1. What is your name?
2. What is your professional title?
Section Head, Clinical Microbiology ServiceDirector, Clinical Microbiology Fellowship Program, Attending Microbiologist, Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Services Member (Professor), Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
3. How did you decide to enter the field/What (or who) brought you into the field?
I always knew that I wanted to have my research efforts impact patient care but it wasn’t until my last year in graduate school that I became aware of a career as a clinical laboratory director. My PhD mentor at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Grazia Isaya, introduced me to her husband, Dr. Piero Rinaldo, who was the director of the Clinical Biochemical Genetics in the Department of Lab Medicine and Pathology at the Mayo Clinic. Because of my general interest in Infectious Diseases, Dr. Rinaldo connected me to Dr. Frank Cockerill, who was the Director of the Clinical Microbiology Division at the Mayo Clinic at the time. I fell in love with Clinical Microbiology. Never looked back!
4. What do you do? How would you describe your role?
My job falls into four buckets: administrative, clinical, research and education. My clinical and administrative responsibilities include all aspects of running a high complexity CLIA laboratory, clinical consultations with physicians regarding tests selection and interpretation of laboratory data and technical oversight of laboratory testing. My research focuses on the development and evaluation and application of molecular and advanced methods for the diagnosis and monitoring of infectious diseases. Finally, I serve as the Director of the Clinical Microbiology Fellowship Program, a two-year fellowship program for postdoctoral-level candidates (PhD, MD, DO) that is accredited by the American Society for Microbiology.
5. How does your work help patients?
By providing answers that support the clinical care of patients with infectious diseases. I love that we are able to answers questions such as “Do you have an infection? If yes, what is causing this infection? If there is treatment, what is the best drug to treat the infection? And if treatment is failing, why and what are the alternative therapies?”
6. What degree(s) and/or training did you receive to achieve your position?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a master’s in chemistry and a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Following my PhD, I trained as a Clinical Microbiology Fellow at the CPEP Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. I am board-certified by the American Board of Medical Microbiology.
7. What is the greatest challenge you face in your work?
Time and human resources. There is always so much to do and so much we want to accomplish. For infectious diseases, the faster we can diagnose, the better it is for our patients. While we have more work to do, there has been a steady decrease in the number of qualified laboratory technologists, making it challenging to care for our patients.
8. What is the best part of your work as you see it? (most interesting, fun…)
Seeing how a test or a process that we developed in the laboratory positively impact the care of our patients. It’s really amazing and fulfilling to get a call about an odd clinical presentation and selecting the right test that identifies the pathogen.
9. What AMP resources/courses have helped you advance your career?
The AMP annual meeting and the opportunity to serve on the ID Subdivision Leadership. These two venues have allowed me to connect with colleagues all of over the country and create a strong professional network.
10. In your opinion, what are the most valuable aspects of AMP membership?
Connecting with other professionals who are interested in the molecular diagnostics of infectious disease.