What is your name?
Ian King, PhD
What is your professional title?
Clinical Molecular Geneticist
How did you decide to enter the field/What (or who) brought you into the field?
I found out about the field as a postdoc. I did a research project that centered on Angelman Syndrome that was funded by the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, so I got to interact with researchers, clinicians and patient families as part of my job. One of the things I learned was the role clinical labs play in the care for these patients. I really liked the idea that I could use the lab skills I had acquired to do something directly for patient care.
What do you do? How would you describe your role?
I’m a clinical lab director at an academic center. I review and release test results, participate in test development, and collaborate on research projects with basic and clinical researchers.
How does your work help patients?
Our job is to provide timely and accurate genetic testing results to clinicians. Our testing has a pretty wide variety of uses. In our lab, the majority of testing we do is geared toward identifying mutations in cancer. Pathologists use our findings to help decide what disease the patient has, and clinicians use our findings to help decide what treatments will be effective for a particular patient. We do other tests that monitor how well a patient is responding to treatment. We also do diagnostic testing for inherited disease, finding gene variants that can diagnose an inherited genetic condition, helping both the patient and the patient’s family.
What degree(s) and/or training did you receive to achieve your position?
PhD in Molecular Biology, postdoctoral training in Genetics, ABMGG fellowship in Clinical Molecular Genetics.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your work?
Entering the field, the toughest part for me has been learning the clinical dimensions of the work. Since I have basic science training, I know the technical part well, but how medicine is practiced, how hospitals work, how clinical labs fit in to patient care overall, these have to be learned on the job. The greatest challenge in my current job is finding time to do all the things I’d like to do. It’s great that I get to do so much – clinical service, research, test development, teaching. But it’s tough to manage your time when you have so many choices about what to pursue.
What is the best part of your work as you see it? (most interesting, fun…)
Learning about medicine – it’s a huge and fascinating world. When I started to get into clinical molecular genetics I never even suspected that there was this much to learn and know. It’s been great, and I can’t imagine that I’ll ever run out of things to learn.
What AMP resources/courses have helped you advance your career?
Most directly, when I was searching for jobs I used the AMP jobs website for my search (don’t know if this is still active?). The CHAMP listserve is also a great way to find career opportunities and to keep up with discussions in the field. The annual meeting is, of course, a great place to network and learn about the field as well. AMP’s webinars are really outstanding, a great way to keep up on developments in the field.
In your opinion, what are the most valuable aspects of AMP membership?
The clinical lab field is growing fast, but it’s still a pretty small world. Being an AMP member brings you directly into that community.