Member Interviews

The Association of Clinical Scientists created the Young Fellows Section to engage and increase the number of younger members, to foster greater participation, and to mentor younger Fellows by more senior Fellows. There are activities at our annual meetings to support this mission and reserved space in the Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science for young Fellows to publish case reports. Another activity, recently initiated, is for younger Fellows to interview senior Fellows of the Association to gain insights with regard to the motivations, training, and experiences of the senior members. These interviews appear below.

Peter C. Hu, PhD, FACSc, was conducted by Jessica Claus, MD (Chair of Young Fellows Section), January, 2024
Dr. Peter C. Hu

Interview: Dr. Hu

Jessica Claus: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Peter Hu I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and immigrated with my parents and younger brother to the United States in the late 1970s. Like many Asian immigrant families, we landed in San Francisco, CA. We made our way up north and eventually settled in a tiny town called Soldotna, Alaska. There, I spent my adolescent years. I believe we were the second Chinese family in that town. Growing up, we were quite isolated from the rest of the world in many ways.

Claus: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Hu: Freshman year biology class in high school. The teacher was an avid insect collector and proudly displayed his collection in the classroom. I clearly remember it was a large multi-drawer display stand with rows of insects. He taught us how to make insect kill jars and if we collected certain insects in his collection, depending on rarity, would receive bonus points towards our final course grade and if we found an insect that wasn’t in his collection where he can properly prep and add to his collection, we would receive enough points to bump up to the next highest final grade. I spent the next two weeks and actually found an insect that wasn’t in his collection. For the rest of the semester, learning biology became fun for me because I didn’t have to worry about the grades.

I went to Purdue University for my undergraduate studies as a Dean’s Freshman Honor Scholar. This was a competitive award because it allowed me to choose a faculty member to conduct research as a freshman and it also came with some spending money which I desperately needed. I chose to study under a cognitive social psychologist, Dr. Eliot Smith, because at the time he was conducting stereotyping experiments. My original intent was to major in aerospace engineering, which Purdue was known for, producing the greatest number of astronauts including Neil Armstrong. My uncle was a senior aerospace engineer for one of the big aerospace companies at the time and I wanted to be like him. However, within a few weeks at Purdue, I knew that wasn’t for me, so I immediately switched to psychology and graduated with a degree in psychology in 1991. During those years, I also took many biology and chemistry classes because I remembered memorization came easier for me and perhaps I could do something with it down the road, since undergraduate psychology degrees had somewhat limited options afterwards.

Claus: Tell me about your career progression. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Hu: While at Purdue, I married my incredible wife, Cynthia, and we had our first child in 1992. In 1993, I went back to graduate school. After receiving my MS degree in microbiology from Lamar University in Beaumont, TX in 1995, I was at a crossroad of not knowing what I wanted or could to do. Now married and with a young son, I felt the weight of responsibility and needed a job that could support a family, but the jobs available at the time utilizing my degrees would still put us barely above the poverty line. It was then I had a conversation with one of my thesis committee members, Dr. Madelyn Hunt, that would change my course forever. She introduced me to laboratory medicine and how I could leverage my microbiology degree and search for medical technology positions and other clinical positions that could pay twice as much as research. I immediately went through 2 backto-back clinical technology programs - one in medical technology, then in cytogenetics —and landed a clinical bench position in the cytogenetics laboratory at MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1996.

For the next five years, I worked as a clinical cytogeneticist, but unbeknownst to me. I had accumulated a unique combination of degrees and certifications such that I was on a very short list of candidates for a teaching position in the School of Health Professions. There was an education coordinator position for two programs (medical technology and cytogenetics) and the candidate must be clinically certified in both areas holding a minimum of a master’s degree with at least three years of working experience. I applied and subsequently got the position. Within two years, I became faculty as Instructor then Assistant Professor. However, the Dean made it clear that if I wanted to advance in rank I had to go back to school and obtain my terminal degree.

Again, I was at a crossroad because I was still married to my beautiful wife, but we now had two sons. I knew I wanted to get a Ph.D. because I wanted to conduct basic research, so I found a program through Trident University International that allowed me to conduct my dissertation research at MD Anderson under the supervision of a faculty member from the graduate school of biomedical sciences. I graduated with a Ph.D. in healthcare administration, but my dissertation was in molecular genetics from Dr. Michael Siciliano’s laboratory in 2008. I guess you can say it was the best of both worlds. From there, I rose through the ranks to Associate Professor and eventually Professor (with tenure), and have been renewed since. Administratively, in 2004, I started my own program in molecular genetic technology, then added a graduate program in diagnostic genetics in 2013. I served as interim Dean for the school from 2018-2022 and now am Associate Dean of Research and Strategic Initiatives.

Claus: How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Hu: Mentoring is such a critical component of anyone’s professional journey. I’ve been blessed with key mentors throughout my life that guided me along the way. But for me, they were much more than that. At first, they started out as advisors by telling me what to do, then they became mentors by showing me how to do it, then they became my champions by having me watching them how to do it and setting it up for me and watching me doing it. This was what passed down to me and I have been doing the same for others ever since. One of those mentors, Dr. Armand Glassman, introduced me to the Association in 2009. He was my medical director back when I was a student in the technology programs at MD Anderson and later my division head, then department head. Throughout my career, he has always provided insight, encouragement, and constructive feedback

Claus: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Hu: There were two very distinct moments I remember. The first is when the Dean asked if I wanted to start my own program in molecular diagnostics in 2003, and that if I took up the challenge, I would be on my own from the ground up, but he would support me however he could. I did have support from the other program directors, but they were more on the consultant’s side. The second moment was when a phone call came one Monday afternoon asking if I could serve as one of the interim Deans immediately. I accepted both challenges, so I guess I like taking risks.

Claus: How has ACS helped you in your career?

Hu: In so many ways. To really get the full breadth and depth of experiences from this Association, I recommend going through everything the Association has to offer. The genuine people I have met over the years have helped shape who I am today. I’ve presented during conferences, chaired sessions, served on the Executive Committee as president-elect, president, and past president, hosted a meeting, and serving on the journal review board. These opportunities are always there, you just need to accept them when asked. One of my proudest accomplishments in this association was introducing the “FACSc” designation on their signatures. Today, I see so many fellows using that designation including myself.

Claus: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Hu: Absolutely, on multiple occasions. When Dr. Armand Glassman introduced me to the association then shepherding me throughout the meeting introducing me to everyone, Charlie Hawker, Bob Hunter, Bob Brown, Nina Tatevian, Roland Valdes, and the list was long. These individuals gave me the opportunities to leverage this association to build my portfolio. They were the titans in their fields and yet they had the kindness and generosity to include me and putting up with my cookie ideas. That’s priceless. Over time, I am proud that I was able to replicate this model and reach out to those who came after me, Keri Donaldson, Kyle Kurek, Josh Bornhorst, etc., and established new networks and friendships.

Claus: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in national/international organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of their current institutions.

Hu: Being part of a professional organization allows you to expand your portfolio in many ways. I don’t mean just becoming a member, but rather by serving on committees or in other capacities. Serving is different than attending because you get a chance to see how the sausage is made. Once you’ve seen it and experienced it, you can make meaningful contributions and changes. And along the way, you’ll make so many new connections that directly or indirectly will aid in your career progression. The opportunities are always there, you just need the courage to ask for it.

Claus: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Hu: Networking is key to any successful career. The advancement in technology has made it so much easier now to the point if you’re not taking advantage of it, you almost can’t progress.

Claus: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Associate Professor level in their career?

Hu: I am not sure if I am qualified to give advice, but based on my recipe, which has worked quite well, is that the basic tenure and promotion model is true everywhere, i.e.,

  • at the assistant professor level—local recognition within your state
  • associate professor—national recognition, and
  • professor—international recognition.
Young faculty:
  1. Don’t say no when approached. Things may seem daunting at first, it’s only a natural reaction to the unknown or defense mechanism. But help is always available, you just need to be resourceful. However, the twist is, once you accept, you better do a good job of it. Eyes are always watching whether you know it or not. Each success will lead to better opportunities and bigger successes.
  2. If you do fail, own up to it with humility and humbleness. Learn from it. Opportunities don’t usually dry up, they keep coming.
  3. Start taking leadership classes, i.e. leading self, others, teams, leaders. Emotional intelligence classes. These classes will help you tremendously.
Associate Professor:
  1. Continue to take leadership classes.
  2. 2. If possible, start taking coaching classes.
  3. Begin mentoring younger faculty.
  4. Serve in leadership roles on institutional and professional committees.
In general, when you are young and are trying to reach to the top, you are more aggressive, competitive, and continuously acquiring new laurels to promote yourself. The hard thing to do is once you’re up there, you’ll need to make a mindset switch by promoting others to promote yourself. You’ve already made it, so pull everyone else up so that their success is your success. Become a servant leader.

Frederick L. Kiechle, MD, PhD, FACSc. was conducted by Jessica Claus, MD (Chair of Young Fellows Section), October, 2023
Dr. Frederick L. Kiechle

Interview: Dr. Kiechle

Jessica Claus: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Frederick Kiechle shared that he was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and since his father was in the Air Force, he had the opportunity to grow up in various locations, including Mississippi, Wisconsin, Alabama, and eventually Evansville, Indiana.

“We were moving around the South, so much, I was in 3 different first grades and I also spoke non-southernese.”

Claus: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Kiechle explained that a chemistry teacher in high school who emphasized studying sparked his interest in science. Later, he pursued a pre-med degree in chemistry, which taught him fundamental research techniques and solidified his career interest in science and medicine. Dr. Kiechle later attended Indiana University, where he was admitted to both the biochemistry Ph.D. program and the medical program. However, he admitted that his only interest in biochemistry at the time came from the book The Genetic Code by Isaac Asimov. Due to the university’s dearth of an introductory biochemistry course at the time, Dr. Kiechle lacked biochemistry knowledge. However, it was also a chance to network with peers and learn from colleagues. Dr. Kiechle found methods to make the academic challenge enjoyable through his own intellectual rigor and collegial friendship.

“I said to my friend from Notre Dame, what does this “PP” little “i” mean? That’s how bad my knowledge in the beginning was! So, I had a lot of catching up to do. Which was challenging, but kind of fun.”

Claus: Tell me about your career progression. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Kiechle e noted that his career began with a medical degree and a Ph.D, which took five years to complete. This experience led him to choose pathology as his career choice, inspired by his father’s work as an anatomic and clinical pathologist and his trips to Eli Lilly’s laboratory while in high school. Dr. Kiechle then pursued a clinical chemistry fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, working under Leonard Jarett on the second messenger investment action project. After completing a Hartford Fellowship, he was accepted as a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time, he became the Director of the Stat Lab and later became Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of the Department of Lab Medicine. This early career allowed him to network with many people and introduced him to new opportunities in his career, including the above-mentioned appointments.

He was hired at William Beaumont Hospital from 1983 to 2005, where he served as Chief of Clinical Chemistry from 1983 to 1988, Chairman of the Department from 1988 to 2005, and the Medical Director of the Beaumont Reference Lab. Throughout his tenure at Beaumont, he started several groundbreaking projects, such as the first Molecular Diagnostic Lab, DNA Symposium, Point of Care Program, Lab Automation, Reference Lab, Toxicology lab, Flow Lab, Safety lab, and Molecular Diagnostic Services. These initiatives were all part of a stream of new opportunities, as the organization expanded their chemistry menu and introduced microbiological testing. From 2006 to 2016 Dr. Kiechle also worked for a private practice group called “Pathology Consultants of South Broward” in Hollywood, Florida, where they expanded their chemistry menu, started automation in chemistry and hematology, and introduced various infectious disease tests.

These projects were accomplished with the help of other professionals, demonstrating that laboratory science is not a single sport but rather a team sport. Dr. Kiechle’s career has been marked by significant milestones and collaborations with colleagues and mentors. His dedication to his craft and the opportunities that have risen throughout his career demonstrate the power of collaboration and determination in the face of adversity.

“I always like to say, you know the laboratory science is not a single sport, it’s a team sport. And if you don’t get the team members involved for the project you’re interested in, the right ones at the right time, the project will probably suffer a delay to start up or never get started up.”

Claus: How did mentorship influence your professional career?

Kiechle spoke fondly about the people he’s met and helped him in his career journey, from a father who inspired his curiosity for pathology, to a chemistry teacher, to a friend from Notre Dame who taught him biochemistry, and to a fellowship director who recruited him in his early career and the countless other professionals who have collaborated with him. From these experiences, he’s published a book, titled “Disruptive Technology and Clinical Medicine,” that outlines his career arc and the people who have inspired and influenced him. The book will be published by CAP Press in August, 2023; there is a prologue outlined in the book in 2 to 3 pages.

“In that table there are all a lot of people who are involved in helping me get the projects done.”

The book highlights the importance of machines in medical communication, with a table of pages containing the names of many people involved in project completion. It is worth noting that every project involved multiple people, who played a part in the project’s success.

“But every project had more than one person almost always involved. So, I didn’t do this by myself.”

This perspective can be useful for understanding the challenges faced in the field and be a source of encouragement.

Claus: How did you get involved with the Association?

Kiechle e had attended a couple of meetings of the Association in his early career. However, when he started helping a PhD candidate with public speaking and presentations, he rediscovered how much he enjoyed the Association and its activities.

“I got very busy with clinical pathology and committees, until one of my research PhD people really needed help. I thought, you know, this Association group is full of nice people who all would have good questions. Since giving short talks can’t be too stressful, I invited him along to give a talk at the Association. We went to a couple of meetings, and then it dawned on me! I thought, ‘this is really nice belonging to such a group.’ I think I’ll do some stuff myself.”

Knowing that the Association group was full of friendly, supportive peers, Dr. Kiechle invited the individual to give a talk. After attending a few meetings, Dr. Kiechle himself realized the importance of belonging to such a group and decided to continue independently.

Claus: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Kiechle describes his experience working at Beaumont, where he was originally recruited as a professor and had a lab with a $200,000 budget and a granting agency. The lab was involved in basic research and administrative work, with a focus on innovations. He attended meetings sponsored by vendors to learn about new technologies and ideas for automation.

However, after he was given a severance package, he was eventually recruited, and then decided to move south. At the time he had three job offers: a university and academic job in Pennsylvania, a hospital-based position at Beaumont, and a private practice group where the money collected at the end of the month was divided among partners.

Dr. Kiechle explains that he would have gone with the private practice group if given the opportunity. However, he has red-green color blindness and struggles to see stains, which led him to choose a clinical pathology (CP) career. Dr. Kiechle has been doing CP independently for a long time and despite that fact, he still does not own a microscope. Dr. Kiechle’s experience with three jobs at the same time was stressful, but it worked out well. The biggest shocker came when Beaumont decided to list the top 10 salary people for nonprofit institutions, which it did for three years in a row. He knew he would eventually leave. Despite the unexpected trends, the author’s experience at Beaumont was a testament to the resilience and determination of their team.

Claus:How has ACS helped you in your career?

Kiechle discussed his experience as a president and vice president of ACS with fondness, finding it to be highly enjoyable and supportive towards his career. The planning and organization of each meeting event was particularly enjoyable, according to Dr. Kiechle as they were short enough to convey abstract information without being overwhelming. The group allowed people from different fields to provide information about their respective fields, and has sections for AP and CP participants to discuss their work or cases. This helped them stay on top of their work and organized.

“I was involved in the leadership position with the group for some time. But what I found the most fun was the way they organized the meeting. You have lots of intensity, short enough to get the message across abstracts, you know.”

Another aspect of their group Dr. Kiechle particularly enjoyed was ACS’s musicale program.

“And then the other thing that really sort of anchored me to this group is the odd way I got involved in the musicale, which has a history.”

Dr. F.W. Sunderman, Sr, who owned a Stradivarius violin, and his wife, would fly on jet planes with various musicians, focusing on classical music. They would perform quartets and sonatas, and even bring in outside talent. The group was always enjoyable, but one day, a former trumpet player suggested they play jazz. The invitation started a tradition for Dr. Kiechle, who has since played jazz pieces at the end of the Musicale that closes out each ACS meeting. Dr. Kiechle also mentions the support he received from the members, especially when facing career issues, ACS members were very helpful and supportive. Overall, Dr. Kiechle’s experience with the group has been a valuable experience for them.

Claus:Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Kiechle noted that Robert Hunter, a Texas-based scientist, was the most influential, in part for inviting Dr. Kiechle to be a guest lecturer and visiting pathologist and also by providing positive feedback.

“Everybody had something to say about what I was doing. I guess that’s just the way it is. But probably the most positive stuff I got from him.”

Dr. Hunter was the main influential person in ACS, but Dr. Kiechle also mentioned Bill Sunderman, Jr., who taught him how to be cool when running meetings, compared to his chaotic approach at a DNA Symposium.

“To some extent, because he shared with me how to be cool when you run a meeting.”

Claus: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in national/international organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of their current institutions.

Kiechle discussed the importance of fostering a sense of community and collaboration within a professional organization. He first saw participation in professional organizations in this manner when Tom Dutcher, a hematopathology expert, introduced him to the ASCP.

“He was chairman of Clinical Pathology at Beaumont when I was in charge of Clinical Chemistry, and I took over his position after he retired. But he got me started with ASCP as a member.”

From the beginning, Dr. Kiechle enjoyed giving lectures and sharing his work on point of care testing and was initially hesitant to take control of their central lab. However, as time went on, the situation became less confrontational and more open. He also mentions the challenges of being active in both the ASCP and CAP.

