March 2010 Mentor of the Month Interview: Joshua Bornhorst
- What is your job title and affiliation?
Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, University of Arkansas : Director of Chemistry, Immunology, Point of Care, and Neonatal Clinical Laboratories
- Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
Undergraduate Grinnell College B.A. in chemistry. I then received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of Colorado-Boulder doing protein biochemistry. I then took a chance (or so it seemed at the time) and pursued a Clinical Chemistry Fellowship at ARUP Laboratories were I spent some time as the assistant director of special chemistry. I then moved to the University of Arkansas with Dr. Gail Woods (then new laboratory director) where I became medical director for a number of laboratory sections there.
- What are your Board certifications?
I am a diplomat of the ABCC-(Clinical Chemistry) and a NACB fellow.
- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
I am an active member of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC), and the ACLPS.
- Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
I grew up in Minnesota (seemingly like a lot of clinical chemists!), My parents and sister are in Minneapolis, and I have brothers in Ann Arbor, MI and Sydney, AU
- Favorite activities/hobbies
Mountain Bike Racing, Ultra-running, Snowboarding
- Favorite places you have traveled
Southern Utah and most of Colorado, Prague
- Favorite book/movie
My favorite changes all the time, but a favorite book right now Huston Smith’s textbook “The Worlds Religions”
- Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
Succumbing to hypothermia after an unexpected cold hard rain in the dark near the end of a 100 mile ultra-running race (more adventurous than fun).
- What area(s) do you specialize in?
I specialize in general clinical chemistry, laboratory automation, assay interferences, and laboratory investigations into multiple myeloma.
- What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
I choose an academic environment where I would be involved with a wide variety of areas. Once that decision was made the broad needs of the laboratory here have strongly influenced my broad areas of interest. Finally some of my areas of research interests have arisen out of collaborations with mentors.
- What are your clinical and research interests?
I have been most heavily involved with investigations of assay interferences and alpha 1-antitrypsin. Recently, I have had an opportunity to pursue tumor marker study, and as a result I am gradually shifting my focus there. Fortunately, new research opportunities suitable for resident education seem to arise all the time in the normal functioning of the clinical laboratory.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
Hopefully, my most important scientific contributions are still in front of me! However, having a chance to expose the residents and clinicians to concepts in clinical pathology which they will utilize in their future careers will likely be my most enduring contribution.
- Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
I rather enjoy the regulatory aspects such as CAP inspections and checklists as I believe that they result in better quality. Currently, I don’t like trying to help ensure that testing orders and results safely navigate through the several different in-house electronic ordering/reporting systems from the bedside and back.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
Aside from making incremental systemic improvements to the daily functioning of the laboratory, winning the AACC Young Investigator Award has been the most rewarding. The most challenging moments of my short career have been trying to provide optimal testing on limited state resources in this economic downturn.
- How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
Admittedly unlike many previous mentors I feel that I have not had a hard time making enough time for my life outside clinical chemistry (even though I am writing some of this at home). I love the field of clinical chemistry, but there are also so many other challenging and fun things to do in the world that can spend your energy on as well. I do believe that taking care of yourself physically may lead to a longer and perhaps more productive career. For me the idea is to maintain a dogged daily focus toward becoming the best clinical chemist I can be while I am at work. Hopefully this will allow me to continue to have both a satisfying career and outside life.
- What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
I do like the variety of my career. I am in a position where I can take on as many types of challenges (lab administration, teaching, research) within clinical pathology as I would like. I also do like being a research opportunist and “running down” unexpected phenomena that arise in the course of daily clinical lab operations.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
I envision automation becoming increasing prevalent and standardized and an increased emphasis on utilizing middleware. I also see mass spectroscopy becoming even more prevalent in the clinical laboratory. Point-of- Care instrumentation will continue to become more precise, widely utilized and the lab will have to find effective ways to ensure that it is properly being utilized at the bedside. Finally I think that we will become more involved in guiding physician ordering in electronic systems through helping create order sets and clinical decision trees.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
As the field grows in complexity and instrumentation and techniques get more specialized, it is more difficult for ones knowledge base to span across the field of clinical chemistry. In my more pessimistic moments, I see matching one’s interests with in-demand job skill sets becoming more challenging, especially in the current economic environment.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Any suggestions on how to achieve them? I would recommend finding a field that you enjoy within clinical chemistry and then set out to acquire the knowledge and connections to others needed to succeed in that field. The idea is to become well-known and valued as a member of the community. That said, I would caution against over-extending yourself and not leaving enough time to do as good as a job as one would want in trying to do it all.
- 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 given several brown bag sessions at AACC meetings. In addition, I have presented abstracts by residents and laboratory staff at ACLPS and AACC meetings. I hope to expand on this as I become more involved with the sections and divisions.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
Meetings and collaborating with others in your nationwide fellowship “class” is a great way to get started. From there you build into relationships with more established individuals. I would recommend staying involved with the clinical chemistry community (AACC, SYCL, ACLPS, ACS, and others) as connections to others make meeting your daily challenges much easier.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Remember that your actions within the relatively tight-knit professional community can impact your future (for better or worse) in sometimes unexpected ways. I look forward to working with many of you in the future.