- What is your job title and affiliation?
Professor, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UCLA Medical Center
Chief of Chemistry & Toxicology
Director, Olympic Analytical Laboratory
Director, Clinical Immunology Laboratory
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
BS in Medical Technology, Michigan State University Medical Technology Internship, Oakwood Hospital MS in Immunology, Wayne State University PhD in Immunology, Wayne State University Clinical Chemistry Fellowship, Washington University
My first faculty appointment was at the University of Arkansas for Health Sciences. Half my time was spent directing the chemistry and immunology sections of the clinical laboratory and the other half was focused on basic research. I was at the University of Arkansas for 6.5 years. I then joined the faculty at the UCLA Medical Center in 1999 as Chief of Chemistry & Toxicology.
- What are your Board certifications?
DABCC, Fellow of NACB, MT (ASCP), Clinical Chemist - California
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
AACC, Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians & Scientists (ACLPS), Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS), World Association of Anti-Doping Scientists (WAADS), California Department of Health Services Clinical Laboratory Advisory Committee, National Football Anabolic Steroid Advisory Committee, NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards & Medical Aspects of Sports
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
Married, no children, one Pug
- Favorite activities/hobbies
People watching on Venice Beach, beer hunting, coin collecting, woodworking
- Favorite places you have traveled
Europe - Brussels and Budapest
- Favorite book/movie
Book - East of Eden; Movie – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
Jumping out of an airplane with a parachute to overcome my fear of heights
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
Chemistry, toxicology, immunology, immunoassay development, and most recently sports doping
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
My interest in laboratory medicine started during my work as a medical technology intern and as a registered medical technologist. I attended a workshop on immunology early on in my career and fell in love with the field of cellular immunology. During my post-doctoral fellowship I was tasked with developing an immunoassay to detect IL-4 and have continued to develop immunoassays for various markers of disease. These areas are all an integral part of laboratory medicine so this prompted me to obtain a faculty appointment in Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. The detection of doping agents in sports was an area I never envisioned I would become involved in, but was made an offer at UCLA that I could not refuse.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
Clinically, I am interested in better integration of laboratory tests in the diagnosis and treatment of human disease and the development of new biomarkers for disease detection and monitoring. My research interests are currently focused on developing new tests to detect the use of banned substances in the sports world and the establishment of improved reference intervals to more effectively catch cheaters that dope with endogenous compounds such as testosterone.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
My most important contribution is to help clinicians understand how to interpret laboratory tests and become more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of tests offered by the clinical laboratory.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
The least appealing aspect of laboratory medicine is discovering that there are a few unmotivated and uncaring employees in the laboratory that forget that a person is at the other end of the blood sample.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
The most rewarding moment in my career was being invited for an interview at UCLA for a faculty position. The most challenging moment so far in my career has been to learn the field of sports doping and provide leadership for the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory.
- How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
Never take yourself too seriously at work and realize that you will always have unfinished business. This can be a good sign because those that can do are always given more to do. Develop a work schedule that allows you to succeed and fits in with ‘who you are’. Prioritize what is important so that you have time to enjoy life away from work.
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
Making a difference by improving patient care. New discoveries.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
The field of laboratory medicine is constantly evolving. Microfluidics and nanotechnology are transforming the way we do business and opening up exciting new opportunities. As clinical chemists, we will have an even more vital role in healthcare as advances in medical knowledge continue to emerge. As laboratory tests emerge and are performed faster and cheaper, there will be a great demand for scientists well-versed in the field of laboratory medicine. Our role in the interpretation and selection of laboratory tests will become even more critical and it is important for all clinical chemists to stay current as exciting new technologies are developed and implemented into the clinical arena.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
Our biggest challenge is to make the public aware of the vital role clinical chemists play in patient care. Our profession makes clinicians better at what they do and we have to determine effective ways to communicate this to politicians and the public. As an older scientist, I feel that we have not always been effective at articulating our worth and need the help of our young scientists to deliver this message.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Always push yourself to become better at what you do. Develop a balanced work ethic and help others fulfill your expectations. Find your niche in laboratory medicine where you are truly happy and your goals will be within your reach.
- Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
I try to give back all that I have received through my teaching and mentoring efforts. There is nothing more rewarding then to work with a young scientist and help them develop the tools to succeed in laboratory medicine. I have served on the Board of Directors and numerous AACC committees and have always tried to make decisions that will allow our profession to continually evolve and flourish.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
It is important for young people to get involved by volunteering for committees and other activities that need help. Volunteer your services as often as you can and be a team player. You will meet others with similar goals and make lifelong friends. One can start by becoming involved at the local section or division level. Sign up to give a talk at the annual meeting. This is a good place to establish connections and make new friends. Do not be afraid to talk to scientists you do not know at the annual meeting since you never know who may influence your career in a positive way.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Find a position that makes you happy and it will be easy to go to work. Make sure your goals and responsibilities are realistic so that you can be successful. Do not be afraid to move on after several years in one place if you become unhappy or a more attractive position becomes available. Do not take yourself too seriously and establish a balance between work and play. Time goes very fast and before you know it, you will be advising young scientists.