Dr. Kiechle suggests that if one wants to do something different, they should consider joining a professional organization like the CAP and participate in various committees as he did, such as the publications committee, patient preparation and specimen handling, editorial board, Chemistry Resource Committee, and Technology Resource Committee. Dr. Kiechle recommends that everyone, even at the residency level, should try to get involved in committees, as both organizations have resident positions available for committees. Both organizations have forums and places where residents can get to know the organization before their launch. This allows them to get a feel for the organization and its members before they begin working on their own projects.

Claus: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Kiechle noted that a career in clinical chemistry relies on a netwrk of colleagues, who can provide valuable insights and support.

‘I would say, I wouldn’t have a career if I didn’t have a network of colleagues.”

This network includes attending meetings, talking to vendors, and interacting with experts in the field. Attending meetings and talking to colleagues who have the equipment can help identify areas for improvement and avoid mistakes. By getting to know people who do similar tasks, one can avoid making decisions that may not be suitable for their current or future work.

Exploring different labs and cultures can also provide a world view of the industry and help expand one’s horizons. Going to different countries and visiting different labs can provide a better understanding of the industry and help one make informed decisions about their career.

“The different way people in the culture handle the laboratory and all those factors are also important to give you ... a world view of what’s going on around you.”

Dr. Kiechle saw that a strong network of colleagues is crucial for success in clinical chemistry. Attending meetings, talking to vendors, and engaging in discussions can help identify areas for improvement and support. Embracing the support of colleagues and traveling to different locations can provide a comprehensive understanding of the industry.

“So, you find out by going to the meetings [...] You also talk to your colleagues who actually have this equipment, and you get to know who the experts are.”

Dr. Kiechle discussed the importance of keeping an eye on disruptive technologies, such as the Apple Watch and implantables measuring interstitial fluid. Disruptive technologies can be both useful and frustrating, as they can change the way laboratory functions and its workflows. One example is the Edison, which was used to measure multiple assets on a small volume but failed due to poor collection techniques. Another example is the microbiology device, which can identify microseconds with a micro-switch off device.

However, these technologies often have a long development process, with six steps to go through before a product can be marketable. This process can be timeconsuming and costly, making it difficult to find a solution for a startup company. By being on the lookout for these developments and ensuring that they are implementable, businesses can stay ahead of the curve in the everchanging world of technology.

Claus:What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine?

Kiechle “So, clinical chemistry is a garage of different things.” [...] Clinical chemistry is a diverse field that offers a wide range of exciting opportunities. It is essential to find what interests you and engage in activities that are exciting and relevant to your interests. If you find something interesting, consider becoming an expert in it. [...] I think in any career you decide to go into, you need to do stuff that interests you. [...] One way to become an expert in clinical chemistry is by doing validation of new equipment or specialized testing. However, there is often no protocol for doing certain tasks, so it is crucial to know the LDTs and work them up accordingly. The more complicated the tasks, the larger the lab you will work in. For example, if you work in a small rural laboratory, you will likely be doing routine chemistry tasks and may want to find something else to do. However, the larger the lab size, the more interesting the chemistry lab will be. Another test of a specialist’s fortitude in clinical chemistry is when a new system is introduced in the hospital and they have to validate it. [...] This can be a mindboggling task, but if you like it, it’s fun, but if you don’t like it, don’t do it. [...] Some people may get stuck thinking about themselves as one thing or two, and as their ideas become less relevant, they need to reinvent themselves and find something else to do. Some people may get stuck in doing one thing over and over again”, like a professor he observed. “He was going to sequence every microbe and molecule in the animal kingdom. Well, okay, that’s interesting for only up to a while. So anyway, you know, eventually you have to stop [...], and maybe sequence something else.”

Dr. Kiechle shared that it’s important to recognize that a career in clinical chemistry requires a balance of passion, passion, and dedication to one’s chosen field.

Claus: What advice would you give someone at the Associate Professor level in their career?

Kiechle suggests evaluating disruptive technologies and working with a startup company with a technology they believe in.

“This is a time when evaluating disruptive technologies comes into play, and they might want to take a bet on working with the startup company that has a technology that they believe in.”

If the company fails, they could start another with another company, gaining experience in the non-academic world and industrial world, according to Dr. Kiechle. He suggests starting with a consulting gig or two to gain experience and knowledge in equipment and methodologies.

“You don’t have to jump right into it full and quit your academic job, but just have a consulting gig or two that get you involved in it. Some interesting side projects that could lead -to you know- the equipment or changes in methodology that can make a difference in patient care.”

Dr. Kiechle emphasized the importance of reinventing oneself and finding a partner who can assist with the work. He believes that each individual situation is unique and that the real goal is to find ways to explore new ideas.

Roland Valdes, PhD, FACSc interviewed by Lance Van Truong, DO (Chair of Young Fellows Section), April, 2023
Dr. Roland Valdes

Interview: Dr. Valdes

Lance Van Truong: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Roland Valdes: I was born in New York City, as was my younger brother. My loving parents were immigrants from Cuba back in the 1940’s and we lived in NYC before the family moved to Miami, Florida where my sister was born. We are from a large family with relatives in NY, Florida and California. After elementary school in Miami, I attended Miami Military Academy throughout my junior and high school years (which influenced my life, more later). University of Miami was my next stop and along with marriage to my lovely wife and then wonderful children we collectively began our career and life planning. Formal schooling was followed at the California State University, Fullerton and then the University of Virginia, Charlottesville (more details later).

Van Truong: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Valdes: As a kid my interest was always Sci Fi (still is!). I remember watching TV shows on planetary travels or under water exploration - fascinated me. Frankly, I was born in the wrong century and should have been a Star Ship Commander seeking and exploring new worlds.

Anyway, instead of exploring new worlds beyond, I became interested in physics (the queen of sciences). I figured that if I understood physics, I could understand everything – it was a start. As a kid, I remember between baseball games and pool outings with family and many cousins, I would read a small paperback title “Physics Made Simple” - what a way to spend my youth!

So, at U of Miami I wound-up with a major in physics and minor in mathematics and a little bit of ROTC. As to my interest in medicine – that came a bit later.

Van Truong: Tell me about your career progression. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Valdes: As indicated it started with physics and math, being fluent in both English (native language) and Spanish and some military exposure (and a war overseas), I was recruited by Feds and moved the family to California. During my tenure there I started a Master’s in physics with a twist to include some biology. How did that happen? During that time, scientists like Max Perutz, James Watson, Francis Crick and others were developing and using physical science techniques to assess protein and nucleic acid structures to better understand how biology works. The discipline of “Biophysics” was just beginning its emergence and I wanted to be part of that. At the California State University, Fullerton (at that time Fullerton State University) I asked the chair of the physics department if I could integrate some biology courses as part of my MS program and call it an MS in “Biophysics”. This concept was quite new and he was intrigued. The chair of the biology department also agreed to this scheme and that was one of my first efforts at shaping a career. While I was doing all of this, apparently Uncle Sam recognized the importance of merging physics and biology for national defense, so I started a doctorate program in “real” Biophysics at University of Virginia, Charlottesville. My focus was thermodynamics of protein self-assembly. At the completion of the doctorate there was another fork-in-the-road – what to do next? The tossup was a postdoc or medical school, I learned that if Med School, then to remain in the science arena it would evolve into something like “pathology’ as a specialty. The prospect of another 8 or 9 years was not appealing at that stage in my family life. However, I got lucky in that the department of pathology at UVa had just hired a prominent clinical chemist (Dr. John Savory) and other faculty. John had trained postdocs at his previous institution and was interested in starting a postdoc program at UVa. What luck – I contacted Dr. Savory and was most fortunate that he provided me the opportunity to be his first clinical chemistry postdoc at UVa.

After completing the postdoc, a faculty appointment based at Jewish Hospital at Washington University was my next stop. This was followed by an appointment at the University of Louisville where I was recruited by the then chair of pathology Dr. Bogdan Nedelkoff and the Dean, Donald Kmetz (both pathologists). I proposed starting a postdoctoral fellowship program in clinical chemistry and they provided me the opportunity and support to develop it. Life goes around! Eventually I was appointed as Senior Vice Chairman for the department.

Van Truong: How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Valdes: Good mentorship is essential in fermenting a career. Honestly, mentoring is about “guidance” and “opportunity” and I have been blessed with individuals like Dr. Gary Ackers who mentored my doctorate (introduced me to the “thought experiment” before starting anything), John Savory and David Bruns, Brian Renoe and James Boyd during my clinical chemistry postdoc. Having the opportunity of taking in different perspectives from these individuals greatly helped me align my thinking. Dr. Gerald Kessler during my first real job in clin chem at Jewish Hospital while on the faculty at Wash U in St. Louis, showed me the true meaning of laboratory operations when he placed me as director of the endocrine lab at Jewish where I also had terrific assistance from the staff technologists. Dr. Jack Ladenson at Barnes Hospital, also part of Wash U, provided guidance during my first few years as an early faculty member and at the Wash U chemistry program.

I got involved in ACS during my postdoc with John Savory, where John introduced me to Dr. William Sunderman Sr. and the rest is history. The ACS provided an opportunity to meet others with mutual interests and importantly a forum for oral presentations and needed exposure for young scientists.

All of these individuals (and others not mentioned) helped to shape me in some way and I should add my lovely wife, Kathie, to that list, for all along providing me the support to carry on!

Van Truong: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Valdes: Well, when you think about it, going from pure physics and math to biology and then medicine may not seem unlikely now, but they were tall “leaps” back then. For me the challenges (all welcomed and appreciated) were convincing others that a new path should be taken. I have always felt that crossing disciplines is the best way to integrate and advance disciplines as well as develop new careers. Starting and spearheading new ventures is also part of this and what I enjoy doing. For example, combining physics with biology as a major at a school was new; starting a new academic clinical chemistry postdoc program at a school not having one is new; guiding an organization in a new direction is another example of venturing off into uncharted territory. Starting new commercial ventures as businesses with a lab medicine focus is another example.

As to unexpected turns, stop and think, I was supposed to be a Star Ship Commander exploring new worlds and turned out to be a clinical scientist exploring new biological markers – maybe not so different!

Van Truong: How has ACS helped you in your career?

Valdes: This is incredibly important! First, getting involved in any professional organization is essential for networking in meeting new individuals or reuniting with established colleagues; second, it provides opportunities for exploring and learning how others manage their careers as well as their particular jobs; and third, it provides one the exposure and opportunity for developing leadership skills needed to advance your own work. As for the ACS, it has no doubt provided me with the above. Attending the “special” kinds of meetings held by the ACS, participating in committees, organizing functions, creating new education programs, etc., all contribute. The privilege of sitting in leadership roles for any organization can be instrumental in developing your career. I strongly recommend this to young professionals in our discipline or any other.

Van Truong: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Valdes: I mentioned earlier how important mentors were in developing my career. Some additional ones include Dr. Bogdan Nedelkoff who hired me at UofL and guided me early on in establishing my entrepreneurial roles, mainly by giving me the freedom and support to create new programs. Even as far back as at Wash U, I learned that we could take anomalous results obtained in the clinical lab (for example, interferences in digoxin assays) and develop research activities ultimately funded by the NIH. In that regard, I encourage this path as not many in our profession take advantage of NIH grants as part of their career options. I was also encouraged by leadership at UofL to acquire US patents and several have led to start-ups creating jobs in our community. In fact, I often indicate to my postdocs to consider creating their own jobs if so inclined, as it can be professionally rewarding.

Having been involved in mentoring the career development of more than 40-plus individuals, I would be remiss in the area of mentorship if I did not mention how important my former and present students are and the effect they have had on my career. I think of all the things I have done professionally, that mentorship is probably the most rewarding for me, personally. In fact, I should point out that mentorship works both ways, in that I have also been mentored in some way by my students themselves, so it is a two-way street. Thus, I am grateful to all of them for the opportunity they gave me to make a difference in their lives and them in mine.

Van Truong: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in national/international organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Valdes: I believe we touched on this above. But look, as an example, I have been honored by the confidence my colleagues have placed in me when asked to lead efforts (not including when they cannot find anyone else, of course). Throughout my career I have been in leadership positions in at least six organizations in our discipline of lab medicine. In every case it has been rewarding in helping to shape the future of our discipline but also helping to mentor other young professionals. This is one key element often overlooked - in leadership roles you also serve as a role model for others to follow and this is part of our mentorship responsibility. So there, it all ties together!

Van Truong: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Valdes: Developing a network is essential to a healthy and productive career. After all, how are you going to learn what others are seeing, experiencing, and doing at their institutions? For example, each time I attend a meeting I make an effort each day to meet-up and speak with colleagues and at least meet one new individual every day - it adds-up after a while!

One good way I recommend to network is to join groups engaged in activities, like committees, for example. You get to learn first-hand, see how they work, learn what they do, and you will know who to contact when needed. So, from personal experience, networking has been central to developing new ideas in my educational, clinical service and research activities. So, propose a new idea or activity, and beware, you will likely be asked to lead it - trust me, I know

Van Truong: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Associate Professor level in their career?

Valdes: I don’t know how much I would change if had to do it all over again (maybe fix a few mistakes here and there), but as to advice in starting out, consider what you like to do as your guiding mantra. You are not going to spend nights and weekends writing grant applications or manuscripts unless you love and enjoy doing that! People naturally gravitate towards their real interests.

Another piece of advice is to work on learning and developing an area in your discipline that is new and evolving – employers are looking for someone to help them get there! Start early, work with your mentors to help guide you. Regarding this, I tell my students that my role is not to teach them, but to provide them opportunities to learn - most have taken advantage and done well.

Starting a career at any institution requires you to focus on the job expectations and, by the way, it’s not a job - it’s a profession. During those early years as an assistant professor contribute to the collective while all the time keeping your eye on developing your own portfolio. Ask yourself, what will be required for your next professional appointment as a new hire?

Advice to an Associate Professor looking for advancement, I think it wise to look for opportunities at other institutions – if someone else wants you, you become more marketable where you are. It may be a better deal all around!

David Bruns, MD, PhD interviewed by Henry Oh, PhD, January, 2023
Dr. David Bruns

Interview: Dr. Bruns

Henry Oh: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

David Bruns: : I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Washington University, which was literally down the street from my home. The school offered me a wonderful scholarship in engineering. That led to a bachelor of science in chemical engineering.

When I decided to go to medical school, I needed to learn about biology. (I had not had even a high-school biology class; none had been offered at my school.) So, I returned to Washington U. A former professor of mine (in English) was, by then, a dean; and he suggested that I enroll in a program for an AB in Arts and Sciences with an emphasis on biology. Classes were amazing, often with a small number of students; and they were taught by engaging and brilliant faculty. A course in comparative neurology was taught by Rita Levi-Montalcini who was doing work then that led to her Nobel Prize. Barry Commoner taught another class entitled “molecular biology”. On the first day of class, he asked the class what we wanted to study. Of course, we all said “molecular biology”. He was disappointed; he had hoped that we would be interested in a broader topic, such as environmental studies. He nonetheless taught a terrific class in molecular biology.

I attended medical school at St. Louis University which provided my first real exposure to biochemistry. Having trained as a chemical engineer, I was amazed by the “chemical plant” inside cells. (I still am.) But the required rote memorization in biochemistry classes was a challenge for me when it came time for exams. Fortunately, a group of young biochemists had arrived on the faculty recently, and they focused their exam questions on problem solving. Those questions accounted for half of the test scores. The average grade on tests was about 50%, so I was fine. Also at St Louis U, a senior faculty member, Maurice Green, gave a memorable lecture that introduced his work on oncogenic viruses. I had an urge to join his laboratory, but the urge was buried by the need to memorize material for upcoming tests in other courses.

Residency and fellowship training in Laboratory Medicine were at Washington University in St. Louis. This period introduced me to the practice of clinical chemistry and to basic research, although I did not do enough basic research to be “board eligible” in science (if such boards were to exist).

Oh: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Bruns: I probably was attracted to science (and math) in high school mostly because I could do it. Memorization, which was important in high-school classes in history or foreign languages, did not come as easily for me. I was more comfortable figuring out problems (I liked physics enough that I created and taught an after-school class at my grade school. Clearly a nerd).

The Soviet Union had launched the Sputnik rocket, and kids who could do math and science were encouraged to do science or engineering. I liked chemistry and could do math, so chemical engineering was deemed to be a good fit (of course, I had no idea what chemical engineers did).

In college, I became interested in chemistry in medicine. In a strange way, this came about because of Wash U’s outstanding medical school. A classmate had a job there in a biochemistry research laboratory in the department of psychiatry. We did experiments for a college chemistry class (I don’t recall which) in that research laboratory, at night, probably against the rules of the class and of the research lab. I was impressed by the lab, and intrigued by the confluence of chemistry and psychiatry.

Oh: Tell me about your career progression. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Bruns: Yes. When I finished residency and fellowship and moved to the University of Virginia as an Assistant Professor, I hoped that I would get a grant and publish a paper independent of my mentors. Both of these things happened and exceeded my expectations. Later, the opportunity to serve as editor of a major journal in our field certainly exceeded my expectations as well.

Oh: How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Bruns: I have had important mentors throughout my career.

Important mentors at Washington U. included Leonard Jarrett, Jack Ladenson and Jay McDonald. They taught me, largely by example, how to think (and write) like a scientist and how to deal with technical problems in the laboratory and how to handle tensions with clinicians and laboratory staff.

John Savory, my boss at Virginia, helped me to navigate challenges, both personal and professional. He introduced me to the Association and encouraged me (and others) to submit abstracts to Association meetings. He was generous in introducing me to members of the Association.

To the extent that I have contributed to the profession, each of these mentors was essential, as were many others.

