Member Spotlight: Rutika Puranik

1. What is your name?
Rutika Puranik

2. What is your professional title?
Chief Medical Technologist, Department of Molecular Pathology, University of Chicago Medicine

3. How did you decide to enter the field/What (or who) brought you into the field?
I have been inspired by the field of healthcare since I was a kid! My dad spent his entire career working for amazing Pharma giants and while growing up I have heard stories about drug development & vaccines from him. Since I had identified my passion for biology early on, I opted to get my undergraduate degree in Microbiology from Pune University in India. The issue of multi drug resistant bacteria in India was at peak around that same time, it inspired me to pursue my Master’s in Microbiology from the same University.

Soon after graduating, I worked for at a local pathology lab, where I performed antibiotic sensitivity testing for various patient samples. That was my first experience of patient care, where I witnessed the effects of multi drug resistant bacteria on the treatment of patients. Soon I got admitted into Bowling Green State University in Ohio as a Graduate student in the Department of Biology. My thesis paved my path towards Genomics as it was based on Complete Genome sequencing of a thermophilic bacteria and introduced me to the concept of Next Generation sequencing, Sanger Sequencing and molecular biology.

After graduating, I worked at Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp) in Raleigh, NC for 2 years in the Prenatal Genomics Department as a technologist. I moved to Chicago for my job as a Medical Technologist at the Department of Pathology, University of Chicago Medicine and have been with the team since then!

4. What do you do? How would you describe your role?
As a Chief Medical Technologist, I work on the bench as well as manage lab staffing/training, Quality control, proficiency testing & process improvement with the aim of keeping our lab compliant with the regulatory standards. I primarily serve as a liaison between laboratory staff and our Medical Directors, in addition to my role as a leader “in progress” since it is training me in the newer aspects of management and responsibility.

5. How does your work help patients?
We offer a great variety of Molecular Diagnostic and Clinical Genomics (NGS) tests that help determine patient treatment plan & disease progression. Some of our tests also help patients to get enrolled in clinical trials if found suitable.

6. What degree(s) and/or training did you receive to achieve your position?
I have an undergraduate degree in Microbiology and two Masters degree’s (Microbiology & Biology)

7. What is the greatest challenge you face in your work?
The field of Next Generation sequencing is growing rapidly and has a myriad of platforms that generates a large amount of informative data which sometimes is overwhelming to interpret. Training and hiring Medical Technologists without specialized NGS skill is challenging, as newer technologies are launched very often.

8. What is the best part of your work as you see it? (most interesting, fun…)
I love the troubleshooting aspect of NGS assays, since they constantly keep me on my toes and encourage learning. It motivates me to know that what I do everyday is benefiting patient care directly.

9. What AMP resources/courses have helped you advance your career?
CHAMP discussions and webinar series are some of the resources that I find helpful.

10. In your opinion, what are the most valuable aspects of AMP membership?
As a Newbie to AMP, I would say most valuable aspects would be networking and learning. The grandeur of so many intelligent minds working in the same field as mine inspires me.

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