September 2008 Mentor of the Month Q&A Session: Michael Bennett
Welcome to SYCL's Mentor of the Month.  Questions and Answers will be displayed below...

Dear Dr. Bennett, as a Clinical Chemistry fellow a few years ago, I remember hearing about the challenges of establishing LC-MS/MS for NBS in several state labs. Because of the lack of this type of technology in many state labs, the NBS testing was not optimally comprehensive. I am wondering if this is still an issue or if most states are now performing more comprehensive NBSs? Thank you!
Rochester, MN

Michael Bennett, PhD
There was a lot of concern about 10 years ago in the biochemical genetics community when tandem MS technology was evolving and the technology was starting to be applied to newborn screening. At that time, most of the state screening labs did not have the capability to use the technology and, more importantly did not have faculty with interpretive skills. Moreover, the state labs often operated in total independency without any peer evaluation. A great deal effort was made by ACMG and the CDC to get states to develop programs that were coordinated and had excellent quality control. The country is now divided into regions for joint quality and proficiency programs and appears to be working very well overall. Guidelines have been developed for effective screening and recently NACB has developed guidelines for the second phase of screening which is confirmation of a positive diagnosis.

Dear Dr. Bennett, Your interview indicated that you have changed positions a few times during your career. I am currently considering a change and struggling with making that decision. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom? Here is description of my situation. I have been in a clinical practice setting for over 5-years. I have been successful in this position and I am relatively happy; but the potential for further professional growth in this position is limited. There seems to be some great opportunities posted right now for board certified clinical chemists with 5+ years of experience. What are some factors to consider when contemplating changing positions? Sincerely, Undecided SYCL member
Anonymous, USA

Michael Bennett, PhD
Dear SYCL member. Yes it is true that I have changed positions a few times during my career. I was very fortunate in my early (SYCL equivalent) career in the UK to develop a passionate interest in pediatric metabolic diseases and have been able to further this interest with each of my relocations. Initially, I trained and spent my formative years at a children's hospital in the UK. Most of my colleagues at the time would have predicted that I would stay forever in this tenured position until I moved to Philadelphia in 1988. There were several reasons for this move. First, the funding for research in the metabolic disease area in the UK at the time was negligible and I wasn't moving as quickly as I wanted to with my research. Secondly, as I had been in the same place for 15 years many of my colleagues still remembered me as a rookie and still regarded me as a junior member of the team. I wasn’t really regarded as an expert despite the fact that I had already contributed significantly to a major breakthrough. My second move was a result of recruitment and an offer of even greater opportunities to do good clinical science and basic research in Texas. As was my final move when returning to Philadelphia, which ended up being more of a homecoming but also returning as an acknowledged expert in my field. I believe that if you have a passion and you identify a mechanism to follow that passion, it is worth pursuing even if it requires a relocation to achieve those goals. I recommend that you really do take a long-term view when considering this move. Will you be happier staying put and possibly safe but frustrated or will it work better for you to make the move and go for your dreams. Relocation does allow you to finally clear out all of that stuff in the garage, loft and basement. As a final word, my wife tells me that this is it and fortunately I am in an environment that will sustain me well for the rest of my career. Good luck with your decision making.

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