American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
May 2008 Mentor of the Month Q&A Session: John Savory
Welcome to SYCL's Mentor of the Month.  Questions and Answers will be displayed below...

Do you know of any interferences with Bilrubin assay from Tenofovir (HIV therapy) please?
Jessica Trusler, Johannesburg, South Africa

John Savory, PhD
Sorry but I have no idea if this drug interferes with any bilirubin assay.

Lately, it seems as if we are hearing about the new role of automation in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. Given your role as Molecular Lab director, how do you perceive how automation can be implemented into the molecular lab? Thanks!
Boston, MA

John Savory, PhD
It is now a few years since I was involved in our Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. However, I started my career in clinical chemistry at the dawn of automation and have been in a position to recognize the immense contributions of these advances to the entire field of clinical laboratory science. When I started out almost all tests were carried out with manual techniques using test tubes and manual pipettes. It would take an entire day for one technologist to perform a dozen calcium assays. Thus, without the advent of automation and data management, there would never have been enough personnel available for the development of a vast array of endocrine, toxicology and therapeutic drug assays plus the rapid expansion of the routine and stat testing. I see no reason why automation in molecular diagnostics should not follow this trend. Such automation would free up personnel to expand the repertoire in this area plus providing resources for new areas such as proteomics for early detection of neurodegenerative disorders as well as various cancers. I am totally in favor of automation in all areas of clinical laboratory science.

It is often challenging as an early career clinical chemist to juggle the service, research and teaching aspects of our profession. How do you recommend achieving this balance?

John Savory, PhD
It certainly is a challenge to stay active and productive in service, research and teaching. I was always able to organize my time and my mind to put an intense effort into one area and quickly switch to another endeavor. I was most satisfied with my productivity when I had an office adjacent to the service laboratory. When I was in close proximity to the service work I was always visible and available to resolve service issues and still be able to write papers and research grants and prepare lectures while maintaining this visibility. In the last couple of years of my career (I have been retired now for five years) my office was separated from the main clinical laboratory and I found it more difficult to be as effective as a clinical laboratory director and have a funded research program. Since I was always active as a researcher, I had to limit my outside professional activities so that I had the time for service and research. Other clinical chemists are very active in local and national societies and make great contributions, but the time spent in these activities does make it difficult to maintain a funded research program. Teaching usually is not a burden for most clinical chemists and can be easily fitted into a busy schedule. It is really service and research that take up the time. Writing research grants is immensely time consuming and since the “hit rate” is so low one has to constantly be writing new grants or revising older ones. It is really a matter of working very hard with few distractions and concentrating on the job at hand. I always planned my day early in the morning on my way to work so that I could start on something productive immediately on arrival in my office.