Oh: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Bruns: The most important turn in my career, and in my life, was meeting my future wife, Mary Elizabeth Hirst. Liz was working on her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the time. After she finished her Ph.D. and a postdoc (and after my residency and fellowship), we moved to the University of Virginia where the chairman of pathology gave us a small laboratory in which to do research. We were fortunate to get NIH funding quickly, based on a discovery that Liz had made during her postdoc at Wash U. (additional NIH funding stemmed from observations that Jay McDonald, Leonard Jarrett and I had made.) This led to years of research together in our “mom-and-pop” laboratory. But I am getting ahead of the story.

A second unexpected turn had occurred when I learned that, contrary to what pathology professors had told me at St Louis University, residencies in laboratory medicine existed. In fact, Leonard Jarret had just started one across town. Leonard told me that residents got to do research for a year in any research laboratory at Washington U. I was sold. During my first year of residency, Leonard called me to his office and asked if I had thought about a laboratory in which to do research. I said that I was interested in a research lab in psychiatry (the same one, as it happened, in which I had done experiments at night). Leonard appeared exasperated and said something to the effect that I could work “anywhere, but not in psychiatry!” I spent my research year in Leonard’s laboratory, a completely unexpected turn, but a fortuitous one.

A third unexpected turn was the opportunity to serve as Editor of Clinical Chemistry. This was a real challenge, as I believed that for clinical chemistry to be recognized as an academic discipline, the field needed a respected journal. Although I had served for several years on the Executive Committee of the journal’s Editorial Board, I had a lot to learn. Fortunately, the out-going editor, J. Stanton King, Ph.D., introduced me to the Council of Biology Editors (CBE) and its course for new editors. (Stan had already taught me that editors “must leave a few typos in manuscripts—to breed”.) At CBE I learned from real pros at major medical and biology journals. Several of the members also became colleagues and friends over the 18 years that I was editor of the journal.

A fourth unexpected turn was Carl Burtis’s invitation to me to be a co-editor of the “Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry,” the “bible” of the field. Carl had been a Chair of the Board of Editors, and we had worked together well for several years. The editing of the Tietz Textbook (which is really a reference work) and of its companion books (“Fundamentals”) was important work, as I believed that every profession needed at least one reference work that could help to define the field. “Tietz”, with over 100 contributors, had served that role for years. So, acting as an editor represented a major responsibility to the field. Burtis called it, aptly, a labor of love. More unexpected turns occurred—including, notably, collaboration with Patrick Bossuyt on the Standards for Reporting Diagnostic Accuracy (STARD Initiative)—but the pattern is clear from the four examples above. One should expect “unexpected turns.”

Oh: How has ACS helped you in your career?

Bruns: ACS helped me in numerous ways. It provided an opportunity to present and defend my work orally at meetings. Submitting papers to the Annals provided valuable experience in preparing clinical manuscripts and in responding to reviewers. And attending meetings was a wonderful opportunity to see and interact with role-models informally at the Association’s banquets, musicales, lab visits and road races.

Oh: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Bruns: Mentors influenced my career in many obvious ways, some of which are apparent from what I have just said. On the other hand, other influences were unseen, but they influenced the trajectory of my career and linger in memory. Some examples:

When I was starting out as an Assistant Professor, John Savory recognized (as did I) that I was not writing papers at a good rate. One day, he sat down with me to write a paper about work we had done. After a few minutes of writing on a yellow legal pad (“a variety of methods have been used to measure…” were the magic words to start many Savory papers), John said he had to leave and that I should finish the paper. That was just what I needed. I merely had to finish the paper. (it was submitted and accepted).

On other occasions, Liz and I faced deadlines for submission of NIH grant renewal applications, but I had limited time for grant writing. At one of those times, John Savory told me he would watch over my clinical duties for a few days to give me time to think and write. At another such time, Jack Ladenson (who was chair of the Board of Editors of Clinical Chemistry at the time) watched over some of my editorial duties while I worked on a different grant.

Another example: Jay McDonald suggested me to several pathology chairs as a candidate for positions as director of laboratories. (Jay even offered me that position when he was a chairman at the University of Alabama). Similarly, Leonard Jarrett promised me, after he had become chair of pathology at Penn, that he would help me if I ever needed it. Such reassuring words and actions helped me to feel a small sense of security that I could probably find a job somewhere if necessary.

Oh: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Bruns: Developing a network of colleagues was a natural outgrowth of getting involved with professional organizations. Colleagues I met through such organizations in pathology and laboratory medicine helped me with everything from choosing methods to use in the clinical laboratory to understanding new concepts and obtaining unique tools for research. The critical role of colleagues is readily appreciated in considering the work of editing Clinical Chemistry and the Tietz books:

As examples, Carl Wittwer (pioneer of rapid-cycle PCR and quantitative real-time PCR and more) and Dennis Lo (who recently won a Lasker Award for his work on circulating, cell-free nucleic acids) became Associate Editors of Clinical Chemistry and expanded the scope of the journal, making it a home for papers in molecular diagnostics. Their chapters and advice also made it possible to add the words “and Molecular Diagnostics” to the title of the “Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry.”

Many colleagues from laboratory medicine and from fields in which I had done research (especially endocrine biochemistry served as reviewers of papers when I was the editor of Clinical Chemistry (and since) and improved the quality of the papers that were published on my watch. Jim Boyd, a colleague since we were residents together in laboratory medicine and an expert on laboratory statistics, reviewed the statistical approaches used in submitted papers before publication; he saved our field from publishing embarrassing errors in the scientific literature (and continued to do this for another 15 years at the journal after I retired from editing). Many other colleagues also contributed authoritative chapters that upheld the standards of “Tietz.”

Colleagues from the Council of Biology Editors helped me with important activities such as developing guidelines for publication ethics (and dealing with violations of the guidelines), defending peer review in court, and forming a search committee for a new editor after my terms at Clinical Chemistry ended.

Oh: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Associate Professor level in their career?

Bruns: I am reluctant to give advice. My experiences are limited, and times change. But here is some advice that I have received and trusted.

When starting out: 1. Find time to WRITE papers. “If you do not write, people outside your institution will not know if you are doing anything” [Leonard Jarett]. 2. To support your research, find funding, whether from industry, government (NIH, NSF, DoD etc.) or private funding agencies: “Money is green” [Jack Ladenson]. 3. Show your worth to clinicians and administrators in your institution, and to your superiors. Get involved with their problems and contribute [Fred Apple, paraphrased].

For Associate Professors, time spent in leadership positions is important for promotion and can be enjoyable and satisfying. Try something. If you don’t like it, try something else. I was happy to serve as president of ACS and ACLPS, positions which involve manageable time commitments. But I did not want to be president of a larger society, as these positions would have required me to be away from work in other areas in which I felt I was more likely to be equipped to contribute. By contrast, I was happy to take on the substantial challenges of editing and leading a major journal, where I hoped that I could contribute. “To each his [or her] own.”

For anyone working in our field, I suspect that the most important thing is to be open to new ideas and technologies. During my career, practice was changed dramatically by new approaches that used, for example, mass spectrometry, monoclonal antibodies, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and principles of evidence-based medicine. Finding such approaches early requires reading — often outside our field, in sources like Science (PCR) or Nature (monoclonal antibodies) or the medical literature (evidence-based medicine) — or attending national conferences in other fields and talks in other departments. New approaches are not threats; they are opportunities.

Nina Tatevian, M.D., Ph.D., FACSc. Interviewed by Henry Oh, Ph.D., FACSc (Young Fellow/Editor), September, 2022
Dr. Nina Tatevian

Interview: Dr. Tatevian

Henry Oh: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Nina Tatevian: : I spent my school years in the Soviet Union and graduated high school with the gold medal (the highest achievement, equivalent to valedictorian). In the education structure I went through, students were expected to enter college with a firm decision on what career they were going to pursue. That was quite challenging, considering that I graduated at the age of seventeen. I remember myself then being rather rebellious, trying to figure out what to do, even considering becoming a theater critic. I eventually came full circle to medicine. I say “full circle” because medicine was constantly present my whole life. My parents were both physicians, as well as most of their friends, so I was exposed to all those vibrant discussions around the dinner table for as long as I can remember. I was also heavily influenced by science fiction; I read sci-fi books by everyone from Jules Verne to H.G. Wells to Bradbury to Asimov, and it opened such wide horizons! I aspired to be part of that kind of “Star Trek” breakthrough scientific research, and at that time, industrial organic chemistry appeared to be just that. I entered university as a chemistry major, but during the first year I realized that my true calling was medicine after all. I finished the first year of chemistry, passing all exams for two semesters while preparing to enter medical school the following year. I passed entrance exams to one of the best medical schools in Moscow, which is now known as the Russian National Research Medical University. I completed and earned my medical degree with magna cum laude honors.

Oh: ell me about your career progression. How did mentorship influence your professional career?

Tatevian: My career started rather early and thanks to my first and most influential mentor, Professor V.V. Kuprijanov, the leading investigator in the field of microcirculation, who involved me in research at the anatomy/morphology/ histology department since my first year of medical school. Under his guidance, I studied microcirculation in skeletal development, which was the hottest topic at that time. To satisfy my aspiration to “do something really scientific,” he introduced me to the Electron Microscopy laboratory, which was a rare advancement at that time. This work laid the foundation and developed into my PhD thesis.

Oh: Did you have any unexpected turns in your training or career?

Tatevian: My first turn was switching from chemistry to medicine. My major turn was when I had to start anew after emigration to the United States over 30 years ago. Passing exams, going through residency, passing more exams, and starting a new job was just as exciting as it was challenging.

Oh: How did you get involved with the Association? How has ACS helped you in your career?

Tatevian: I was introduced to the ACS by my colleague/ mentor during my residency. I instantly liked the association’s friendly and supportive environment. The brilliant scientists and pathologists gave me intellectual stimulation and, on an emotional level, a feeling of belonging despite my rather low ranking in the field at that time. I remember the welcoming atmosphere of the first meeting I attended, and I do my best to recreate it for junior members who attend our meetings. Gradually, I became involved more and more, grew to the position of President of the ACS, and eventually was trusted with the responsibilities of the Editor-in-Chief of the Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science.

Oh: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Tatevian: After coming to the meetings of this organization long enough, I’ve gotten to know its members and they’ve become my friends. I make a conscious effort to make younger members feel welcome in the circle of more senior colleagues. And then before I know it, they are at the same level, extending help to colleagues. There have been many occasions when members in the ACS were instrumental in each other’s career development. What goes around comes around, right?

Oh: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine?

Tatevian: Stay involved with your colleagues and mentors. Even casual interaction is beneficial and can land you in a supportive organization such as the ACS. We live in exciting, rapidly changing times, and we should continue going ahead with new techniques, new methods, and new approaches to improve the medical field. Making such improvements takes boldness, strategic vision, and enthusiasm, enthusiasm being paramount. I wish you all the best in your life and professional career!

Myra Wilkerson, MD, FACSc, interviewed by Alex Feldman, MD, PhD, FACSc (Chair, Young Fellow Section), January, 2022
Dr. Juliana Szakacs

Interview: Dr. Wilkerson

Alex Feldman:Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Myra Wilkerson: I grew up in Nitro, WV. Nitro was a town founded in World War I when the government built a nitroglycerin plant there and had to construct a town as well so the workers would have a place to live. Our part of the state had a very heavy chemical industry presence (Union Carbide, Monsanto, DuPont, FMC, Kodak) and was on the USSR’s top 10 list of places to bomb during the Cold War era. I went to undergraduate school at Marshall University, worked in the clinical laboratories at Charleston Area Medical Center for 4 years, and then went back to medical school at Marshall.

Feldman: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Wilkerson: I always loved science. I asked for a telescope for my 7th birthday and a microscope for my 9th birthday. I could not decide which science to study, but I job shadowed our neighbor’s niece who was a medical technologist on semester break when I was a college freshman, and I fell in love with clinical laboratory science. I also worked for the microbiology department in college and did a lot of work with environmental testing for them, which was fascinating and a lot of fun for me. The decision between med school and grad school was really hard. I decided to work for a few years and took a few graduate classes to help. I was torn between medical microbiology and going to med school for infectious diseases.

Feldman: Tell me about your career progression. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Wilkerson: I have always tried to seize opportunities when they came along. I enjoy stretching myself and seeing if I like something different. Dr. Bob Brown asked me to be the director of pathology informatics shortly after joining our group, and I was right out of training—he had a lot of faith in me for some reason. Pathology informatics was an emerging subspecialty then, so it was a great time to get into the field and literally be a pioneer. Informatics gave me so many opportunities to work with others across the country who were experts and happy to include me on committees and workgroups.

Feldman: How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Wilkerson: Dr. Bob Brown, who was an incredible mentor to have when I was a resident, invited me to present a case of Menetrier’s Disease at an Association meeting. It was 1997 in Atlanta, and I was going to get to tour the CDC with the Association. What an incredible opportunity for a resident! Everyone at the meeting was so warm and welcoming, and very interested in my career. It was also Nina Tatevian’s first meeting, and she was a resident too, and I loved meeting her and learning her life story. I just met so many amazing people at that meeting, and loved the Musicale, so it was a great fit for me.

Feldman: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Wilkerson: I never expected to stay at Geisinger for my entire medical career, so I have been very fortunate in that respect. Geisinger acquired a medical school 4 years ago, and I was appointed chair of the diagnostic medical institute there, in addition to already being a clinical chair. I never set out to be an academic chair and I’m still figuring that one out. I also have had radiology reporting to me for the last 5 years, which was also a big surprise, and very different from running a laboratory and pathology practice

Feldman: How has ACS helped you in your career?

Wilkerson: There are always members interested in your career and in collaborating and exchanging ideas and information. I also know when I see publications from members that they are based on solid scientific principles and that I can use the data and findings in my own practice. I also held several leadership positions in the Association, so it has provided me opportunities to develop new skills and learn things like program planning that have carried over into other organizations and in my own lab. Hearing the life stories of some members over the years sometimes helps you put things into perspective. One of the most interesting conversations I ever had at a meeting was with Imre Fischer and Steven Hajdu when they told me how they met in a concentration camp in WWII and became lifelong friends. We also have had so many great musicians over the years that were a joy to play with and that keeps me coming back.

Feldman: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in National/International organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Wilkerson: : If you want to influence your profession, it is essential to be involved in professional societies. This keeps you interested in the science, in the political and regulatory aspects, and helps you develop a network of contacts and resources that are invaluable.

Feldman: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Wilkerson: I have enjoyed serving on committees in several organizations, some administrative and some related to actual medical practice. This enables you to meet and collaborate with some of the brightest people in subspecialty areas within laboratory medicine and pathology. They become great resources to reach out to when you need help solving a problem or need expertise that doesn’t exist in your own lab.

Feldman: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Assistant/Associate Professor level in their career?

Wilkerson: Always look for opportunities, especially ones that stretch you and push you out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of the ones that will connect you with new groups of people.

Juliana Szakacs, M.D., M.S.W., FACSc Interviewed by Henry Oh, Ph.D., FACSc (Young Fellow/Editor), September, 2021
Dr. Juliana Szakacs

Interview: Dr. Szakacs

Henry Oh: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Juliana Szakacs: I was fortunate to grow up in a very happy home. As you know from reading about my father in a previous newsletter my parents arrived in the US after the war and I was born a year later in Chicago. My dad was an intern and my mom worked in the lab so I was surrounded by medicine and clinical science from my earliest memories.

We moved several times between Maryland and New York while my father was in the Navy and I remember as family friends many of the founding members of the Association: “Papa Sunderman”, Bill Junior and Vern Martens. I completed high school in Florida and I was a bit of a free spirit attending several colleges during my undergraduate years. I studied languages and philosophy and graduated from one of the University without Walls programs run by the Quakers, Friends World College. I managed to see the world and learned about different peoples and cultures which turned out to be helpful years down the road in managing a big lab.

I settled in Salt Lake City for a time getting a Masters in Social Work in community organization from the University of Utah (U of U) and worked with minority groups in the SLC area. It was actually while working on the Ute and Ouray Indian reservation that I became aware of the dire need for medical care in underserved areas and I began to think about going into medicine. One case in particular has stayed with me. A young woman I was working with had her children taken from her because she had epilepsy and there was inadequate medical care for her on the reservation. At that point I went back to the university and did the required premed coursework to apply for medical school.

Oh: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Szakacs: My interest in science was “inborn”, surrounded as I was. We had many discussions at home about how life “works”. I was cutting and pasting pictures of chromosomes for my dad when I was in grade school, lining the pairs up in neat rows. For a science project in 6th grade I kept frog hearts beating in jars in various grades of salinity, and spent hours thinking about ways of creating a biologic mechanism to maintain the pumping action of a failing heart. As I started my preparatory work for medical school I found a real interest in clinical chemistry at a time when the measurement of estrogen and progesterone receptors by RIA was just beginning. One project was designing an artificial estrogen substrate for use in the assay. I had a great semester working in a clinical lab doing “wet chemistry” and learning about early automation on the SMAC, with miles of tubing and as big as a whole room.

Oh: Tell me about your career progression. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Szakacs: I graduated from medical school at University of South Florida (USF) and wanted to get back to working with people, helping the underserved. I completed a residency in Family Practice outside of Pittsburgh in a very poor post steel industry town. From there I took a position in Boston at a community clinic serving the working population and students. Here I learned about medical elitism. One of my young patients came in with a swollen leg and I diagnosed a DVT. I sent him to a well-known Boston teaching hospital for an ultrasound and treatment. Whereupon the patient was told by the cardiovascular fellow that the LMD (local medical doctor) was wrong and told the young man to get more exercise.

Luckily I called the patient at home the next morning after learning he had not been admitted and he told me his leg was now swollen up to the groin. I had him transported to another hospital where he underwent a thrombectomy and was thankful for the care. The patient’s father had died at the age of 45 and I strongly suspected protein C or S deficiency although at that time they were difficult to test for.

