American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
September 2010 Mentor of the Month Interview: Deborah Payne
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?
    I am the Vice President of Molecular Services at American Pathology Partners-Unipath LLC, Denver, Colorado 80222.
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    I received my BA from the University of Texas Austin, then I worked a couple of years as a research technologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX. I applied for graduate school at UTMB in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and completed my PhD in 1993. My dissertation studied molecular aspects of the Human Papillomavirus. My post doctoral training continued in the area of Molecular Virology at UTMB and at the Johnson Space Center. At the Johnson Space Center, my project was to molecularly analyze the frequency of viral shedding in cosmonauts and astronauts (i.e., prespace flight, in flight and post space flight). Upon completion of my post doctoral training, I was hired as the founding Director of the Division of Molecular Diagnostics for the Department of Pathology at UTMB. After eight years, I left UTMB and became the Director of Molecular Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. After 5 years in academia, I left to work in my present position (ie, in private practice) at a regional reference laboratory.
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    I am a board certified by the American Board of Clinical Chemistry (DABCC) and American Board of Medical Microbiology ABMM and am a Fellow of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (FACB).
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    AACC, ABCC, IFCC and Association for Molecular Pathology.
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      One husband, four cats and one dog
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Gardening, traveling and walking my dog on the green belt
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      Honduras and various places in Europe
    • Favorite book/movie
      Shawshank Redemption, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, Eastern Promises
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Scuba diving in Honduras and traveling across Europe with my husband
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    Molecular microbiology and molecular oncology.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    I always had an interest in the relationship between infections and the development of cancer with my initial studies with Human papillomavirus. My father had cancer and while he did not die from cancer, his having it influenced me. The clinicians determined that he had colon cancer because he became septic with a bacteria ie Streptococcus viridians that populates the colon. My interest in cancer has increase recently with the discovery of more prognostic and diagnostic markers.
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    Genodermatosis or genetic diseases associated with skin. Other areas of interest are bioinformatics and the development of clinical algorithms for diagnosing or managing patients.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    Being involved with the AACC, ABCC and the IFCC. Through these organizations, I have been able to host conferences, provide input on certification tests and author/co author position papers.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    I enjoy being able to provide actionable information that clinicians can use to manage their patients. At the end of every day, I have a sense of accomplishment.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    I have found that working with committees for the ABCC, AACC and the IFCC to be very rewarding. I enjoyed working with persons whose interests and experience are not in my area. With the IFCC, I have the opportunity to see how non USA countries address health care issues with laboratory medicine.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    This is a tough question… I am still working on it. But, I find that taking vacation is very important and the real challenge is not working or emailing about work during your vacation… I have a long way to go on this one.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    Developing new tests and considering new ways of improving the interpretative power of assays.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    I predict that bioinformatics will combine clinical information with various laboratory data to help manage patients better. This laboratory data may be molecular or proteomic data that is too complex for a single person to understand.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    I believe that access to funds for research and travel are decreasing. The ability to attend meetings for face to face networking may be replaced by social networking systems. The problem I see is that this may limit the young scientist from interacting with groups of persons whose expertise is outside of their own interests. I find that having interactions with persons with diverse interests and expertise helped me think about issues in the lab in a different way.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    The primary goal is to stay in the “active learning mode.” Some tactics are to become involved with organizations and reach outside your comfort zone. Attend some sessions that you may not have any background on at various meetings.
  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.
    As a chairperson for a division, task force and member of the Annual Meeting Organizing Committee, I was given the opportunity to select speakers, organize meetings, prepare symposia/workshops/round tables and network with other divisions and prepare position papers.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    Tony Okorodudu at UTMB encouraged me to join AACC. It was the best advice anyone has ever given me. I emailed some people on the Molecular Pathology division and got involved. I would suggest that young people submit proposals for brown bag sessions and gradually work up to submitting proposals for symposia at the annual meeting.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Stay involved and connected with your colleagues.

    Build relationships and develop trust with your colleagues. Find a mentor. I have a person who I consider my mentor even now. I can talk to this person and get feedback on career goals. 

    Be sure to share credit where credit is due. 

    Stay positive but always look for opportunities for professional growth even if it means interviewing when you are happy at your current job. Often an interview will help you see why you like your current position and want to stay or it will give you the opportunity to move and explore different aspects of your career.

    Finally, I first read this poem when I was in 7th grade and it has shaped the way I view my life and my profession. While not every line can be translated into a parallel lab medicine issue, several of them can. I am including my thoughts about this poem hoping that you too can draw inspiration from it as you embark on your new career.

    IF –
    BY RUDYARD KIPLING

    IF you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

    "IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you"…  I interpret this as the need to remain calm and have a balanced fact based response to complaints.

    "If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too"…  I interpret this as having confidence in your assays and your ability to interpret the results but to always be open to new sources of information that could affect your interpretatioin or new perspectives.

    "If you can dream–and not make dreams your master; If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim"...  I interpret this as maintaining your idealism for the "perfect assay" or an assay that could create a paradigm shift in patient care but not letting this "dream" obscure more pragmatic simple assays in patient management. Likewise if you "make thoughts your aim", you lose out on the enjoyment of implementing solutions in to the work place... some people think of solutions but never try to put them into action.

    "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same”...  I interpret this in the following way, your lab may have a quality issue that initially may appear as a disaster, but it’s how you handle this "disaster" that really matters. Sometimes facing a QC failure can help you change procedures that have a positive, more expansive impact than the initial failure – making the disaster the root cause of a triumph.

    "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!”…  I interpret this in the following way, many times changes in the work environment (ie, a change in leadership [Chairman, Division Heads], cost cutting measures, redirection of laboratory resources/or focus) can introduce uncertainty and stress in the lab. This uncertainty can be fatiguing. In such cases, maintaining your focus on quality service even when short staffed or underfunded can help you make it through the "rough times" until times or circumstances change for the better.

    "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings–nor lose the common touch"...  I view this statement as the need to stay connected with both the technologists doing the work and the institutional/administration leadership while maintaining an objective point of view. Understanding both the issues and problems that bench technologists and administrators have may provide you with a more global perspective.  The ability to explain to bench technologists what the institutional needs and goals are can help bridge the communication gap. It also helps to be able to explain to the institution or administrators what the needs of the bench technologists are.

    "If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run”...  I interpret this as trying to be present "in the moment" whether it’s at work or in your personal life to help provide work-life balance. I believe that this may be the most difficult to achieve since our lives are filled with distractions.

    And lastly, it may seem impossible to obtain the goals described in this poem by Rudyard Kipling but the effort of obtaining them may be transformative in helping you to evolve to a higher professional and personal level.