- What is your job title and affiliation?
James C. Wesenberg, PhD, DABCC, FACB, FCACB
Regional Medical Director – Laboratory Services David Thompson Health Region
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
B.Sc., Chemistry and Biology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Hon. B.Sc., Chemistry and Biology, Trent University
M.Sc., Biochemistry, Trent University
Ph.D., Clinical Chemistry, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Internships - Community Hospitals in Windsor, Ontario and Wayne State University, Teaching Hospitals, Detroit, Michigan
Associate Director, Clinical Laboratories, Detroit General Hospital and Health Care Institute
Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Wayne State University
Visiting Assistant Professor, Chemistry Department, University of Windsor
Clinical Chemist, David Thompson Health Region, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Regional Medical Director – Laboratory Services, David Thompson Health Region
- What are your Board certifications?
Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Chemistry
Fellow of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry
Founding Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Clinical Biochemistry
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
I have provided continuous service to professional societies/organizations since 1983 at the provincial, national and international levels. I have served the Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists in many roles including President. I have served as Vice Chair for two AACC-CSCC Joint Annual Meetings and as Chair of the AACC-CSCC Joint Annual Meeting in 2009. I am currently a full member of the IFCC Committee on Congresses and Conferences and a member of the International Scientific Committee for the IFCC WorldLab Congress, Berlin, 2011.
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
Married since the beginning of my Ph.D. studies, two daughters – all wonderful
- Favorite activities/hobbies
Winter – Shoveling (not really!), Curling
Summer – Golf and Gardening (in that order)
- Favorite places you have traveled
Italy and Australia
- Favorite book/movie
Who Has Seen the Wind, WO Mitchell
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Stephen Leacock
The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Snow Falling on Cedars
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
A day on the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
None – as the sole Clinical Chemist in a non-academic, service-orientated setting for most of my career, it has been necessary to serve as the “jack-of-all-trades” in a “meat and potatoes” world. While such a role might not seem attractive to some, having the good fortune and responsibility to shape and direct clinical chemistry overall has provided for an amazingly broad spectrum of opportunities, challenges and accomplishments for the laboratories within our region and for the physicians and patients that we serve.
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
Having expressed an interest in Medicine and while working on my M.Sc. in Biochemistry, my academic supervisor asked if might be interested in a Ph.D. Clinical Chemistry program at his alma mater. I confessed that I had never heard of such a thing! However after a site visit, I was excited and thankfully accepted into the program. Upon completion of my training program, I was given academic/research responsibilities with in the university and analytical/clinical service responsibilities within the hospitals. It soon became apparent that my greatest interests were more in tune with the hospital environment. This interest coupled with a desire to return to work in Canada, especially within a smaller urban centre, led me to David Thompson Health Region in Red Deer, Alberta.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
Although active in a non-academic, service orientated setting; there are unlimited opportunities for clinical focus and for research projects that are of direct, practical value to the laboratory and to physicians. Consequently, the record will show a broad spectrum of activities both analytical and clinical. One highlight might be that our laboratory was the second in North America (by about two months) to use bar-coded primary collection tubes direct to the analyzer with host-query to an LIS. Another might be that our laboratory was first in Alberta and one of the first in Canada to offer Troponin and later BNP. These cardiac projects each required many months of significant effort analytically, clinically (clinical correlation studies, physician education) and politically (convincing administration of the clinical value in order to secure the required funding). My work related to the application of transcutaneous bilirubinometry spans over 20 years.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
Honestly, I am not able to answer this question. During my Ph.D. program in Clinical Chemistry, the acronym “RESA” (Research, Education, Service and Administration) was drilled into heads as the areas of work that graduates of the program might become involved. Perhaps being interested and willing to contribute in so many things, I just decided to do all of them for my health region and/or for my professional societies/ associations.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
No. On the other hand, perhaps there are some unpleasant things that I have subconsciously avoided.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
Some of the most rewarding moments of my career have been outlined above. One of the most challenging moments in my career was successfully writing the day-long exam of the American Board of Clinical Chemistry after having traveled all the way to New York the day before and then being up all night with food poisoning!
Unlike the USA, laboratories in the public sector in Canada are globally funded, i.e., the laboratory is provided with a specific amount of money and is expected to do all of the work that comes through the door with no ability to control the ever increasing volume. During an economic downturn in the mid-1990’s, laboratories lost 30-40% of their funding, yet were still expected to keep pace with an ever increasing volume. Such a challenge proved, in retrospect, a great opportunity to learn how to do more with less – more efficient systems, improved use of technology and how to create a more positive attitude despite the challenge.
- How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
Truth be known, I am not an expert at answering this question. I understand the importance of balance and this is truly an area that I could be better.
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
Excitement comes from being able to contribute and to make a difference.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
My predictions include: increased automation, continued platform consolidation, advances in information technology, increased use of performance metrics (analytical and clinical), advances in molecular testing, new clinical markers and increased focus on health as well as disease.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
A primary challenge will be to maintain proficiency in a world in which analytical, technical and clinical advances continue to come but at an ever increasing rate.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Define your interests yet be willing to try new things so as to expand opportunities to learn and develop new skill sets. Get connected in your environment through a willingness to put yourself forward as a valuable resource, a trusted colleague and as an advocate for progress.
- Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
Active participation in professional societies/organizations such as AACC has greatly expanded my network and has provided opportunity to learn and improve primarily my administrative skills. The network provides me ready access to experts in many fields both analytical and clinical. The improvements in administrative skills have been useful in my work environment and have been a factor in being able to assume more complex, more responsible positions at work and with professional societies/associations.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
I started by simply volunteering to be involved. I started at the provincial level, and then moved to the national level and then finally to the international level. Each step prepared me for the next in terms of knowledge, skills and contacts. The first step is sometimes the most difficult but rest assured that the more senior people started where you are and most are more than willing to help get you started.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Congratulations on your selection of a career in Laboratory Medicine! The opportunities for participation, fulfillment and achievement are endless. The only limits are those that you set for yourself.