There were a number of other such incidents and after a year of having to send all the “interesting cases” to specialists, I decided it was time to look at specializing. Initially I thought about oncology and worked with Dr. Sinkovics in Tampa in the Oncology clinic providing the basic medical services for those patients, but in order to qualify for training in an oncology fellowship you have to have an IM or Pediatric residency and they would not accept FP. I was looking for a more mentally stimulating specialty.

As my father said I “finally came to my senses” when I realized that I could do research, teach and support both patients and physicians by going into Pathology. I did my Pathology AP/CP residency at the University of South Florida. I started my pathology career at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

My career progressed quickly after finding my way from surgical pathology and teaching in my first years and then research with a group of Ph.D.s. I was lucky for the network of friends and colleagues at the ACS who pointed me in the right direction and the friends that I made along the way.

Oh: How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Szakacs: I joined the ACS when I was in FP residency after attending meetings with my dad from the time I was in Medical School. Many of the senior members of the group helped me improve my skills in writing manuscripts, looking more critically at my research and even finding jobs! My move to Salt Lake City was directly attributable to networking with friends in the association, Dr. Joe Knight urged me to come. There I was supported and advanced my career in teaching (Course Master of Pathology) and reaching full Professorship. Much of this thanks to publications in the ACS Journal and personal support from senior members in Utah.

Oh: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Szakacs: I have had many turns in my career and at the time they are always unexpected! Leaving Social Work because I saw a need for medical care on a Reservation; leaving Family Practice because there was limited ability to grow in the field; becoming a pathologist and developing interests in teaching, creating “new at the time” on-line teaching materials; becoming involved in research with a group at Dartmouth studying acetaminophen hepatic toxicity. Finally I took several courses in medical executive leadership and began running laboratories, ultimately becoming so involved in administration that I became the Senior Medical Director for Ancillary Services at Harvard Vanguard. There I was Chair of Pathology, (35 clinical labs) and designed and built a 30,000 sq ft Core Lab, and I was also in charge of Radiology, the Pharmacy and Physical Therapy. I also trained as a coach and began working with the Physicians Health Services, helping physicians who have various issues and stressors that interfere with their work.

Oh: How has ACS helped you in your career? Szakacs: ACS was extremely supportive through networking, finding positions, publishing my research and providing CME through the annual meeting. I feel that I was mentored through my entire career by close connections to fellow members. I also gained experience in bringing the annual meeting of the Association to Salt Lake City (SLC) and Boston.

Oh: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Szakacs: The biggest move I made was directly related to a member of the Association encouraging me to take a position in SLC which, with their support, turned into the best career move of my life. There I was supported in broadening my scope of practice to administering a laboratory and eventually becoming the course master for the Pathology Department at the University of Utah. I was able to learn from excellent pathologists, teachers and researchers and fully enjoyed creating teaching materials for the students, residents and fellows.

Oh: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in National/International organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Szakacs: Being involved in national committees and organizations helps you to advance your academic career in publishing and presenting papers. It is also important to get feedback from colleagues outside of your own institution to help you grow and validate, or make course corrections in, your research hypotheses. Being exposed to other ideas and methods or seeing a question from a different viewpoint will also help one to progress quicker and further in their own career. For me serving on the committees of the Association and working to bring the annual meetings to my own institution over the years has given me experience in administration and given me connections to colleagues in my home town whom I would otherwise never have gotten to know.

Oh: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Szakacs: I found that the intimate relationships forged at the Association meetings have been extremely important to my development as a pathologist and as a person. I was lucky to have had mentors from my time in residency who encouraged me to teach and do research. I began presenting papers at the association meetings and learned from others in the same sections developing more connections. Local mentors such as my department Chairs were also important in helping me to advance my academic career giving me advice on developing teaching credentials and subspecialty areas to work in, opening up an even greater network. Always being open to help other clinicians in their research efforts provided me with opportunities, one of which became a career long interest in hepatotoxicity with a group of researchers at Dartmouth. Finally, I treasured the lifelong friends developed initially by my father in the Association who have helped me network and supported my career over the past 37 years.

Oh: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Assistant Professor level in their career?

Szakacs: When starting out, be open to all ideas, become involved with new projects and learn from as many different people as possible. Once you have gained a bit of knowledge and support in the community, you will be better able to dedicate yourself to the area that you are passionate about surrounded by friends and colleagues who will continue to mentor you.

Dedication and hard work as an Associate Professor is always needed to make the next step to Professor. But if you have a love for your work it will come through. I found that teaching energized me and so when I put in long hours creating new materials and even doing mundane work like grading tests I never felt tired but excited by my own growth and contribution to the growth of others. Finding an area where you truly want to make your mark and help the field grow is important to your career progression. Once you find your “sweet spot” hold onto it; that is where you will become the mentor for the next generation.

Robert W. Hardy Ph.D., FACSc Interviewed by Shuko Harada, M.D., FACSc (Young Fellow), February, 2021
Dr. Robert Hardy

Interview: Dr. Hardy

Editor’s Note: Dr. Hardy recently retired after a long and distinguished career at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Dr. Hardy served as President of ACS for two years, 2017 and 2018 when the Association changed its Bylaws to add a new position of President Elect. Only F. William Sunderman, Sr., the Association’s founder, served a longer term as President. He also was the Program Committee Chair for the Association’s 2017 Annual Meeting in Birmingham.

Shuko Harada: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Robert Hardy: I grew up in Brantford which is a small bluecollar town in Southern Ontario, Canada. The Grand River runs right through Branford so in my youth I spent a good deal of time fishing and hiking the river. This was how I first developed an interest in nature, which would later lead to my studies in biology and biochemistry.

Harada: Where did you go to school?

Hardy: I went to small Catholic high school, then to the University of Waterloo, which is strong in science, engineering, and computer technology, for my undergrad studies. I then went on to the University of Toronto for my graduate studies.

Harada: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Hardy: As I mentioned I have always enjoyed the outdoors/ nature and as a boy, I would read about biology but had no formal education in it until I went to the University of Waterloo, as my high school did not offer biology courses. So, I was eager to major in biology. I had a very good teacher for chemistry in high school and was also keen to major in chemistry. So, I did both. When I heard about biochemistry (third year) I knew that I wanted to work in that area and did an elective study on bile acids in my biochemistry professor’s laboratory. This was my first experience working on a project and writing it up. It was a very enjoyable experience and made me want to do more.

Harada: Tell me about your career progression.

Hardy: After I completed my undergraduate education, I was in debt and decided to take time to work and pay off my school debt. I first worked in a sand lab at a foundry, which paid well but was not what I had in mind for a career. I wanted to do something more related to human biochemistry. So, my next job was working as a medical technologist in a small reference lab. This was more like what I was after, but after a couple years, I wanted to get deeper into human biochemistry and decided to go to graduate school. While I was still working in the reference lab we were being inspected and I asked the Inspector what her qualifications were. She told me that after her undergrad she got a Masters in clinical biochemistry at the University of Toronto. Something clicked when I heard “clinical biochemistry”, so I looked into it and it was exactly what I was looking for.

I got a Masters and Ph.D. in clinical biochemistry and was very hopeful that I would get into the University of Toronto clinical biochemistry post-doctoral program. However, there was only one position and I didn’t get it. This was a big disappointment, however it spurred me on to expand my horizons. I applied to several other programs in Canada and the U.S. and was very fortunate to get a clinical chemistry post doctorate position at Washington University. The Wash. U. program was somewhat unique as it allowed me to do both basic research and get my post-doctoral training in clinical chemistry at the same time. I blame the dual undergrad majors and dual career paths on being a Gemini!

Harada: Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Hardy: The main reason I went back to graduate school was to become a clinical chemist, not to do basic research. However, since the research I was able to do was on human disorders (insulin resistance/diabetes and later cancer metastasis), I felt it was a tremendous opportunity and was connected to clinical chemistry so again I tried to do both. I was able to maintain a grant funded research lab for 20 years all the while gradually increasing my clinical chemistry and teaching duties. At the point of closing my research lab I was the Section Head of clinical chemistry at UAB which kept me occupied for another 10 years as well as teaching pathology residents, medical students and being course director for Fundamentals 1 and 2 for the dental and optometry students for eight of those years. So yes, I would say my career progression very much exceeded my expectations.

Harada: What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Hardy: I had two major unexpected turns in my career that really affected my life. The first one was obtaining a clinical chemistry post-doctoral fellowship. I had obtained both a Masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Toronto in one of the few Clinical Biochemistry departments in the country. When I was told I would not get into their program I was really disappointed. I decided to apply to many clinical chemistry post-doctoral programs including in the U.S.A. It turned out that I was accepted to the Washington University program which greatly affected my career and life. Their program was excellent and I was encouraged to do basic research at the same time. Another benefit is that the Wash. U. program has many graduates around the country some of who became valued colleagues. Drs. Jay McDonald and Jack Ladenson were a great influence on my career.

The second unexpected turn was that Dr. McDonald, surprisingly took the position of Chair of Pathology at UAB. He asked me and others to go with him and I did. I did not plan to stay in Birmingham and Dr. McDonald encouraged me to interview for jobs elsewhere which I did and I got a job offer in Washington, D.C. I was excited about living in D.C. and told Dr. McDonald about the offer which I intended to take. Surprisingly he talked me into staying at UAB, which turned out be a much better opportunity than the job I was offered in D.C. There was much more possibility for advancement as the Pathology Department grew tremendously and is now nationally recognized for excellence in Clinical Service, Teaching and Research. The clincher for staying in Birmingham happened when I met my wife there. It couldn’t have turned out better.

Harada: How has ACS helped you in your career?

Hardy: Initially as a young investigator the ACS allowed me to fill out my CV with oral presentations and networking with other investigators. As I got more involved with the ACS I was trusted to be on the Executive Committee, co-hosted an annual ACS meeting (with Dr. Siegal’s support), and rose to the President of the ACS, which I had the honor and privilege of serving for two years. I met many excellent scientists, contacts, friends, and have been fortunate to recruit and mentor younger members to become more involved with the ACS. The ACS experience, comradery, and how they hold their meetings and strongly support their young investigators are unique and what has kept me involved. For my career, it gave me national/international recognition, which is important for promotion, fortified my network of colleagues, helped with recruiting faculty, mentoring, getting answers to questions outside of my areas of interest, and giving answers to questions within my areas of interest as well as managing administrative responsibilities. It has been a very rewarding experience and I highly recommend young investigators to join the ACS and get involved.

Harada: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Hardy: I owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Jay McDonald, who mentored my career and especially the basic research part. He guided me through the academic world from a postdoctoral fellow to a tenured professor and was a tireless reviewer of my grant proposals. Jack Ladenson (clinical chemistry mentor) who guided me through the clinical chemistry program at Wash. U. and introduced me to many of my now colleagues. Gene Siegal, who was also a basic research mentor at UAB, helped me with my publications as well as introducing me to the ACS and encouraging my involvement. He also asked me to be a Senior Associate Editor for Laboratory Investigation which is an USCAP journal. I have worked with Dr. Siegal (Editor in Chief) in this capacity for the past 13 years. Looking back, these mentors were the keys to my success. While they presented very challenging opportunities they were, to me, amazing.

Harada: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in National/International organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Hardy: The importance of being involved in National/International organizations and having administration responsibilities is critically important in garnering national/international recognition, which is required to be promoted in academia. Also, it is a great opportunity to develop new colleagues who are helpful in new areas of science and administration. They may become collaborators. You have opportunities for oral presentations, poster presentations and writing abstracts. With ACS you also have a journal that you can publish in and possibly be on the editorial board. Although administrative responsibilities may not be your focus you will be asked to be on or head up committees at your place of employment. The ACS provides the opportunity to gain experience in leadership roles, understand the dynamics of meetings and committees and to my surprise is actually rewarding.

Harada: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Hardy: I developed my network of colleagues through my involvement with the AACC, AACC-SES, ACS, and by doing grant reviews at institutions such as the NIH and AICR. It is important to not just join these institutions but get involved with their various committees and attend and present your work at their annual meetings. This is how you meet new colleagues who have similar interests to you and maybe more importantly are experts in areas that you are not familiar with. These colleagues can help you find answers to questions that come up in everyday clinical service, teaching and research. It is impossible to be an expert in all these areas so these contacts are very important.

Harada: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Assistant Professor level in their career?

Hardy: Early in your career you need to develop your own network of colleagues. Join organizations in your field and get involved. For clinical chemistry the ACS, ACLPS and AACC have been excellent for building my network of colleagues. The ACS in particular has annual meetings that are somewhat different than the norm in that it is much more collegial and you have more time and opportunity to establish contacts and get involved in a meaningful way. It is also a great organization for getting more oral presentations on your CV. Present your work, get to know your colleagues and get involved. You won’t get promoted without recognition from your peers.

For those who are at the Associate level, it is important to give back to your field of Clinical Science. Get involved with leadership positions in your particular organizations. Remember your mentors who made your career possible and be a mentor to young investigators. It is a tremendously rewarding experience to help them succeed.

Sidney M. Hopfer, PhD, FACSc interviewed by Alex Feldman, MD, FACSc (Chair, Young Fellows Section), October, 2020
Jeno Szakacs

Interview: Dr. Hopfer

Alex Feldman: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Sidney Hopfer: I was born in New York City in 1946. Both my father and mother immigrated from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. My father had completed a trade certification in accounting in Germany and my mother did not finish high school. They arrived in the United States without any worldly possessions. When the United States became involved in World War II, my father immediately enlisted in the US Army. I remember him saying that the United States gave him safe haven so he felt it his duty to protect and fight for it. He became a US citizen, in a mass ceremony, on the troop convoy to Europe. He was wounded in Normandy 6 weeks after D-Day but remained in the service in a non-combat role until the end of the war.

After the war, we lived in New York City. My father was a bartender working in upscale hotels. My parents decided that city life was not for them; so, when I was three, they purchased a small dairy farm in Connecticut. I was the oldest of four children, two sisters and one brother.

Life on the farm was difficult. Up at sunrise and to bed, if you were lucky, at sunset. Planting and harvesting crops and caring for the animals (cattle, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and the usual complement of dogs and cats) kept everyone busy. Since money was scarce, my brother and I learned to repair anything that was broken, something that became a useful life skill.

I attended Norwich public elementary schools and Norwich Free Academy (NFA), a renowned private high school, graduating in 1964. The only reason I was able to attend NFA was that the city of Norwich did not have a public high school and instead paid tuition to NFA—lucky for me!

One more comment about my father. When I left for college, he realized that none of his children were interested in farming (my siblings and I all ended up working in medical fields). When I had returned from my first year of college, unbeknownst to me, he had sold all of the animals and was seeking employment. After a few months he accepted a job as janitor in a local manufacturing plant owned by American Sugar which produces Domino Sugar. During his tenure at American Sugar he moved from janitor to accounting to purchasing to vice president of purchasing. This showed me that anything is possible if you have the wherewithal to get there.

Growing up on a farm, I had decided to become a veterinarian. At that time, there were very few veterinary schools. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Colorado State University for an undergraduate degree in biology and, hopefully, then progressing to veterinary school. Just when I was about to graduate I received my draft notice for military service. I remembered my father’s remarks about protecting your country, so in 1968, off to the Army I went. My military service included basic training, advanced individual training, infantry officer candidate school (OCS), long range reconnaissance school, jungle school, one year of duty in the Fifth Infantry Mechanized Division in Colorado Springs and then to Vietnam. I served as a combat infantry platoon leader and company commander in the First Battalion 20th Infantry for just under one year. I was discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington, a day after my return flight from Vietnam.

When I arrived at OCS, the battalion commander of the school sent a letter to my parents which included the following: “His typical day during the next six months will start early in the morning and end late at night. During the training day he will undergo a great deal of physical and mental stress. The standards are high and demanding in order to better prepare him for the task ahead.” It sounded amazingly like working on the farm and (unbeknownst to me at the time) my future career!

Feldman: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Hopfer: I After a 3 year hiatus, I went back to school. This time I could use the GI bill for funding. I enrolled in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Connecticut (UCONN), which had a very good veterinary pathology training program. I was accepted in a master’s program where my thesis was “The Elimination of Equine Strongyles and Hematological and Pathological Consequences Following Larvicidal Doses of Thiabendazole.” I chose UCONN because if you were a veteran, in addition to the benefits of the GI bill, tuition was exempt. This occurred at a time when small laboratory automation was just beginning. I liked the evaluation of disease using laboratory results so much so that I switched from wanting to become a veterinarian to being some sort of clinical pathologist. For additional income, I assisted the on-duty pathologist performing necropsies and cleaning the suite at the end of the day.

When I was close to completing my master’s degree, my advisor introduced me to F. W. Sunderman Jr. at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine campus. Dr. Sunderman was looking for a doctoral candidate interested in nickel toxicity. At the time I had no idea who F. W. Sunderman Jr. was or where the road would lead! The interview lasted maybe 10 minutes when Dr. Sunderman asked how soon I could start. I believe that expedited offer was related to my status as a veteran and an officer in the military. We worked together in the clinical laboratory researching nickel from the Tuesday after Labor Day in 1975 until his retirement in 1998.

During my doctoral years, I was in a combined program between the main UCONN campus in Storrs and the medical school campus in Farmington. I had the opportunity to take classes with medical students and, more importantly, perform research with faculty from almost every specialty in medicine. The distance between the Storrs campus, the medical school campus and my then girlfriend (now wife, Adrienne), who was attending Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, had me driving approximately 1,000 miles per week. Like most of my life before, a typical day started early in the morning and ended late at night.

Following the award of my doctoral degree, Dr. Sunderman introduced me to the clinical laboratory and the field of clinical chemistry. Even though many recommended I should continue to medical school, I knew this was where I belonged—behind the scenes diagnosing using lab results.

