American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
April 2010 Mentor of the Month Interview: James Boyd
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?
    • Associate Professor of Pathology
    • Director of Core Laboratory Automation
    • Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry and Toxicology
    • Director of Systems Engineering
    • Medical Director of the Student Health Laborator
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    Undergraduate: University of Colorado (Boulder) – BS Applied Mathematics Graduate: Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO – MD Residency and Fellowship: Division of Laboratory Medicine, Departments of Pathology and Medicine, Washington University and Barnes Hospital, St. Louis MO
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    In the era in which I trained, I was convinced (as were others) that I would never need Board certification unless I went into private practice, so I did not pursue certification directly out of residency or later in my career. This turned out to be a dubious decision in view of the increasing attention paid to credentialing by health care institutions (private or academic), patients and third party payers more than 20 years after I completed training. I would not recommend this route to any current trainee. CREDENTIALING IS IMPORTANT, DO NOT NEGLECT IT!
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    • American Association for Clinical Chemistry
    • Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
    • American Medical Association
    • Association of Clinical Scientists
    • Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists
    • CLSI
    • ISO
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      Barbara and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in 2009 and have 4 sons and 5 grandchildren.
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Music – singing classical choral music, church music, playing piano and tympani Running – somewhat curtailed in recent years due to a succession of injuries, but I have run 3 marathons, as well as many 10 mile and 10 K races over my lifetime. Astronomy – I have my own telescope
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      New Zealand South Island
      Yellowstone Park/Grand Canyon
      St Petersburg Russia
      Kyoto Japan
      Vienna Austria
      Berlin Germany
    • Favorite book/movie
      A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
      Star Wars
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Raised a family! It’s lots of fun and can be “adventurous” from time to time.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    I have focused on clinical chemistry and informatics over my career. My special interests have been in the areas of lipids, reference intervals, laboratory automation, and statistical data analysis.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    When I was finishing up medical school, I realized that I had not touched a computer during my whole medical education and missed this aspect of my past life (I did lots of computer programming as an applied math major). I began looking for areas of medicine in which I could combine my medical and mathematical/computing interests. Laboratory Medicine turned out to be the perfect choice for me. I did my residency in Lab Medicine at Washington University, including a 2 year NRSA fellowship that dealt with potential applications of multivariate statistical analysis of laboratory data. My first faculty appointment was as Director of the Laboratory Information System at the University of Virginia. My collaboration with Eugene Harris at Virginia was instrumental in building my credentials in statistical data analysis where I have done much of my research.
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    I have been interested in lipid disorders and their role in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and renal disease. My research interests have focused on the use of statistical methods as tools to help better the understanding of clinical laboratory data. In this regard I have been involved in developing new approaches for the elaboration of univariate and multivariate reference intervals, and, in evaluating pattern recognition and various other multivariate statistical approaches as aids in test selection and test interpretation. My interest in computers led to my interest in laboratory automation, and the development of optimized robotic systems following the principles of systems engineering. It also led to my interest in the use of genetic algorithms to solve clinical laboratory scheduling problems. Over the past 2 decades, I have become progressively more involved in the editorial aspects of Clinical Chemistry and in 2007; I became one of the deputy editors of this journal.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    It is never easy to answer this kind of question. Most of us tend to be so blinded by the enjoyment we have gotten out of practice in the field of laboratory medicine that it is difficult to know our real contributions. I hope that I have been able to contribute some understanding to the subjects of reference intervals and statistical data analysis. However, I think that my longest lasting (and most enjoyable) contributions may lie in my editorial activities with the journal where I have tried to ensure that the information published is as scientifically correct as possible.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    I really enjoy virtually all aspects of the field. Sometimes it can be distasteful dealing with laboratory regulations, but, I always have to remind myself that regulations are mostly generally well intentioned and in the end accomplish good by keeping us focused on the essential aspects of laboratory operations.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    For me, the most rewarding aspect of my career has been the opportunity to be involved with the journal and edit papers. One of the more challenging moments in my career occurred shortly after the opening of the new, off-site Core Laboratory at the University of Virginia in the summer of 2005. The air-conditioning in the new building failed, and the humidity and temperature in the laboratory were both in the 90s. These poor environmental conditions led to the failure of multiple instruments, huge backups in laboratory testing workload, long turnaround times, unhappy clinicians, and more than a few new grey hairs. Fortunately, the laboratory weathered the crisis and was able to return to normal operation.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    Achievement of an optimal work/life balance comes with the realization that work is not the only important aspect of life. Maintaining a healthy outlook requires that each person nurture relationships with others, pursue enjoyable pastimes outside of work, and pay attention to his/her spiritual, artistic and benevolent sides. Make sure that you reserve some time for leisure and following outside personal interests to keep your sanity.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    I like the fact that laboratory medicine is not a static discipline. It is undergoing continual changes both in its knowledge base and in how it is practiced. Keeping up with the exciting new developments in knowledge and changing with the field keeps things fresh, and, there is always the satisfaction that our activities in this field are helping others.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    I think we will see extraordinary developments in the areas of genomics and proteomics, integration of standalone LIS systems into hospital-wide information systems and regional health information networks, further integration of automation into daily laboratory activities, and the development of more intelligent tools to assist the interpretation of laboratory findings.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    Staying current with the explosive growth in medical knowledge, adding value to the field by knowing what new technologies to apply, and recognition of and preparation for new growth areas in the field. For those who pursue academic careers, acquiring and maintaining external grant funding will also be an important challenge.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    Obtain board certification. Know yourself. Pursue areas that interest you. If you do not currently have the appropriate technical skills to advance into new areas of the field, acquire and develop them. Develop an area of expertise. Finding a good mentor can help boost your career. I will always be grateful for my friendship with and the knowledge I gained from my association with John Savory, who mentored me in many aspects of clinical chemistry.
  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.
    I have been very fortunate to have been involved with Clinical Chemistry, the scientific journal of the AACC as a reviewer, an editorial board member, an associate editor, and most recently a deputy editor. I have also had involvement with the Evidence Based Medicine Planning Group and with the AACC Professional Practice in Clinical Chemistry Review Course. I have served on several CLSI subcommittees, with the ISO/TC212 Work Group 2, and the IFCC Committee on Reference Intervals and Decision Limits.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    Attend the local section and national meetings of professional organizations. Volunteer to serve on committees and show yourself to be a productive worker on these committees. Your areas of expertise will soon be recognized, and you soon may be offered membership on committees based upon that expertise.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Enjoy the field of laboratory medicine! The opportunities to contribute to this field are great. All it takes is commitment to the field and effort on the part of the individual. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved with such a dynamic and rewarding field.