March 2013 Mentor of the Month Interview: Dr. Danielle B. Freedman
Biography & Career
  1. Which professional societies/organisations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?

    I joined the AACC in the early 1990’s and have attended the annual meetings ever since. I was a Member of the Annual Meeting Organising Committee for AACC Atlanta 2011. I enjoyed it so much that I am now on the AMOC for 2014 in Chicago!!

    I am an elected National Member for the Association for Clinical Biochemistry (ACB) Council which is the UK professional organisation for clinical chemistry and I am Chair of their Clinical Practice Section for Endocrinology and Diabetes.

    I was elected as Vice President for the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) (2008-2011) and Chaired their Standing Advisory Committee for Clinical Biochemistry from2005 until 2011

    Importantly, I became a Member of the Executive Council of the Royal College of Pathologists which sets standards in pathology and laboratory medicine in UK and, to some extent, internationally.

    During 2012, I took over as Chair of LabTests Online UK board and this is one of my most enjoyable positions.

    I am also on the Scientific Committee of the 3rd European Federation for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM) / European Union of Medical Specialists (EUMS) Joint meeting to be held in Liverpool, UK, in 2014.

  2. How did you get started in these organisations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?

    I became interested in the ACB whilst I was a Registrar (Fellow equivalent) at Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine (University of London) through networking with colleagus within the profession. I was very keen to diversify and leave the comfort zone of my own workplace and I feel it is imperative that young people should be involved with Professional organisations, as it stops them becoming parochial!

    By going to scientific meetings such as the AACC Annual Meeting and either presenting posters or speaking, you will begin to make contacts and make yourself known to people who are experts and who you respect. You can learn so much from your colleagues and take that knowledge back to your own practice. Ultimately, by being involved in professional societies and organisations, you can shape your future and the future of laboratory medicine.

  3. What area(s) do you specialise in and what initiated your interest in this (these) area(s)?

    I am a medical doctor and my specialty clinical areas are clinical endocrinology, including thyroid disease, disorders of calcium metabolism and gynaecological endocrinology, as well as an interest in lipidology.  

    I became interested in these clinical areas during my time as Registrar at Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine and then Lecturer at Middlesex Hospital School of Medicine (London University), where latterly I had the good fortune to work with Professor Howard Jacobs and Professor Steve Franks both of whom are internationally renowned endocrinologists.

    I was also heavily influenced by Professor Vincent Marks based at University of Surrey, who is an international expert on hypoglycaemia (his book ‘ ​Insulin Murders:
    True life murders’  is a great read).

    On becoming a consultant, I developed two further areas of interest, namely point of care testing which was heavily influenced by Dr. David Burnett and Professor Chris Price.  During the 1990’s, I was fortunate to meet Sir Muir Gray and
    Professor David Sackett whilst they were both at Oxford. That radically changed my opinions about medicine as a whole and I became passionate about evidence-based practice.

    However, I think my greatest passion is the vital role the laboratory clinician plays in the patient pathway and improving patient outcome.

  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?

    Being a ‘champion’ for laboratory medicine and getting out and about and speaking to clinicians both hospital and primary care (General Practitioners) locally and nationally, ensuring they realise the value of laboratory medicine in the patient pathway.

    Teaching locally and nationally to undergraduates and postgraduates - concentrating particularly on the clinical aspects of clinical chemistry.

    Publishing over 80 peer reviews, articles and chapters in clinical areas, as well as areas related to point of care testing and publications related to clinical governance.

    My department has a track record of having very successful trainees in clinical chemistry and I particularly enjoy exposing them to the clinical interface, whether it be on ward rounds or participating in my out-patient clinic.

    At a local level, I was Medical Director of the Hospital for over 5 years (2005 – 2010) and was thus instrumental in helping support my hospital as one of the four UK pilot sites for the IHI Patient Safety Initiative.

    Currently, I am Divisional Director of Diagnostics, Therapeutics & Out-patients and play a crucial role in the consolidation and integration of the laboratories in the surrounding area.

    In addition to the above, I have played a leadership role nationally as Vice President of the Royal College of Pathologists and instrumental in setting standards and changing practice in clinical chemistry in the UK.

  5. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?

    The most rewarding moments of my career are when I help to diagnose a patient’s clinical condition, treat and cure them!

    In addition, I feel that being elected by my peers to become Vice President of the Royal College of Pathologists, while undoubtedly extremely challenging, was also extremely rewarding.

    Receiving an ‘Outstanding Speaker’ Award in 2009 from the AACC was also a major highlight!

  6. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?

    I do not feel I am the best person to answer this but I would recommend that you identify time in your busy weeks to spend socialising with friends and family, and pursue your passions outside your work. Mine relate to rock music, fast cars and modern art.  This is all about enjoying oneself – you only get one opportunity!

    As the English Philosopher Bishop Richard Cumberland (d. 1718) said “It is better to wear out than to rust out”!

  7. What are you predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next 10 years?

    I see increasing automation and use of information management systems within the laboratory.

    I believe there will be an increase in point of care testing, not just within the hospital and primary care setting but, importantly, in the patients own home as we are already seeing with diabetes and Cumarin monitoring. Combining information technology and laboratory medicine will support the new era of personalized medicine.

  8. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?

    Financial constraints, consolidation and integration of laboratories without losing sight of the role of the laboratory in the patient pathway.

  9. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?

    As previous mentors have said, this is really a personal question but I think Scientists should develop a special interest early in their career and obtain some publications related to that particular interest. Get out onto the hospital wards and go to clinics to see patients, attend scientific meetings and get yourself known.

    Find yourselves a good mentor, or maybe more than one!

  10. Do you have any specific comments or advice that you would like to provide to the members of SYCL?

    Always recognise the need to learn and never be afraid to ask questions, and.
    as Groucho Marx said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself!”

    And finally don’t forget the role of the laboratory is not just about producing numbers or results - It’s about the patient.

  11. What is an average day like in your life?

    Manic! I do not have an average day.  

    I spend probably about one third of my week directly interacting with patients either in the clinic setting or on the wards. If I am not undertaking clinical work, I will be chairing meetings or participating in management-type duties. For the remainder of the time, I will be teaching or preparing lectures and papers.

    I tend to get home at about 7 pm and I don’t work in the evenings, which are the time to relax.  However, for many years I have worked every Sunday morning.

  12. How do you resolve conflicts in your practice?

    Try to see the view from the other person’s perspective. It’s not always easy but proactively listen and try to come to a compromise.

  13. How do you handle stress/pressure?

    Laugh a lot. You need to have a sense of humour as well as keeping things in perspective.

  14. Do you think point of care testing will ever become the overall more common method of obtaining test results in hospitals compared to traditional laboratory testing?

    As in Question 7, I think there will become an increase in point of care testing.  However, until there is good evidence to show that point of care testing is cost effective in the whole patient pathway, point of care testing will not become all-encompassing. Laboratories will still exist because of economies of scale.

    I do feel there will be an increase in point of care testing in the patient’s home and patients will be managing their own conditions, particularly chronic disease.

  15. What event or happenstance do you think led you to your field of study as well as the geographical area where you practice?

    I left school at 16 years of age and was unable to enter medical school immediately as I was too young. I spent 6 months working in the Clinical Chemistry Department at University College Hospital London as a lab technician. I am sure this must have influenced my decision to go down the laboratory medicine career pathway.

    Mentors such as Professor Vincent Marks, Dr. Arthur Miller (Middlesex Hospital Medical School London University) and Dr. David Burnett (St. Albans City Hospital) all had a great influence on my career progression.

    With regard to geographic area: I am a Londoner, I like London and my family and friends all live in North London.

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