Feldman: Tell me about how your career progressed from there.

Hopfer: After completing residency in clinical chemistry in 1980, I stayed at UCONN. I liked the environment, a smaller institution where you knew everyone on a first name basis, with the opportunity to collaborate on many things. Just as important, my and Adrienne’s families both lived in Connecticut. I had been away for long enough to know that now I wanted to stay close to family. I started off as assistant professor and assistant director of clinical chemistry in 1980 and, through the years, eventually rose to the rank of Full Professor and became the director of the core laboratory in 1994. With each step of the way, I had to learn new skills, methodologies and disciplines. Because UCONN is an academic environment, my responsibilities included clinical service, research and teaching. Over the span of my career, I managed to juggle the three responsibilities. When research funding became more difficult to obtain, I could increase teaching or clinical service responsibilities. During my career, I have been able to publish over 100 peer-reviewed articles and deliver about as many abstracts at national and international meetings.

In 1993, at the time Bill was thinking about retirement, the department began newborn screening for cystic fibrosis (CF) using a non-traditional model. Most newborn screening is performed by public health laboratories where only screening is provided. The screening laboratory at UCONN is able to identify CF in a newborn, provide confirmatory testing, genetic counseling by telemedicine and face-to-face care in the CF clinic in usually less than a week. This has become my current research interest—working with the CF Foundation to nationally standardize the screening process.

Feldman: How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Hopfer: Mentorship gives you a moral and professional compass. Being introduced to and working with Bill Sunderman Jr., although challenging at times, was a gift. Working on trace metal toxicity and metabolism took me all over the United States and Europe (Paris, Denmark, Helsinki, Moscow and Sudbury, Canada just to name a few), in some places touring the mines and, in Sudbury, the neutrino chamber as well.

The first ACS meeting I attended was in Puerto Rico. As Adrienne and I were married on April 11, 1976, and the Association meeting was a few weeks later, it ended up becoming our honeymoon. When we checked in to the hotel, the concierge told us to wait a moment, went to the back and had someone help us to our room on the top floor of the hotel. We looked at each other confused, and when we entered the room, it was way bigger than expected with a fantastic view! We had obviously not ordered this room. Turns out it was the honeymoon suite, and to this day I have no idea who was responsible for getting us that room!

The Association meeting was indeed remarkable. We met and became life-long friends with Arnold Beckman, the Coulter brothers and Al and Helen Free (the chemists responsible for the urine dipstick). Many developers of laboratory science belonged to the Association and many brought their families as well. I’ve always felt attending a meeting was like seeing your family all over again.

The Auxillary to the Association (which includes spouses, friends and family) was also noteworthy. Depending on meeting location, an Auxillary member would organize separate events usually incorporating local attractions. On more than one occasion, I would mention to Adrienne that I was going to miss a meeting and her immediate response was, “No you are not; we are going!” Adrienne served as the treasurer for the Auxillary for many years and one term as President.

Feldman: How has ACS helped you in your professional career?

Hopfer: A large advantage to the Association is there is no disparity between disciplines. In the event you require insight into a discipline you are unfamiliar with, just pick up the phone and discuss whatever is on your mind with an expert. I cannot emphasize enough how many times I have done just this. The number of scientists that helped to mentor me is almost limitless: F. W. Sunderman Sr., F. W. Sunderman Jr., John Savory, Armand Glassman, Charlie Hawker, Roger Bertholf, and many more too numerous to mention! Over the years, these people have helped me scientifically and administratively. Participation in the Associations committees, receiving awards, becoming an officer on the executive board, and serving on the editorial board for the Annals are important and, in many cases, useful for academic advancement.

Feldman: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in national/international organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Hopfer: Academic promotion is not possible without outside interaction. In order to achieve the rank of Associate Professor, there must be documented recognition at the local/state level. For Full Professor national/international recognition is mandatory. It is also helpful if letters of reference are written by leaders in the field and/or chairs of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from throughout the country.

Being involved gives you an expanded perspective for any situation including new approaches to diseases or administrative changes.

Robert L. Hunter, MD, PhD, FACSc interviewed by Alex Feldman, MD, FACSc (Chair, Young Fellows Section), May, 2020
Dr Hunter

Interview: Dr. Hunter

Editor’s Note: Dr. Robert Hunter served as President of ACS in 1988 and currently serves on the Executive Committee as the Director of Scientific Sections. He received the Association’s Gold Headed Cane Award in 2015 and the Clinical Scientist of the Year Award in 1989.

Alex Feldman: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? Bob Hunter: I grew up on the south side of Chicago in the neighborhood of the University of Chicago. I attended inner city public schools during a time when the local environment was rapidly changing. As such, I was lucky to be exposed to a diversity of people and experiences when other areas of the country were more segregated. When I went to college at Harvard, my schooling was considered “diversity,” as many others had gone to private or suburban schools.

Feldman: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Hunter: In high school and college, I was always fascinated by research. The thought of discovering new things and seeing sights under the microscope that no one had seen before was exciting! I didn’t know how to find research opportunities in college. However, in my first year of medical school at the University of Chicago, a pathologist, Dr. Robert Wissler, got me working on a project studying the histology of immune responses in newborn rats.

I fell in love with research immediately and subsequently spent all my elective time and most vacations in medical school on research in pathology. I always enjoyed seeing what my colleagues were doing with their research and adapted their questions and methods to my work. It was exciting to learn things in science that no one had known before. These endeavors allowed me to graduate medical school with a masters degree as well as an MD.

Knowing I wanted a career to that combined research and clinical medicine, I pursued post-graduate training at the Boston City Hospital (internship in Internal Medicine) and University of Chicago (pathology residency) with an additional 2 years for research in the Immunology Laboratory at the NIH where I completed research for a PhD thesis.

Feldman: Tell me about your career progression. How did mentorship influence your professional career?

Hunter: I began my career as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago where I started a clinical immunology laboratory, conducted research and advised MD/PhD students. I was there for about 7 years, when circumstances evolved such that I had to choose between research and medical practice in pathology. Since I wanted to do both, I chose to leave for Emory University where I was offered an opportunity to run a clinical immunology laboratory, do basic research and be director of a PhD program in Experimental Pathology.

Mentorship was always very important in my career. My mentors were outstanding role models. They set good examples, showed dedication to their work and gave sound advice as I pursued my combined clinical and research career. I also thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor of young people beginning careers in academic medicine.

Feldman: Did you have any unexpected turns in your training or career?

Hunter: I struggled some in medical school, especially at the beginning. The father of the girl I was dating in college told me medical school would be one of the hardest and dullest things I ever did. He was correct.

However, when I got involved in research, I loved it. It gave a sense of purpose to the work I was doing. The prospect of combining research and clinical medicine to address medical problems was exciting! Thus, my internship, residency, NIH fellowship and junior faculty years at Chicago all had this dual focus.

Feldman?: How did you get involved with the Association? How has ACS helped you in your career?

Hunter: A senior technologist I worked with introduced me to the ACS. I attended my first meeting in Charlottesville, VA in 1982 and haven’t missed a meeting since.

Right from the start I was drawn by the focus on scholarly aspects of pathology practice. The membership was and is still very eclectic, but everyone shares a common interest in advancing clinical science. There’s a lot of networking at these meetings. You really get to spend dedicated time getting to know people from all over the country, which contrasts with some of the larger pathology meetings.

Looking at the membership over the years, many careers were advanced by connections through the organization. You have the opportunity to show off your work and get to know influential people outside of your immediate specialty. The combination of dedicated science in an array of disciplines in a congenial setting is unique. The opportunity to visit and tour institutions, not just hotels and conference centers, in many parts of the country has much value. People who know you well are willing to write letters of recommendation and help with advancing your career. In fact, it was through ACS connections that I was recruited as Chairman of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UT Houston. This was not an isolated incident.

Feldman: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in national/international organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of one’s home institution. Hunter: By getting involved in organizations like the ACS, you learn that many of the problems you’re trying to tackle are shared by your colleagues. It could be navigating promotion and tenure, personnel issues, adding new laboratory tests or research questions. There is comfort knowing others are dealing with these same issues, and value in sharing ideas of how to solve them. When you take on leadership positions, you really get to become friends with people in the organization while also getting the opportunity to tackle problems affecting the profession.

Feldman: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? Hunter: Find something you enjoy doing and work hard. Get involved in organizations like ACS so you’re not isolated. This will give you new opportunities and open up the breadth of possibilities in our profession, as opposed to just your particular focus. Things are changing rapidly in the practice of both anatomic and clinical pathology as well as research. This is going to continue to be an exciting profession!

Philip Foulis, MD, MPH, FACSc interviewed by Alex Feldman, MD, FACSc (Chair, Young Fellow), February, 2020
Dr Foulis

Interview: Dr. Phil Foulis

Alex Feldman: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Phil Foulis: I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and went to public school. I was very involved in music and started playing cello in 5th grade. I still remember my first concert, the Haydn Surprise Symphony. The conductor said if we played a wrong note, he had tomatoes to throw at us. He never did. Many of my fondest memories center on playing music and attending concerts.

My dad was an engineer in the aerospace industry. I was going to be an engineer, but when the industry crashed, I rethought my future career. I attended Ashland College, now Ashland University in Ashland, OH. I was initially interested in becoming a biology teacher, though, throughout undergraduate school, I became more interested in the field of medicine. In college, I also became interested in computers. In those days we used punch cards or paper tape. I was amazed how you could provide a set of instructions and the computer would calculate and answer. I still find that magical.

I attended McMaster University School of Medicine in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. This was the first problem-based medical school. It was one of the best experiences in my life. It taught me self-directed learning and problem solving, both essential in medicine. I did my residency in internal medicine for one year and then pathology residency at the University of Pittsburgh, before it became UPMC.

Feldman: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Foulis: I have always been interested in science and mathematics. I enjoyed the search, discovery and finding answers. My interest in computers and medical informatics was a logical extension of that, using computers to make things more efficient and productive. In college while some of my colleagues were going out on Fridays, I’d be programming with friends.

Feldman: Tell me about your career progression. How did mentorship influence your professional career?

Foulis: During residency, I was fortunate to have several attendings support my interest in medical informatics. I acquired an Apple computer to do morphometrics on cells. Prior to that, they used photographs, cut out the shapes and weighed them. I then acquired a Northstar computer and developed many useful applications, including the first Anatomic Pathology system using a microcomputer which was used for several years after I left residency. When I was recruited to USF and the Tampa VA, my laboratory director allowed me to develop my interest in informatics.

Feldman: Did you have any unexpected turns in your training or career?

Foulis: Very fortunate only one. I was in private practice in Cleveland when the reimbursement was drastically cut for pathology. Since I was the junior member of our group, I had to relocate. It was a blessing, since I was offered my present position. I was extremely fortunate.

Feldman: How did you get involved with the Association? How has ACS helped you in your career?

Foulis: I was recruited by Dr. Jeno Szakacs when our meeting was held in Tampa. It took me several years and a hiatus to be more involved. The musicale is one of the best aspects of the association. Many of the members mentored me and were responsible for my promotion to professor at the University of South Florida. The organization is always a forum to present new ideas and work to get constructive thoughtful suggestions. It’s much more helpful than any other venue.

Feldman: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in National/International organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of one’s home institution.

Foulis: It is critical. It allows you to see beyond your institution, make friends and challenge your perceived thoughts. It advances and furthers issues in the field of pathology. It also provides a forum to express ideas and expands what you do to make an impact. Otherwise, we tend to be way too portalized.

Feldman: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Foulis: Two organizations were instrumental in my network of colleagues: the Association of Clinical Scientists and the College of American Pathologists. The chair of one of the CAP committees offered me my present position. Serving on committees allowed me to discover the richness of pathology and expanded what was available and what could be done in pathology. I’ve developed many professional friends over the years thanks to these two organizations.

Feldman: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine?

Foulis: Find an area that is your passion. You will be doing it for much of your life and have worked hard to get to where you are. Find a group that works well together; life is too short to be in a hostile environment. The group you work with is more important than the content of what you do. Challenge yourself; always think about how to improve yourself and your workplace. Never be complacent with the “as is”; move ahead. Find a mentor to discuss ideas. Get out and be visible; it will help you and it will help the profession of laboratory medicine.

Dr. Jeno E. Szakacs, MD, FACSc interviewed by Penn Muluhngwi, PhD, April, 2019
Jeno Szakacs

Interview: Dr. Jeno E. Szakacs

Penn Muluhngwi: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Jeno E. Szakacs: I was born in the Óbuda district of Budapest in 1924. Óbuda was built on the ruins of Acquincum, ancient capital of the Roman Province of Pannonia. About a one square mile is explored and the archeologic gems are housed in a handsome museum in the center of the diggings. Acquincum was built along the West bank (Roman Shores) of the Danube. Between the river and the archeologic site the capital city Budapest established its Gas Works just before the millennium celebrations of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1896. My father was employed at the Gas Works as an operator of heavy equipment of the coking furnaces. Housing for the employees was built in a park abutting the archeologic site. My parents were assigned a comfortable apartment complete with kitchen and flower garden. During spring planting we often found some Roman coins that we children proudly turned in at the Museum.

My parents only had an elementary education, but my mother was an avid reader and with guidance of the director of the library she developed a balanced knowledge of the classical literature. The Gas factory in addition to retirement funds provided many benefits for the employees: health care for the family, medical dispensary on site, kindergarten and elementary school, theater and sports facilities, each of the highest quality. The school, lead by exceptional teachers, had classes of 8 or 10 students. It was a shock when in the Gymnasium I found myself in classes of more than sixty. My mother enrolled me in the Lutheran rather than the local state school. I did well in math and science but disappointingly in Latin and literature. My favorite subject was chemistry, and to my delight my Father arranged for me a student summer rotation in the Gas Work’s laboratory. I was introduced to analytical methods of Gas at various steps of its purification.

A crucial event occurred the following year when my professor Dr. Gerendas arranged a summer rotation for me in the Institute of Medical Chemistry. Dr. Gerendas was one of the associates of Prof. Szent-Gyorgyi. The research team was studying muscle proteins and their interaction with ATP. The work led to the discovery of actin. The results of 5 years of detailed studies were published in 1944. On conclusion of my rotation Dr. Gerendas suggested that I should study medicine as it would better prepare me for a research career in biochemistry. But that had to wait. The War engulfed Hungary and in the confusion of moving front lines I was separated from my family. Retreat of the Russian troops after a month of cruel occupation of Székesfehervar opened a way for me to escape to Austria and eventually to Italy.

Muluhngwi: You attended medical school in Rome, Italy. Tell me about that experience.

Szakacs: By the end of June 1944 I made my way to Rome. Together with an architecture student we were granted a room at the Hungarian Academy. With some help of the Hungarian community, the Vatican, and Father G. Denes who provided us with intensive training in Italian, I was ready in October to matriculate in Medicine at the University of Rome (La Sapienza). My first exam in Biology earned me an invitation to enter as intern of the Institute Of General Biology. The Institute became my home away from home. The School Of Cotronei was long engaged in experimental embryology. I was impressed by Dr. Urbani’s metabolic studies on developing embryos, and the effect of antimytotics on them. Using the Cartesian Diver micro respirometer he could follow a single egg from fertilization to gastrulation. I studied the antimytotic effect on cellular viscosity, observing the depolymerization of structural proteins. Eventually I was involved with following phosphorylation during embryonal development. All along I continued in the required courses for graduation.

I had my favorite subjects and favorite professors. The best courses were general Pathology, special surgical pathology and internal medicine. I received a scholarship grant from the Italian National Research Council and graduated under the sponsorship of Prof. Cotronei. During Easter break in 1949 vacationing in Florence I met Mirella a Biology major and my companion for life. We married in October 1950 and we both graduated few days apart in 1951. By that time my application for emigration to the U.S. completed its 5 year run and we both were granted permanent residence in the States.

Muluhngwi: Tell me about your career progression. You were a physician in the U.S. and how did you get involved with the Association?

Szakacs: On January 11, 1952 we arrived in New York after a stormy Atlantic crossing and proceeded to South Bend Indiana. Welcomed by the Hungarian-community we were advised to move on to Chicago for an internship because Indiana did not license foreign medical graduates. I applied and was admitted for a rotating internship at the Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago. The internship was my introduction to the practice of medicine, after years of lectures and readings finally all that theory found its practical application. During my internship I made the acquaintance of influential physicians; one was Dr. W.C. Bornemaier who supported my licensing application and became my lifelong friend. Another surgeon of Hungarian origin knowing my goal of medical research introduced me to his schoolmate Dr. George Gomori a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. Gomori was doing groundbreaking research in histochemistry. He strongly discouraged me from the medical research route, and rather encouraged me to go in to practice. For a short period after obtaining my Illinois license I started to build a private practice, but soon I was called to active duty by the US Navy. Commissioned as a medical officer (Lt. jg.) I reported for duty at the Station Hospital of the Pax River Naval Airstation. Assigned to the Female Medicine department for nearly two years, I provided prenatal care and conducted deliveries. The Hospital was well organized with excellent nurses and support personnel.

The base offered many recreational facilities for the family. Also, it was in driving distance from the NIH in Bethesda so I could attend a review course in neuromuscular physiology. To my surprise one of the lecturers was Dr. K. Laki, my old acquaintance from the medical chemistry institute at the University of Szeged. Sometime later a position in the Pathology Residency Program was advertised for officers of the regular Navy. By that time, I was convinced that a career in the naval medical corps trained in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine would be closest to my aspirations. With the support of my senior medical officer I was accepted in the regular Navy and for residency training in Bethesda at the US Naval Medical School, NNMC. At the same time I obtained my US citizenship in the district court in Baltimore MD. We said good bye to our many good friends and were treated to a Maryland style fish and crab special dinner by the nurses.

