June 2008 Mentor of the Month: Donald Young
Donald S. Young, PhD

Donald Young was born in Northern Ireland and was schooled in England.  He graduated from the University of Aberdeen Medical School in Scotland, where his father was the Chairman of the Department of Pathology. He was fortunate to have a self-appointed mentor who guided his early career. This included internships in Medicine and Surgery and then a lectureship in pharmacology at the University of Aberdeen.  Dr. Young then became a fellow in the Department of Chemical Pathology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London where he simultaneously completed a PhD in Chemical Pathology and undertook residency training at Hammersmith Hospital.  Earl King was Chairman of the Department and Ian Wootton was Dr. Young’s immediate supervisor, both of whom were active in the early formation of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC).

To advance in British academic medicine a de facto requirement was to have spent some time at an institution in the United States.  Ernest Cotlove, who was Chief of Clinical Chemistry at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, had spent some time at the Postgraduate Medical School in London and facilitated Dr. Young’s further training at NIH.  George Z. Williams who had dual interests in biological variability and laboratory automation chaired the Department of Clinical Pathology there.  Using a healthy population of laboratory staff and repeated blood draws under standardized conditions the NIH team, of which Donald Young became an early member, was able to establish the relationship of intra- and inter-individual variation to analytical variability for many commonly measured analytes in blood.  At the same time the Clinical Pathology Department was one of the first two institutions in the US to install a laboratory computer.  Laboratory tests were subsequently ordered via Hollerith cards and an instrument was developed to positively correlate patient identification with the identification of blood tubes.  In addition, a kinetic enzyme analyzer was built to automate enzyme measurements.  The innovations in the Clinical Pathology Department at NIH led to a visit by President Lyndon Johnson. After one year at NIH, Donald Young was appointed Chief of the Clinical Chemistry Service, where he remained for another 12 years. 

Dr. Young left NIH to become Head of the Section of Clinical Chemistry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where he stayed for 7 years.  He initiated a training program in clinical chemistry, which attracted several outstanding trainees.  Dr. Young subsequently became Director of Laboratory Medicine and then Vice-Chair for Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  Laboratory Medicine at Penn was an early adapter of robotic technology to assist laboratory testing and, after 10 years of use, is currently replacing its first generation track, laboratory information system and all high volume analyzers at the same time.

Donald Young was privileged to be appointed Chairman of the Board of Editors of Clinical Chemistry when Stan King was appointed Editor and the journal its size and the cover changed from green to red.  He led the push to internationalize the journal and to highlight its interest beyond analytical methods. Another important change was the introduction of Technical Briefs to publish important information but of appeal to a small number of clinical chemists.  He was one of the organizers of the first Arnold O. Beckman conference of the AACC.  Later he was elected President of the AACC.  He established its current organizational structure and created the concept of Divisions.  He was twice elected President of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC), where, amongst many other things, he introduced the same organization structure as he had done for AACC.  Dr. Young has also been active in the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists for which he has been co-organizer of four annual meetings.

Dr. Young’s current main interest within the AACC is in building bridges between the AACC and clinical professional societies.

Page Access: