- With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
I am a member of AACC, NACB, ASCP, and ACS. However, I am most actively involved in AACC and NACB.
- How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
During my fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Tom Moyer and Dr. Mary Burritt emphasized the importance of being involved in AACC. So getting involved in AACC was always part of my career plans. However, I was not ready to get involved right after completing my fellowship in 2001. Timing my involvement was important to me. If I was going to volunteer my time and be involved in AACC, I knew it would be important to actively participate and fulfill my commitment to the committee or the assignment that was given to me. Therefore, I needed time to settle into my new career as a Clinical Chemist at the Marshfield Clinic and I needed time to settle into being a new mom of two young children. In 2004, I felt like I was ready to get involved. So I contacted Dr. Moyer and asked him how I should proceed. I believe he played a role in getting me appointed to the 2005 AACC Membership Committee. That was my entry into AACC and I have done many things since then at the local and national level.
What advice do I have for getting involved? When you are ready to volunteer your time, find a good mentor that is already involved in the organization and ask them how to proceed. Then once an opportunity comes your way, do your best to be fully engaged in the appointment or assignment. Once you demonstrate that you are a valuable member of a committee or project, more opportunities will come your way.
- What area(s) do you specialize in and what initiated your interest in this (these) area(s)?
I have been a generalist for my entire career. I enjoy the challenge of staying current in the field of clinical laboratory medicine. I never know what the next clinical consult will be and what new challenges that consult will bring.
- What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
I hope I have served as a positive role model for clinical chemists that take a non-academic role in laboratory medicine. My positions have been nearly 100% clinical. I do not have an academic appointment and I have little to no time for clinical laboratory research. I hope I inspire others that choose a similar career path and demonstrate that clinical appointments can be very satisfying and that contributions to AACC are valued by colleagues.
- What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
The most rewarding moments are when someone comes up to me and says, “You really helped me. Thank you.” The challenging moments are there, but are not worth putting in writing. If you really want to know about the challenging moments, find me at a mixer or give me a call; I will then chat candidly about the challenges.
- How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
First, I think you really need to understand yourself and your career goals and need to prioritize your life goals. Next, recognize that these goals will most likely change as you grow and change. Once you have that sorted-out, try to re-visit those goals when things seem to get out of balance. Often, reflection and reprioritization will help you regain balance. Of course this is MUCH easier said than done.
Personally, I am able to balance work and the rest of my life because I have a very supportive husband. He also has a doctorate in Chemistry. However, he left his chemistry career to take care of our two children and me. He provides the support I need to have balance in my life. This is what works for me and my family.
- What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
In the next ten years, I think we will see an increase in the utilization of integrated interpretive reporting. This will be essential in the environment of accountable health care.
- What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
I think one of biggest challenges for an early career scientist in laboratory medicine is get connected and stay connected to the physicians and other healthcare providers that directly interact with the patients. Establishing and maintaining that relationship is essential to being an effective laboratorian.
- What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
Goals are very personal, so this is a difficult question. A general goal that I think will benefit all early career laboratorians is to find a good mentor and interact with them regularly. How do you achieve this? Find someone who has taken a similar career path and introduce yourself to them. Not every introduction will lead to a mentorship, but eventually you will find a mentor.
- Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you would like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Get to know people in your field of laboratory medicine. The more people you know and interact with the more effective you will be in your career.
- Can you provide a tip for interviewing job candidates?
In truth, I find being the interviewer much more difficult than being the interviewee. My tip is to accurately portray the position you are trying to fill and ask questions of the candidate that help you determine whether he or she really has a clear understanding of the position. This should help you avoid hiring a very talented individual for the “wrong” job. This can be a disaster for everyone involved.
- If you could start your career again, what would you do differently?
I’m not really a “what if” kind of person, so this is a difficult question. I am happy with my career at this point. I guess if I started all over, I wish I would have had a better understanding of the field of Laboratory Medicine. At one point in my education, I chose to pursue a PhD in Organic Chemistry instead of an MD. I think I may have gone to medical school if I would have known that that path could have lead to Clinical Pathology.
- What is an average day like in your life?
I’m not sure I ever have an average day, but here is a look at what I did today. I woke-up and took the dog for a brief walk. Then I had breakfast with my family and playfully fought for the comic section of the newspaper. I arrived at my PAML office, stopped by the café and picked-up a 16 oz. non-fat Latté and proceeded to review my e-mail “in-box.” Then I met with my R&D staff to get updates on their current projects. Next I visited the Bioanalytics Laboratory to get an update on the testing performed in that laboratory. They handed me a clinical case on Testosterone testing that required me to contact the healthcare provider that ordered the testing. Then I finished reviewing an update to an article for Lab Tests Online (LTO) and sent that off to one of the staff editors at LTO. At 12:30 PM, I left my PAML office and walked over to my Sacred Heart office. I grabbed a salad in the cafeteria on my way to the lab. While I was eating lunch at my desk, I finally had time to read two papers that I had been wanting to read more carefully on Vitamin D testing. This was interrupted by a phone consult on Lamellar Body counts from a nurse working in Labor and Delivery. Then I met with my point of care team to talk about the POC meters we are using in our Anticoagulation Clinics. When I returned to my office, I had a validation binder to review for our new chemistry analyzer. While reviewing that data I took 5 more phone consults on various topics. Before I left the office, I spent about another 45 minutes on e-mail messages. I returned home, just in time to change into my yoga clothes and head off to a class that is a few blocks away from my home. After dinner with my husband and kids, I helped review my children’s homework. Once the kids are in bed, I usually relax with my husband and catch-up on what is going on with him and the kids. However, tonight, I’m finishing this interview.
How do my work days differ? On some days I have more administrative meetings, interpretations and sign-outs for protein electrophoresis and travel to partner sites. Also, I try not to eat lunch in my office every day. I try to eat lunch in the laboratory break room or cafeteria and interact with the laboratory staff. This helps me keep in touch with how the staff feels things are going in the laboratory. There is rarely a dull day and if there is, I try to use that day to catch-up on projects and assignments. On a personal note, I try to exercise 5 to 6 times a week and I try to alternate between yoga and running. Also, I try to make as many of my children’s sporting events and school events as possible.
- What is your most effective time management skill?
I’m not sure I have an effective time management skill, but I do rely heavily on my iPhone and Microsoft’s Outlook to keep me on task. I use these tools for my professional and private life. They keep my organized. So I guess organization is my most effective time management skill.
- What is the riskiest thing you've ever done?
From a career perspective, the riskiest thing I have done is leave my position at the Marshfield Clinic for the one I currently have at Sacred Heart and PAML. I did this in 2008/2009 while the economy was taking a down turn. Also, I went from the most senior clinical chemist to the least senior clinical chemist. I enjoyed my position and the staff at the Marshfield Clinic but was concerned that I didn’t have much more room to grow at that institution. So I left that position for the one I have now believing that my current position would provide me with more opportunities for growth. I’m happy I took the risk.