On the first of Oct 1956 I reported for my residency in Bethesda. The department was in the midst of preparations for the protein workshop presented by the ACS. Capt. Martens, the “boss,” assigned me to assist Dr. Bradley Copeland in setting up his equipment for demonstration for measuring nitrogen as a primary standard for protein analysis. This experience was what I had dreamt my career could be. Once the ACS opened its membership I joined and became a founding fellow. Since 1956 I participated in almost all of the workshops and meetings of the ACS. This provided stimulus for my professional accomplishments and provided comradery of outstanding leaders in clinical science. My training began in earnest after the interlude with the Hungarian sea lift. I found myself in a congenial group of officers strong on comradery and dedicated to high quality service. My instructors were Dr. Robert M Dimmette and Albert Cannon.

At the end of my training in pathology, I was assigned to be head of the physiological chemistry laboratory of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. All tests were hand processed. It was in my second year there that the first single channel autoanalyzer arrived. I and my staff prepared a training film for the Navy on how to use the autoanalyzer. In 1962, I was selected to be the laboratory director at the Naval Hospital, St Albans, New York. It was quite challenging working there because the chief of surgery (a senior captain), did not accept a surgical pathology report from anybody less than the chief of pathology. Although I had associates who were better informed in surgical pathology than I was, I had to do the job. Quickly, I got back into surgical pathology and became a morphologist again. I had four residents and two other staff pathologist officers. St Albans was the center for thoracic surgery for the Navy. At that time tuberculosis was still rampant and any tuberculosis patient east of the Mississippi was sent to us. The micro group of our hospital excelled in the diagnosis of atypical mycobacteria.

Muluhngwi: I can see your career was blossoming and you were doing very well. How did you find yourself in Florida?

Szakacs: I loved the service and the Navy was very good to me. However, after 4 years, New York was so expensive and the salary was inadequate to maintain a family and send kids to school. I asked to be re-stationed to Bethesda. I was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) where I spent a year with Dr. Kamal Ishak at the hepatology/gastroenterology section.

Kamal was the pathologist who impressed me the most and I learned more from him than anyone else in my entire career. While at the AFIP, I learned electron microscopy (EM) and through collaborative work I became interested in tumor virology. I started to work on tissue culture infected with virus –specifically the papilloma virus. An opportunity came up in Florida—the new St Joseph’s Hospital needed a pathologist and I became chief of pathology of the hospital in 1967.

At St Joseph Hospital, I was able to apply for and obtained an electron microscope from the NIH. I obtained a contract to study human sarcoma tissues for the possible presence of viruses. While I was screening all the available material from the Tampa bay area for virus, I also collected a nice group of diagnostically important micrographs. I had this contract until 1986. All this time, the ACS continued to have presentations and workshops and I presented EM of the kidney, parathyroid, and in Chicago (1982) I presented a collection of materials for diagnostic EM.

Muluhngwi: Looking at your impressive career, is it right to say that pathology was an unexpected turn in career for you?

Szakacs: Coming to America, the practice here was so different from that of Europe that Clinical Pathology/Clinical Chemistry was closest to what my original intent was. You can have an original dream, but you have to have the circumstances to achieve it. As it turns out, I ended up being a pathologist doing a lot of practical work in tumor pathology.

Muluhngwi: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Szakacs: Dr. Albert Cannon, a member of ACS, was my first mentor and I wrote my first papers together with him. Even though I was assigned to autopsy service, when I saw a patient who died of an overdose of norepinephrine, I looked at the pathological changes and wanted to know if in fact norepinephrine was the causative agent. This inspired me to start research into the study of norepinephrine. From that I managed to reproduce myocardial changes in dogs and a number of publications resulted from that study. The first publication, “I-Norepinephrine myocarditis” was published in the AJCP journal. In addition to the routine work which was required to survive, I tried to keep up my interests in new developments in the field. In fact, the ACS meetings helped me. I was able to meet with many of my associates, my residents and my consultants. In the New York meeting I introduced to the association one of my consultants, Dr. Leon Sussman, a hematologist who later became vice president of the association. There was also Dr. Melicow and Dr. Don McKane. In my career here in Florida, I managed to ask for and obtained speakers for the numerous meetings which we hosted for the ACS here in Tampa from my former acquaintances. They are now members of the association.

Muluhngwi: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in National/International organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Szakacs: I was a member of the ASCP and CAP but I preferred ACS because it was cozier. I met the members and we became good friends. In one of the meetings, I had 175 members attend the spring meeting and that was at the same time as the NY world’s fair. Dr. Sunderman and Bob MacFate were invited to turn the lights on at the NY World’s fair. We had a banquet the following night and the speaker was Vice Admiral Deutermann who was the Navy representative to the United Nations. He actually arranged for the association to visit the United Nations.

We at St Joseph helped establish the medical school in Tampa which opened in 1972 as the University of South Florida College of Medicine. My department did much of the lecturing in pathology and we provided the practical samples for the school from 1972-86. In 1986 I was invited to join the regular faculty and I am an emeritus professor of USF, retired.

Muluhngwi: In 1966, you were the president of ACS. Was this helpful to your career?

Szakacs: It was nothing special. The important thing that helped me is what happened at the seminars, what I learned and what was brought forth by the members who were so smart- so much smarter than I was. Being associated with a group like ACS, takes you away from the regular work and helps to expand your interest.

Muluhngwi: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Szakacs: Dr. Bob MacFate, the secretary of the association, was the person who helped me. He was a kind person, very knowledgeable and a real supporter. I really admired him a lot. Dr. Albert J Dalton was my mentor in EM.

My networking was through the university (University of South Florida College of Medicine). Being a clinical professor from 1972 and then eventually a professor, my network was with the pathologists in the local area like Dr. Henry Azar and Dr. John Balis, who was the chief of pathology of the VA hospital, and the various professions.

Muhngwi: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine?

Szakacs?: Whatever you start to work on, and you carry it to a certain point and you stop instead of making the one further step, that is a mistake. I can tell you one big mistake I made like that. When I studied extraskeletal Ewing’s disease by EM, when the observations were all correct, I described the intercellular bridges which were markers of an epithelial cell and although the paper was published and well received, I missed the last step. At that point I should have done histochemistry for neural markers to confirm and come up with the correct diagnosis for primitive neuroepithelial cell as the basic cell type for Ewing sarcoma, but this last step I missed. A decade later others identified Ewing’s Sarcoma as a PNET. So when you are doing a study and you are at the point that you wonder about it and are not quite sure, take the next step, use another method and complete your study.

Dr. Clive Hamlin, PhD, FACSc, interviewed by Kamisha Johnson-Davis, PhD, FACSc, September, 2018

Interview: Dr. Clive Hamlin

Kamisha Johnson-Davis: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Clive Hamlin: I was born in England January 1941. In 1954, I emigrated with my family, via boat and train, to Southern Rhodesia, where I completed high school and attended college, concentrating on the physical sciences. During one summer, I filled-in for a vacationing quality-control chemist at the local Unilever plant, which manufactured margarine. One day a 500g container of pure vitamin D was found missing; eventually, a laboratory orderly admitted taking it. Believing it to be a healthy material, his family had used it as cooking oil, but apparently suffered no subsequent health issues. During the following summer, I travelled through much of central Africa including the Belgian Congo, Ruanda-Urundi, Tanganyika and Northern Rhodesia. I completed my undergraduate studies December 1961 with plans for September 1962 to start graduate studies at Imperial College, London.

Johnson-Davis: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Hamlin: During the intervening months, I spent some time working with ore processing at a copper/uranium mine, followed by an over-land trip to London, via Sudan, Egypt, the Middle East, then from southern to northern Europe. Conversation with North American friends, engagement to my future wife, and poor housing during a cold winter all led me to change fields and transfer to the University of Waterloo, Canada. I completed a PhD in biochemistry in spring 1967. A pathologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland then recruited me for a research opening. A core condition of me coming to Canada was an agreement not to work in North America for at least one year following completion of my degree. With another agreement from Cleveland to hold my job-offer for a year, I set off with my young wife for a year’s travel through Europe, Asia and Africa. One noteworthy event occurred at the medical school in Esfahan, Iran. I attended a lecture given by Samuel Rahbar, who presented evidence supporting his hypothesis that increased Hemoglobin A1c occurs with diabetes. We completed our travels with a freighter trip from Bremen Germany to New York, April 1969.

Johnson-Davis: Tell me about your career progression. How did mentorship influence your professional career? How did you get involved with the Association?

Hamlin: I began research with Robert Kohn, M.D., working with age changes and connective tissue, funded by limited grant money. Bob Kohn and I became close friends. I looked for more permanent funding following the birth of my daughter, and with Bob’s help, I started as an assistant chemist in the hospital laboratory, November 1970. I found myself, with not much notice September 1971 to be in charge, following the Director’s departure. The head of medicine, following consultation and at his suggestion, corrected my knowledge deficit by having me round with residents early each morning for one year. I followed this with three months each in Obstetrics and Pediatrics. The hospital administration desired consolidation of satellite laboratories and extension of service to 24 hours each day from 5 ½ 8-hour-days weekly. I accomplished this over the next five years with the introduction of many immuno-assays, high-risk obstetric tests, special pediatric procedures and medical toxicology. My teaching responsibilities with residents, medical students and medical technologists also increased. 1983 saw significant change with the elimination of professional charging for most of clinical pathology and the elimination of hospital dual-pricing for laboratory-tests. I then helped to establish and became the Director of an out-patient laboratory owned by the pathology practice but with hospital approval. This became a profitable full-service operation, funding faculty and resident positions, and covered much of northern Ohio. In 1985, I was asked by hospital administration to help the laboratory of a freestanding facility with over 175 practicing physicians, and soon became Director of that laboratory too. During this time, I came to know Joe Knight and Jim Wu who were dealing with similar issues at ARUP. They introduced me to the Association.

Johnson-Davis: What unexpected turns did you have in your career? training?

Hamlin: A new hospital administration arrived with altered priorities, and I lost most of my hospital professional responsibilities effective November 1995. I then became involved with the academic side of the department, concentrating on graduate education. About that time, a ten-year episode of bovine encephalopathy (mad cow disease) was followed by a report of an unusual, probably linked, prion disease in humans. The United States, decided to begin human prion testing under the leadership of Pierluigi Gambetti, M.D. who was then one of two leading prion experts in the country. Pierluigi asked me to set up the testing laboratory and provided me much needed instruction on the details of prion pathology. After a lapse of three years, the hospital asked me to return to pathology resident teaching, following poor board performance in chemistry. These activities kept me busy until then end of 2017 when I retired from clinical practice. Now, I continue with the pathology graduate-student program, and teach pathology residents and medical students. I hope too, to continue my relationship with the Association and its members, with whom I have had many worthwhile interactions.

Johnson-Davis: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine?

Hamlin: I can suggest six major topics where I can give advice: (1) Make sure you are accessible. When in your office, keep the door open as much as possible. Respond quickly to all concerns and complaints. (2) Do what you can to become known. Mingle with your clinical colleagues. Attend clinical case presentations and participate in discussion relating to the laboratory component. Get to know others within your profession who are at nearby institutions. Attend local and national meetings. (3) Establish a good reputation. Make sure you follow through on every commitment. Try to make your boss look good. Do not be afraid to admit you have an incomplete understanding of a subject, but take steps to rectify it. Never hide mistakes (we all make some) and learn from the experience. (4) Document all important matters. If you reach a verbal agreement with a second party, follow up with a written outline, with all essential points, and request that party to agree. (5) Unexpected opportunities. Take risks, after careful consideration; move out of your comfort zone. (6) Pleasure. Set aside some time each week to enjoy activities outside of your profession.

Dr. Charles Hawker, PhD, MBA, FACSc, interviewed by Penn Muluhngwi, PhD, April, 2018

Interview: Dr. Charles Hawker

Penn Muluhngwi: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Charles Hawker: I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest of four children, and graduated from a public high school (Grover Cleveland) in January, 1958. In those days, the St. Louis schools had two graduating classes each year. I wanted to work until college started in September, but there was a national recession and jobs were scarce. After spending two weeks as a laborer at St. Louis Shipbuilding & Steel Company, I saw a newspaper ad for a technician position in an endocrine lab at Barnes Hospital. I interviewed, but they didn’t want to train me for just the 6-7 months before I would leave for college, so I said I would work for free because I wanted to learn about the lab. They were willing and that was how I got started in clinical laboratory medicine. I learned how to do colorimetric tests such as for 17-ketosteroids, 17-hydroxycorticosteroids, and the isonicotinic acid hydrazide (INH) reaction for Δ4-3-ketosteroids on urine specimens from patients with endocrine diseases. It was great fun and a wonderful learning experience.

Following my freshman year at Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), the Barnes lab hired me for the summer at a regular technician salary and gave me an interesting research project that lead to my first publication in Analytical Chemistry in 1960. They had observed that the INH reaction gave a yellow color with hesperetin, a flavonoid compound they had isolated from human urine. In addition to developing a quantitative colorimetric method for measurement of flavonoid compounds using the INH reagent, this project led to a separation procedure for six different categories of flavonoids. Of course, in 1959, nothing was yet known about flavonoids as anti-oxidants and their possible value in human health. Much to my surprise this work was noted with two sentences in the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia Yearbook for 1960 in the section on Chemistry and Chemistry Technologies.

After completing my BA in chemistry at IWU, I attended graduate school in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, where I earned an MS under Howard Rasmussen, MD, PhD. Howard was the first person to purify bovine parathyroid hormone (PTH) and was undoubtedly the most significant mentor in my career (see below). As my MS work was concluding, Howard accepted a position as chair of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, so I moved to Philadelphia and completed my PhD in 1967 on the purification and isolation of porcine calcitonin.

Muluhngwi: How did you develop an interest in science and medicine?

Hakwer: My father and grandfather were both physicians, so I initially thought I wanted to go into medicine. However, my father (an obstetrician) missed so many family dinners and other family events and was at the hospital so much, that I changed my mind and thought I would go into research instead and work toward a PhD. Of course, my high school counselor wasn’t savvy enough to know that some MDs did research, and I didn’t really find that out until I was in graduate school. Ending up with a career in laboratory medicine had as much to do with serendipity as anything else. The experience at Barnes Hospital was great, but laboratory medicine wasn’t yet on my radar as a career. Further, the chemistry department at Illinois Wesleyan was quite small – there were fewer than ten chemistry majors while I was there and only two faculty members. As naively as it sounds, I chose biochemistry for graduate school because I liked both chemistry and biology, but neither of them individually enough. Although I had not taken an undergraduate course in biochemistry, I intuitively thought it would be what I wanted.

Muluhngwi: Tell me about your career progression. What unexpected turns did you have in your career?

Hakwer: After completing my PhD, I obtained an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Penn with Howard Rasmussen to develop a radioimmunoassay (RIA) for calcitonin. This was only a few years after Berson & Yalow published the first RIA for insulin, followed by growth hormone, ACTH, and PTH. None had yet been developed for calcitonin, so I began by developing an RIA for PTH to learn the techniques so that I could work on calcitonin. It took four years to get a working assay for PTH; I never started calcitonin. My latter two years as a postdoc were with Robert Utiger, MD, an endocrinologist who had developed the first RIA for TSH before he came to Penn. His experience in RIA and his ability to procur patient specimens for assay validation got the PTH assay over the hump. Important to my subsequent career was that Howard Rasmussen gave me permission to take the reagents for the PTH assay with me.

My first position upon leaving Bob Utiger’s lab was at a small endocrine RIA lab in West Los Angeles. It turned out to be a dishonest lab that I caught “sink testing” and reported to the CDC. There isn’t room here for that story. From there I took a position with the clinical lab business (Laboratory Procedures) owned by the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, MI to head up an R&D laboratory developing new (mostly RIA) tests as well as to run the PTH assay in production. At the high point I had 15 people running 1000 PTH tests per week with a 6-day manual procedure. Amazing by today’s standards! My R&D group developed quite a number of outstanding new RIA tests, including calcitonin (finally), several steroid hormones, gastrin, pepsinogen, somatomedin, and others. We also used these assays (mostly PTH) in many collaborative research projects with scientists all around the country, one of which lead to the discovery of procalcitonin and its role in differential diagnosis of septic shock. That 1983 paper preceded Pub Med and computerized searches, so it was missed by patent agencies when Brahms patented the PCT assay for septic shock as well as by many people who have since published in that area. In 1981, Upjohn sold their lab business to SmithKline and I moved to a large SK lab in St. Louis to manage SK’s R&D. After a couple of years I became manager of client services which also included specimen processing, couriers, referral testing, and outpatient labs. While in that position I completed an executive MBA at Washington University in St. Louis. After four years I became technical director of the lab. It was at SK when I got started with automation. That was the first of the more than 25 SK labs in the country to get barcoding – a tremendous challenge that took a year to get working. After that we installed a conveyor system for specimen processing and a computerized post-analytical specimen storage system.

In 1991, I left SmithKline, frustrated by their bonus driven focus that was adversely affecting patient care in my opinion. ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City created a new position for me because of my automation experience, not as a laboratory scientist or manager. It became a wonderful relationship that lasted 26 years from which I just recently retired.

Muluhngwi: How has ACS helped you in your career?

Hakwer: In 1974, Don Forman, then the President of ACS, invited me to lecture on PTH at a fall ACS meeting in Philadelphia. In those days, the Association had a fall meeting, attended by hundreds, on a specific theme with only invited presentations plus a spring meeting with submitted abstracts. Don introduced me to many of the members including the Sundermans and also invited me to join the Association which I did. This was even before I joined AACC. Subsequently, I was invited to speak at several more of the fall meetings. Don Forman invited me for lectures and to submit papers, and there were other publications, some in the Association’s journal. I had an excellent relationship with Bill Sunderman, Sr., once even joining him for lunch at the Union League in Philadelphia.

