentor of the Month Interview: Barbara Zehnbauer
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 & Immunology, and Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. Also Medical Director of the Molecular Diagnostic Lab (Barnes-Jewish Hospital) and Director of the Molecular Core Lab of the Siteman Cancer Center (Washington University School of Medicine)
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    Received both SM and PhD from University of Chicago in Microbiology. Postdoctoral fellowships in Viral Oncology (University of Wisconsin) and Oncology ( Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions). Faculty member at Johns Hopkins (1986-1994; Director of the Recombinant DNA Diagnostic Lab) and moved to Washington University in 1994.
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    Board certified in Clinical Molecular Genetics by the American Board of Medical Genetics since 1993.
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    AACC, AMP, ASHG, ACMG, SCCM, ACLPS
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      Married to a trauma surgeon/researcher; one daughter, 21 y.o.
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Traveling, weight-training, reading
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      Australia, Alaska, England, Germany
    • Favorite book/movie
      Lord of the Rings
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Fun= Harry Potter FanTrip; Adventurous = Alaskan cruise with 20 friends
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    Molecular Pathology
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    Recombinant DNA techniques and DNA cloning were just starting when I was a graduate student. Although my thesis work was on bacteria, I always wanted to bring those methods to bear on human genetics and diagnosis of disease. This first began with studies of the genetics of human cancer and later to inherited disease and pharmacogenetics.
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    Translation of genetic research findings to clinical lab practice; development and implementation of quality lab practices
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    Teaching clinical molecular genetics to trainees and lab professionals
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    Administration and billing
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    Most rewarding moments have been through my membership in the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP). The significant and meaningful partnerships with colleagues working toward a common goal of molecular clinical lab excellence are tremendously inspiring to my work.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    What balance? Seriously, one must begin by caring for yourself and your family; maintaining your core values; keeping the big picture perspective; and having a receptive mind to learning new ideas and helping others to that path.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    As a Toxicologist, you are always asked to find what a person was exposed to, whether in the forensic or clinical setting. It’s much like a mystery, and who wouldn’t like to solve a mystery?
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    Advances in instrumentation will broaden the availability of molecular pathology technology but will change our professional role to provide expertise in test interpretation and clinical utility as consult specialists.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    Educating the public, the government, the insurance companies, and medical colleagues about the value of laboratory diagnostics in order to achieve effective test reimbursement. Understanding how different laboratory disciplines intersect and complement each other in patient care.
  11. 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? Collaborate widely and be a resource for your colleagues. Insight comes from many diverse fields of science and medicine. Make those connections by exploring problems that challenge your knowledge.
  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.
    Colleagues have given me the opportunity to represent AACC on the CAP Biochemical and Molecular Genetic Resource Committee. We develop proficiency surveys to address testing needs in the lab community. I have also helped develop educational collaborations between AMP and AACC
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    Follow your passion for topics in laboratory or clinical science.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Mentoring is a two-way street; you must be clear about what you are trying to achieve. There are many routes to professional success and advancement; find the one that is right for your interests and goals.