Muluhngwi: Did you have any instances where mentors influenced your professional career? How did they influence you?

Hakwer: Many mentors influenced my career, beginning with T.E. Weichselbaum, MD, the director of the Barnes lab. While I was at IWU I had several graduate school offers and could not decide between Cal Berkeley and Wisconsin. Both had several recent Nobel laureates. Dr. Weichselbaum convinced me that I would learn far more in Madison. He said that everyone at Berkeley was trying to get a Nobel Prize and people wouldn’t even talk to each other at lunch out of fear that their research ideas might be scooped. At Wisconsin, I was extremely fortunate to study under Howard Rasmussen, a true genius whose insights into calcium homeostasis were way ahead of others. Howard took me under his wing, and when I developed serious allergies to animal danders, he switched me from a project involving rats to one that was mostly chemistry. It became my MS thesis – the purification and characterization of a parathyroid polypeptide that stimulated glycolysis. Howard’s guidance in a great many ways shaped my career and I learned immensely from him, including how to deliver a lecture. I’ve always said that I might have ended up analyzing selenium at some agricultural research station in Iowa, if he hadn’t invited me to join his lab. My whole career really started with the PTH RIA thanks to Howard.

There have been many others, including Bob Utiger, Claude Arnaud, of Mayo PTH RIA fame, both Sundermans, and various managers and leaders at Upjohn, SmithKline, and ARUP. In turn, I have always thought it important that I mentor others when there has been the opportunity. I strongly encourage young clinical laboratory scientists to both seek good mentors and then to mentor others along the way.

Muluhngwi: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years? How critical has this been towards success in your career?

Hakwer: I think my network developed the same way as for most scientists – primarily through meetings and conferences. One conversation can lead to a lecture invitation, an invitation to another meeting, or an introduction to another scientist. These contacts lead to more contacts and a network grows from there. I believe that networking is very important to career development. However, networking also grows as one participates in professional societies and standards organizations and volunteers for leadership positions. I think it is important to give back to the profession through such endeavors.

Muluhngwi: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine?

Hakwer: First, the Association of Clinical Scientists is an excellent group with which to associate. I believe young scientists can better develop connections and their network through the Association than through larger organizations. Second, find excellent mentors to guide you as your career progresses, and, in turn, mentor younger colleagues. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I made plenty in my career, including killing the guinea pig that made my best antiserum by overdosing him with PTH and putting him in anaphylactic shock. Submit abstracts and give presentations. Volunteer for committees and for other opportunities to become involved in professional and standards organizations.

Roger L. Bertholf, PhD, FACSc interviewed by Kamisha Johnson-Davis, PhD, FACSc, January, 2018

Interview: Dr. Roger Bertholf

Kamisha Johnson-Davis: Where did you grow up? Where did you train and what was your first professional job after your training?

Roger Bertholf: I grew up in Daleville, a small town just north of Roanoke in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I trained at the University of Virginia under Dr. John Savory, and my first professional job was as an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine at University of Florida College of Medicine.

Johnson-Davis: When and how did you discover your career interest in science and laboratory medicine?

Bertholf: I had a very good high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Arlene Bell, and I credit her with stimulating my original interest in the physical sciences. I got interested in laboratory medicine when I was a graduate student in analytical chemistry working under Dr. Brian Renoe.

Johnson-Davis: Tell me about your career progression from the early years until now. Did your career progression exceed your expectations?

Bertholf: My career progressed along a fairly typical path in academics. I began as an assistant professor at University of Florida in 1988, a time when tenure track appointments were the norm. In my fifth year on the faculty, I was promoted to associate professor and awarded tenure. It would be another 13 years before I was promoted to professor, and while that gap is not highly unusual, I had hoped it would occur earlier in my career.

Until January of 2017, the most unexpected thing about my career was that I’d spent it all at one institution. When I was a neuropathology research fellow at U.Va., Dr. Mary Herman advised me that academic careers typically involve at least one move; she and her husband, the eminent neuropathologist Lucien Rubenstein, had just relocated to Charlottesville from Stanford University. I did move from Gainesville to Jacksonville in 1994, but it was a transfer within the UF College of Medicine, so I don’t consider it the same as changing employers.

The biggest change came in 2017, when I resigned from UF to accept a position at Houston Methodist Hospital. Looking back to when I first accepted a position at UF, I don’t recall what my expectations were. I certainly hoped I would be successful, I hoped I’d be promoted, but all I can recall is that I was terrified whether I could survive in academics. To the extent that I did, I suppose I’d say my career exceeded my expectations.

Johnson-Davis: How has the ACS organization helped you in your career?

Bertholf: The first Association meeting I attended was in Charlottesville in 1983, while I was a graduate student in biochemistry. My mentor, John Savory, was close friends with Bill Sunderman Jr., dating back to their years together on the faculty at University of Florida. So I got introduced to both Dr. Sundermans at that meeting, but at that time I had no idea how influential they would be in my career. Although I occasionally attended the annual spring meetings of the Association, I didn’t join until 1992, and I didn’t start participating regularly in its meetings until 1999, when Bill Sunderman Jr. called to ask me if I would give a presentation at the upcoming meeting in Atlanta. From that point forward, my involvement in the Association grew until, in 2004, I became its president.

I don’t think I could possibly count the number of ways the Association has helped me in my career. From the professional contacts I’ve made that provided references when I needed them, to the opportunity to hold office in a national organization, to the responsibility for organizing a professional meeting, to being honored with three of the Association awards, it is not an exaggeration to say that my activities in the Association are, to a significant degree, responsible for whatever success I have enjoyed in laboratory medicine.

Johnson-Davis: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in clinical chemistry/laboratory medicine? What advice would you give someone at the Associate Professor level in their career?

Bertholf: I will just share this anecdote: One day over 10 years ago there was a knock on my office door, and it was one of the Family Medicine faculty whom I’d never met before. He had a question about the urine drug screens we offered in the lab.

We spent about an hour discussing various aspects of urine drug testing, from analytical methods to positive cut-offs to cross-reactivity to proper interpretation of positive and negative results. Out of that discussion grew a collaboration that to date has resulted in 13 peer-reviewed papers, 3 book chapters, and a handful of invited commentaries and presentations on drug testing in pain management. That one hour meeting in my office was, in a very real sense, a watershed moment in both of our careers, and it happened strictly by chance.

So my advice to residents and junior faculty is always the same: Never pass up an opportunity to make a professional acquaintance, because you never know where it might lead. One chance encounter may be just a casual discussion that is quickly forgotten, or it might be a spark that ignites a line of work that becomes central to your career. The wonderful thing about academics is that those opportunities are everywhere; you just have to be receptive to them.

Johnson-Davis: What impact did mentors have on your professional career? How did they influence you?

Bertholf: Mentors are the role models for professional conduct, which is the most fundamental and essential skill required for career success. I was fortunate to have had one of the best as my doctoral advisor and fellowship supervisor, Dr. John Savory. But I also benefitted greatly from other faculty with whom I worked at U.Va., such as Dr. Mike Wills, Dr. Dave Bruns, and Dr. Brian Renoe. My career was influenced by all of them, and many others. I learn something from my colleagues just about every day I show up for work, and it is not always a tidbit of information. Sometimes, it’s just a perspective that I hadn’t considered before, or an example of dignity and grace that I find helpful in my own personal and professional interactions. Every colleague is a potential mentor, because you can absorb the best of what they do.

Johnson-Davis: Describe the importance for faculty to be involved in National/International organizations and to have administrative responsibilities outside of your current institution.

Bertholf: I think about this the same way I thought about daycare when my children were little. Both my wife and I worked, so we had to arrange for daycare for our children, as do so many parents. It was a time when many argued that it was better for the mother to stay home and raise the kids, rather than expose them to an external daycare environment. My argument was, it is never too early for a child to begin learning social skills, and what better way to do that than to make sure they are around other children from a very early age? It is the same in the professional world: you can never have too many professional interactions, because every one of them teaches you something you can use to improve your own professional effectiveness. Professional organizations provide opportunities for many of these interactions, with the added benefit that your circle of colleagues on whom you can depend for advice is ever widening. Promotion and tenure in academia typically requires evidence of recognition at the national level, and becoming active in professional organizations is one of the best ways to achieve that.

Johnson-Davis: How did you develop your network of colleagues over the years?

Bertholf: I don’t really think of it that way. I never set out to develop a “network of colleagues.” In fact, the term sounds a little ego-centric to me, as though I have little black book with the names of those on whom I can call when in need! I prefer to think of it as becoming part of my colleagues’ networks. I want my colleagues to know who I am, where I work, and my areas of professional interest. That happens over time, as you meet new people and have conversations with them. Often that happens spontaneously at scientific meetings, but it also occurs through activities within professional organizations, such as committees or task forces. That’s why it is important to get involved. The more involved you are, the more people you will meet, and your network will naturally grow. Mostly what I’ve found is that the best way to include someone in your network is to be a part of theirs.

Vincent DeBari, PhD, FACSc interviewed by Erik Korte, PhD, September, 2017

Interview: Dr. Vincent DeBari

Erik Korte: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you initially realize you were interested in science and medicine?

Vincent DeBari: As a child, I was a very inquisitive, especially about what I guess we would classify as “nature in general”. When I was about nine or ten years old, my dad bought me a book that described, in a manner understandable to a child, what different kinds of scientists (chemists, physicists, biologists, etc.) do. For some reason, I was really drawn to chemistry. I suppose most people are surprised when I tell them that I knew I wanted to major in chemistry by the time I was ten years old.

I went to a very good Jesuit high school (St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City) and was selected for an honors program in science; it was wonderful! I was, more or less, forced to go to a Catholic college because, back then (1963), the administration wouldn’t give you a recommendation to a non-Catholic college. I couldn’t afford to go away, so I had to stay in the New York metropolitan area. One day, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I took the subway to the Bronx, saw the Fordham campus and decided that I was going to go there. It was the only college I applied to and I got accepted in my junior year. It sure took a lot of pressure off during my senior year.

Korte: You did not take a direct route from undergraduate training to graduate school. What did you do to fill you time between finishing your MS and earning your PhD?

DeBari: When I finished my undergraduate degree, I took a job as a physical chemist with Witco Chemical Corp. doing research in surface chemistry. It was a “plum” job because I got hired into a PhD slot and worked with a fantastic group of chemists and chemical engineers. I took a year off to figure things out and then decided that I wanted to go to what was then called Newark College of Engineering (now NJIT) for my MS. I worked on a biochemical project for my thesis in chemistry and found that I really enjoyed learning about how chemistry influenced living processes.

I married my girlfriend, Peggy, just before I finished writing my thesis (1970) and, “as if by magic”, my first two kids, Michele and Christopher came along. I left Witco in 1973 to work in a lab at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, NJ directed by a brilliant nephrologist named Mark Needle. In 1976, he sent me to take a summer course in clinical enzymology at MIT; by the time the course finished, I knew I wanted to get a PhD. The following year, I was back in grad school, at first taking a few courses as a non-matriculated student at the Rutgers Newark campus, and finally matriculating in 1978. I finished my PhD in 1981 under Alfred Bennun, a biochemist who came to Rutgers after a post-doc with Ephraim Racker. Alfred is currently retired in his native Argentina and very active doing theoretical work in metabolic regulation.

Korte: Tell me about your career progression. What turns did you career take that were unexpected?

DeBari: When I finished my PhD, I wanted, very badly, to go somewhere and do a post-doc. However, Mark Needle told me he would step back so I could take over as director of the lab at St. Joe’s. It came with a joint affiliate Medical Staff appointment in Internal Medicine and Pathology and a hefty raise. By now, my younger daughter, Jillanne, was on the way and I decided that I would post-doc, myself, so to speak. As it turns out, my closest friends at Rutgers all took “real jobs” rather than post-docs.

Korte: Zoology degrees are not often seen hanging on the walls of Internal Medicine faculty. How has your training in Zoology influenced your medical practice and clinical research?

DeBari: The Department of Zoology and Physiology at Newark was composed of a multi-disciplinary group of professors who had appointments at the main campus (New Brunswick) in their specific disciplines. This was critical in that, in addition to biochemistry under Drs. Bennun, Ethel Somberg and David Goodman, I was able to take an immunology course with Dr. Helen Strausser, Physiology with Dr. Jim Hall, and courses in genetics and molecular biology. In 1980, I had to choose between finishing up my dissertation in Newark or New Brunswick. I chose Newark simply because of its proximity to my home in Pompton Plains. The breadth of these courses in the various biomedical sciences would serve me well in becoming what is now called a “translational scientist”, working at the interface of the lab and the clinic.

Korte: A great deal of your research has applied complex statistical modeling to clinical data to define decision levels, risk factors and describe epidemiological patterns. What is the best way for fellows entering the field to tackle the complex statistical methods required in clinical science?

DeBari: Biostatistics is, for me, somewhat akin to a hobby. After one learns some of the basic principles underlying statistical methods, all one has to do is read, read and read and play with data; it’s actually fun! Different authors present statistical methods in different ways and looking into various presentations sharpens ones grasp of these methods. Plus, great software sure helps!! One more thing: most people believe biostatistics is somewhere between difficult and impossible, so knowing biostats makes you a bit of a celebrity at work!

Korte: You have been very involved with ACS throughout your career. How has it helped you?

DeBari: Where do I begin? Prior to joining ACS, I had been very active in the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) but I was becoming mired in local section, divisional and national committees. I was feeling pulled away from science for the sake of “running things”; in other words, I felt like I was no longer learning. At my first ACS meeting, I felt as though I was interacting with a very serious, contemplative group of laboratorians who had as their only interest the serious business of learning. This was around the time that the senior Dr. Sunderman passed away. Bill Jr. took the reins and did everything, so the rest of us could sit back and enjoy the science and the camaraderie!

Korte: Did you have any instances where mentors or other people influenced your professional life? What was their impact?

DeBari: I count two of my mentors, Drs. Needle and Bennun, among the greatest influences in my career. Both were geniuses with quirky personalities with whom it was great fun to work.

I should mention one more individual who influenced me: Dr. Bill O’Connor who was my organic chemistry professor at Fordham and supervised my undergrad research project. I wanted to try a synthetic route to o, o’- diphenaldehyde that was potentially dangerous. My lab TA, was firmly against my attempting this. Dr. O’Connor told him to outfit me with all the safety gear I’d need and let me try it. The explosion put a hole in the ceiling of the lab but I emerged personally unscathed and a hero to my classmates. I learned, that day, that cojones and safety shields count for a lot in science!

Korte: You have taken on a number of important administrative and committee roles in addition to your teaching, research and clinical duties. How would you describe the importance of integrating administrative duties outside of your home department (hospital- or university-wide)? Is this something to be pushed early in one’s career or would administrative service be better suited after one’s career is established?

DeBari: I was very fortunate to have been given some of these opportunities. Although, there were times when I resented how administrative duties kept me away from the business of doing science, I feel that taking on responsibilities somewhat peripheral to one’s actual professional duties enhances ones value to the organization. Read: job security and advancement; it’s never too early to start!

Teaching is an integral part of what we all do, either formally or through activities such as guidance and mentoring. I see teaching as a responsibility, the task of passing the torch, as it were.

Korte: A great deal of your work is heavily integrated into the field of internal medicine, including even your appointment as a full professor within the department. What advice do you have for young people wishing to integrate themselves into a clinical discipline who come from a predominantly research background?

DeBari: I’m not sure there is a sharp distinction between research and clinical application. As I mentioned before, biomedical scientists are important purveyors of translational research, bringing discoveries from the bench to the bedside.

Korte: Do you have any advice for young people about to embark on a career in the clinical sciences?

DeBari: The same advice I give my students and residents: pick an area of science or medicine that you love and work hard at advancing knowledge in that field. That’s your best shot at a successful career.

Armand Glassman MD, FACSc interviewed by Eric Rosenbaum, MD, FACSc, March, 2017

Armand B. Glassman, MD: A renaissance man and emblematic member of the ACS

My phone interview with this gentleman reminded me of my first encounter with an ACS member at the Mobile, Alabama meeting in 2012. Though forty years of accomplishments separate Dr. Glassman and me, it was still, “Please call me Armand.” This gentleman personifies the cordial, collaborative, down-to-earth character of our Society. Though I could use this space to list Armand’s accomplishments, I discovered that the compelling story behind this man was his personal journey in life—a story that anything is possible. That is what I wish to share with the ACS membership.

Armand Glassman was born in Paterson, New Jersey. His father was a Russian immigrant and his mother a native of greater Chicago. At age seven, his parents divorced and he was raised by his mother. A strong woman she must have been, since it was she who first instilled in Armand that if he got an education he could be somebody one day. These words resonated with Armand since he described himself in his early education as “a pretty good high school student, the National Honors Society, you know, but I was also an all-state violinist and an all-state football player.” A humble response for one who played in the all-state orchestra and northern New Jersey Philharmonic. I commented that football and violin are not a typical combination in high school. Armand responded, “I wore glasses; I looked like a nerd. I carried the violin case. I didn’t look or act like the other guys who thought they were tougher.” Make no mistake though, Armand is tough. He finished high school mid-year and proved how tough he was entering active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps for 6 months in 1956. A scholar and athlete, Armand went on to Rutgers University to study Biology and Chemistry, quite an accomplishment from someone attending a underprivileged high school where only about 10% of the graduates went on to college.

A jack of all trades, Armand was a high school teacher for about a year during the interim between college and medical school. This was to be the most pivotal moment in his life. “It’s interesting.” Armand recalls, “I was married before I finished college and my Yiddish grandpa said to me, “What will you be doing 10 years from now?” At the time, Armand was teaching and coaching high school football. Armand continues, “So, my grandfather said to me, ‘why don’t you go to medical school?’ and I said, ‘grandpa, I can’t afford it.’ I was married and I had one child, so my grandpa replied ‘I’ll pay for your medical school if you go.’ Well, I went and he paid for one semester, but I was already hooked.” I asked Armand if he ever wondered if he would have taken another path in life if his grandfather had not had that conversation with him. Armand replied, “Yes, I would have been a college football coach.” Indeed, a pivotal moment in life.

So Armand went on to attend Georgetown University School of Medicine. He recalled an interesting experience working with a man called Dr. Mills who was operating a four-member emergency room at the Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia—credited as being the first full-time emergency room in the United States. Armand got a feel for emergency medicine, and saw there was need for it—all before this field was even recognized as a medical subspecialty. After graduating Georgetown magna cum laude, he continued to Yale for residency. While in Connecticut, he established his own emergency room with a group of residents at a small 80 bed hospital. This was to be the first emergency room in New England, located at Park City Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “I really enjoyed emergency room medicine, but by that time I had three children and I thought that I better do something else. I liked pathology because it is so broad in its interests and I thought that I could do this for the rest of my life and find various niches that would be of interest to me and that would capture my imagination and that maybe I could contribute, too.” Armand completed a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at Yale while pioneering the emerging field of emergency medicine on the side.

As Armand’s career was taking off, the field of medicine was undergoing its own renaissance. I asked him what he felt were the most significant changes in the field of pathology and clinical laboratory medicine during his career. Armand listed molecular biology, molecular chemistry, and genetics—the molecular genetics laboratory being one of the most significant outcomes of the birth of the molecular era. He humbly recounted that our very own Peter Hu was one of his medical technologist students who progressed down the molecular pathway with his encouragement. Today, Dr. Hu is director of the Molecular Genetic Technology Program and Graduate Diagnostic Genetics Program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Looking forward, I asked Armand what he saw as the biggest challenges facing pathology and clinical laboratory medicine. Armand reflected on our identity—are we physicians, are we doctoral scientists, are we just ancillary technical people? “I think it’s a real problem,” said Armand. His solution for this is “We have to be as active as possible. That is one of the reasons I pursued the subspecialty certification in blood banking, because there we could still see people, interview them, make decisions—maybe not life and death decisions, but we could still make decisions.” Another challenge Armand mentioned was that he sees a degree of fragmentation occurring in pathology and clinical laboratory medicine. “There are some internists that even in private practice are laboratory directors. Can we identify what clinical laboratory science is per se or is there going to be fragmentation? And some of that will be determined by who gets paid, who gets the space, who gets the recognition,” said Armand.

Mentorship is an important part of the ACS. I asked Armand who influenced his professional life. Armand never forgot the general practitioner of his childhood who wrote his letter of recommendation for medical school—his first mentor. Armand also mentioned the late Averill A. Liebow, internationally recognized pulmonary pathologist. Dr. David Seligson, former Chief of Laboratory Medicine at Yale, was also an important mentor. And in medical school, Armand credits Dr. Melvin Blecher, a biochemist who was important to him not in that he taught Armand chemical analysis, but this man taught Armand the scientific method. And, of course, Dr. William Sunderman, Sr., who Armand describes as being a very paternal figure in his life after he joined the ACS.

Forty years later, Armand is still a part of the ACS, most recently attending the Amelia Island meeting in 2014. His words about the ACS are telling and powerful, “The ACS has offered me opportunities for exposure to the diversity in clinical laboratory medicine, friendships with outstanding colleagues, opportunities to visit institutions that are keeping laboratory medicine at the forefront of healthcare delivery, and the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. The ACS also offers opportunities to move immediately into the operations of the organization; one is not excluded. These societies are rare and this is a reflection of the people that choose to be in our field. I mean, other people are nice too, don’t get me wrong, but I think that we are interested in learning, we are interested in sharing. We’re not necessarily sharing because we want to inculcate an ideology in somebody else. We’re interested in sharing to determine whether we’re on the right path or not.”

Today, Armand lives in Kiawah Island, South Carolina where he is Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in nearby Charleston. He continues to mentor and teach medical and graduate students. He also holds memberships on the institutional biosafety committee and the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Citizens Advisory Council. Armand will have been married to his wife, Alberta, for 59 years in August 2017. “I’m quite proud of that. My wife is extremely tolerant,” said Armand. The couple have 3 sons, all of whom have established distinguished careers for themselves, continuing the Glassman legacy of prioritizing education. Armand and Alberta have 8 grandchildren, two already graduates of the University of Georgia. The couple play tennis, recently ranking second in the South in mixed doubles for their age group. He remains tough, doing all this despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2013. Armand is frank about this, “People have to be mature in their approach to things. One ages, and part of the aging process is maybe taking on some disease processes.” Despite this diagnosis, he gets up daily with the desire to contribute, as admirably described in his own words.

Armand left me with three bits of advice for young people interested in entering the field of pathology and clinical laboratory medicine. First is to learn as much as you can. The second is to maintain an interest in lifetime learning. And the third is to avoid getting solidified in a single technology or aspect of whatever science you are interested because it will continue to evolve and change as you move forward. These valuable pearls come from a man possibly best summarized by one of his fellow Rutgers alumni, “Armand, a true renaissance man with a lifetime of distinguished achievement in all of his endeavors, left Yale in 1969 to begin a stellar forty-year medical career as a researcher, physician, professor of medicine, and administrator at five different medical schools.”

Amadeo Pesce, PhD, FACSc interviewed by Erik Korte, PhD, December, 2016

The Young Fellows Section arranges interviews between Young Fellows and more senior Fellows. Young Fellows can obtain scientific and career advice from a senior member who may offer valuable guidance. Below is an excerpt from a recent interview between Erik Korte, PhD (Young Fellow) and Amadeo Pesce, PhD, FACSc.

Erik Korte: Tell me a little bit about yourself; where you grew up, where you went to school, degrees, training and mentors.

Amadeo Pesce: I went to M.I.T. and majored in biology, which at an engineering school is a bit unusual. While at M.I.T., I was influenced by several leaders of the day, including Salvador Luria, who helped define the replication methods for bacterial genetic inheritance using bacteriophages and made findings that eventually resulted in new understanding of the mechanism for the stability of DNA. I also was able to spend time with Vernon Ingram, who showed in 1956 that sickle cell disease is caused by a single amino acid mutation that results in a disease causing mutation. After M.I.T, I got a PhD in biochemistry at Brandeis University working under Nathan Kaplan who has been responsible for producing the Methods in Enzymology series which has been a primary text of biochemistry for 60 years, along with many other texts. After graduating from Brandeis, I completed a 3-year postdoc with Gregorio Weber at the University of Illinois, Urbana, who was a pioneer in fluorescence spectroscopy and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Korte: What was your first professional job?

Pesce: My first job after completing my postdoc was working for Victor Pollak, a prominent nephrologist in Chicago. He was one of the first nephrologists to popularize the current method for renal biopsies. Victor sponsored me to be an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association. Now if you work for a nephrologist, you are going to see lots of slides, hundreds at some conferences; and so, I quickly learned renal histology and pathology.

Korte: Tell me about your career progression.

Pesce: After six years in Chicago, I moved with Victor to Cincinnati and became involved in the toxicology program. At the time, toxicology was mostly therapeutic drug monitoring, but we did have overdose cases on occasion. In those days we used some very old technologies like thin layer chromatography (TLC) which was very difficult because it was very subjective and required an incredibly well-trained staff. Then we brought in mass spec in the late 70’s and early 80’s and that helped to identify what was going on with the TLC. Once the overdose was identified, we would scrape a little off the TLC and throw it on the mass spec to try to create standards for the urine mass spectrometry. In 1997, the labs consolidated and I took a directorship position at Adams County Hospital where I learned microbiology, hematology and coagulation and later added the Drake Center, which was a long-term acute care facility. In 2007 I joined the faculty at the UCSD School of Medicine as a volunteer where I still am today. I spent a time San Diego working for a drug testing company which meant I had to get a California license, which proved to be rather difficult and it ended up being easier to just retake my boards.

Korte: Did you have any instances where mentors or other people influenced your professional life? What was their impact?

Pesce: I worked with Samuel Natelson at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. I started out as a protein chemist, and while I was doing research in nephrology, and Samuel Natelson walked up to me and said, “why don’t you get a real job?” Once you have a lab where you know how to look at things clinically you never have to write another grant. The docs will present you with new problems every day and you just have to know how to approach the situation.

Korte: You’ve been very involved in the ACS. How has it helped you?

Pesce: ACS was especially important early in my career. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot at their meetings. They fostered a mixing of specialties to spread knowledge and afforded different viewpoints and approaches on complex problems.

Korte: What is the future of MS/MS in the clinic?

Pesce: Endocrinology and drug testing will be important because the issues with immunoassay won’t go away any time soon. A focus of MS/ MS will be key in microbiology. Micro is really the bottleneck for discharging patients… waiting for sensitivity studies, waiting for the bug to die once you have administered the antibiotic, etc. MS/MS has the potential to speed up identification to have a real impact on patient care. Something else to remember is that urine drug screens can be used to monitor for compliance and not just overdose. Compliance is key; 30-40% of patients post-AMI don’t take their meds as scheduled.

Korte: Is there any advice you’d give young people interested in entering the field of pathology/clinical laboratory medicine?

Pesce: Mass spec is the right area. Be well-versed in endocrinology and drug testing. Develop skills in microbiology and produce micro libraries for mass spec applications. Be aware that the regulatory environment will get tougher and be prepared for that. Be mobile, take on new jobs, try new things. You will have a lot of skills coming out of your training and you can apply them anywhere you see fit. And remember that one goal of your education is to be able to resolve problems and troubleshoot techniques.

Kilmer S. McCully, MD, FACSc interviewed by Lori Millner, PhD, FACSc, May, 2016

Interview with Kilmer McCully July 2016

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself; where you grew up, where you went to school, degrees, where you currently live and work, hobbies, family

As explained in “Pioneer of the Homocysteine Theory,” a memoir published in 2013*, I was born in Nebraska and spent my early childhood in small towns in Colorado, namely Greeley, Meeker, Castle Rock, and Boulder. My formative years were spent in Denver, where I attended elementary school and junior high school. During WW II, my father was assigned to Memphis by the Navy, and I attended junior high school in Memphis and in Bolton, a suburb of Memphis. After the war, my father accepted a position as Director of Counseling for the VA Central Office in Washington DC, and we moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where I attended George Washington High School, graduating as valedictorian of my class in 1951. After high school, I enrolled at Harvard College and completed my AB magna cum laude in Chemistry in 1955. Thereafter, I attended Harvard Medical School and completed my MD cum laude in 1959. After my Internship in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1959-1960, I volunteered for the US Public Health Service and spent two years as Research Associate in Biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. Thereafter, I was Research Fellow in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston from 1962-63 where I studied protein biosynthesis with Paul Zamecnik. Having received a Faculty Research Award from the American Cancer Society, I travelled to Glasgow University in Scotland, where I spent a year from 1963-1964 with the famous geneticist, Guido Pontecorvo, learning Aspergillus genetics and attempting to analyze the base sequence of tRNA using tRNA mutants. After Glasgow, I worked in James Watson’s laboratory at Harvard for several months in 1964, when I decided to enroll in a Residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital under Benjamin Castleman, one of my Pathology professors at Harvard Medical School. During my residency in 1965, we purchased an antique Victorian house in Winchester, a suburb of Boston, where we have lived ever since. Our children Michael and Martha attended public schools in Winchester before attending Cornell and Princeton. My wife Annina became a Manager of Human Resources at a computer company in Bedford and is now retired but still active in volunteer groups in Winchester. My main hobbies are classical violin, tennis, gardening, and restoration of one of Winchester’s antique houses.

2. What was your first professional job?

My first professional job was Assistant Pathologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Instructor in Pathology, Harvard Medical School.

3. How did you get into anatomic pathology?

My discovery of the homocysteine theory led to world-wide interest in homocysteine as a risk factor for atherosclerosis. Eventually, an automated test for homocysteine was developed by Abbott and is now offered as a risk marker for atherosclerosis.

4. What are the biggest changes you've seen in the field of laboratory science since you've been involved?

The most amazing changes in laboratory genetics are the development of PCR analysis of pathogens, development of immunohistochemistry as an indispensable tool in surgical pathology, and genomic analysis for use in targeted therapy of cancer. The other amazing changes are the development of the electronic medical record by the VA in 1979, and development of automated testing in chemistry, hematology, blood banking, and microbiology interfaced to the electronic medical record. These revolutionary developments have transformed anatomic pathology and laboratory medicine in the past half century.

5. You've been very involved in the ACS. How has it helped you?

ACS was pivotal to development of my career in medicine. I first met Bill Sunderman Jr (pivotal ACS member) in 1960 at NIH where we formed a string quartet. Soon thereafter, I was invited to Philadelphia to meet Bill Sunderman Sr (an ACS founder), where we played music in his townhouse in Rittenhouse Square. After I published my initial articles on the homocysteine theory in the 1970s, Bill and his father became interested in my career and invited me to my first ACS meeting in Philadelphia in 1974, where I presented a paper on homocysteine metabolism in aging animals. We also met at the FASEB and other meetings where we played some music after the scientific sessions. After my rejection by the Harvard establishment in 1979, as explained in “Pioneer of the Homocysteine Theory,” Bill Jr invited me to participate in his research studies on nickel at UConn in Farmington as Visiting Professor of Laboratory Medicine, assisting me in development of my research career. In 1981, Bill Jr recommended me for a position at the VA in Providence, rescuing me from the black ball campaign against me, as explained in detail in “Pioneer of the Homocysteine Theory.” Bill Jr also invited me to present lectures at ACS meetings in Newport, where I explained my development of the homocysteine theory. Another important contribution of ACS to my career was the willingness to publish my second monograph, Chemical Pathology of Homocysteine, in Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science in 1993-1994. After attending the ACS meeting in San Antonio, I decided to join ACS as a Fellow in 2010. Thereafter I have attended ACS meetings every year and served as Vice President in 2013 and President in 2014. Several manuscripts on homocysteine, development of vulnerable plaques, and oxidative phosphorylation have been published by Annals in recent years, furthering my position as “father of homocysteine.”

6. What do you see as the biggest challanges facing pathology these days?

The biggest challenge in molecular diagnostics is utilization of second generation sequence data from malignant tumors in designing targeted therapy. Although there have been some promising developments in cancer therapy using this approach, the ultimate goal of control of cancer by precision medicine is doomed to failure, in my opinion, because of failure to address the underlying cause of genetic changes in malignant cells. As explained in my recent article in Comprehensive Physiology, copy attached, the underlying cause of genetic changes in malignant cells is reaction of DNA and RNA with homocysteine thiolactone, which is produced in excess because of proliferation of a clone of cancer cells lacking the heme oxygenase function of cystathionine synthase.

7. Is there any advice you’d give young people interested in entering the field of pathology?

My advice to young investigators in genetics is to follow James Watson’s rules for success in science, as eloquently explained in Science, 1993;261:1812-1813. The first rule is to study with superb scientists who are winners in the intense competition in the world of science. The second rule is to take risks by exploring a new unrecognized approach to a significant problem. In taking this risk, a scientist has to be prepared to “get into deep trouble” because colleagues and rivals will tell you that you are “very likely to be unqualified to succeed.” This risk taking often leads to criticism because “your very willingness to take on a very big goal will offend some people who will think that you are … crazy.” Watson’s third rule is to have scientific allies “who will save you when you find yourself in deep [trouble].” (Bill Jr saved me by offering me a position as Visiting Professor at UConn and by recommending me for the Staff Pathologist position at the Providence VA.) Watson’s fourth rule is “never do anything that bores you.” You must persist with a scientific problem that is exciting and appealing to you. As Louis Pasteur once said, “the scientist’s most precious possession is his enthusiasm” for investigating a problem that interests him. Because the scientist who takes risks is likely to encounter criticism and ridicule, it is necessary to turn to experts who have knowledge in related fields for advice and to “constantly expose your ideas to informed criticism.”

8. Did you have any mentors in pathology, or other people who have influenced you your life? How did they impact your life?

My first mentor was Paul Zamecnik, professor of oncologic medicine at Harvard, who was my Freshman Advisor at Harvard, sponsor for NIH and American Cancer Society fellowships, and laboratory supervisor for one year at Massachusetts General Hospital. Another mentor was Konrad Bloch, Professor of Biochemistry at Harvard, with whom I studied as an undergraduate, worked as a research associate in his lab, and recommended me for a Research Associate position at NIH in 1960. Guido Pontecorvo, Professor of Genetics at Glasgow University, introduced me to molecular genetics during my year in his laboratory in 1963-64 and introduced me to the famous scientists, Professor Barr and Sydney Brenner. Pontecorvo patiently answered all of my questions about classical and molecular genetics during my year in his laboratory, providing me with an intensive personalized course in genetics. When I encountered the children with arteriosclerosis and homocystinuria at MGH in 1968, my experience with Pontecorvo helped me to interpret the significance of these studies for publication and further investigation. As previously explained, Bill Sunderman Jr acted as my mentor in laboratory medicine, rescued me from the campaign of harassment against me, helped me to secure a position at the Providence VA, and encouraged publication of my results of homocysteine research.

9. What didn't I ask that I probably should have asked?

You should have asked why the Harvard elders decided to deny me tenure and punish me for two years by black balling all of my attempts to secure a proper professional position. I have attempted to answer this question in “Pioneer of the Homocysteine Theory.”

*“Pioneer of the Homocysteine Theory” by Kilmer S. McCully, Nova Scientific Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, 2013