Read as Ann M. Gronowski, Ph.D. talks about her career as a Clinical Chemist.  Find her at www.wustl.edu.  She is also a member of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, www.aacc.org.

What do you do for a living?

I am a board certified Clinical Chemist.

How would you describe what you do?

A clinical chemist is someone who understands laboratory testing used to diagnose and monitor disease. Clinical Chemists: develop new laboratory tests, help doctors order and interpret laboratory tests, they do research, they teach and they help to figure out why some patients have unusual laboratory results.

What does your work entail?

Part of  my job is doing research on biomarkers of disease. Part of my work is teaching residents (MDs) and PhDs who are getting training in laboratory medicine. The rest of my job involves overseeing a large hospital laboratory. This means monitoring quality, trouble shooting problems and errors, evaluating new tests and helping doctors interpret laboratory tests.

What’s a typical work week like?

Mostly I have an office job. I work 9-5 and I spend a fair amount of time talking to doctors about laboratory tests. Sometimes my research brings me into the laboratory to do experiments.

How did you get started?

I obtained my PhD degree and learned about postdoctoral training in clinical chemistry. I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted.

What do you like about what you do?

I love solving puzzles and mysteries. I get to work with physicians and laboratorians to figure out why patients have certain laboratory results. Ultimately this helps the patients and that is very rewarding!

What do you dislike?

Sometimes jobs like mine involve regulatory and administrative duties. I don’t really enjoy those. Also, I don’t enjoy teaching students that don’t care and don’t want to learn. That is no fun!

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I get a salary, with health insurance and benefits

How much money do Clinical Chemists make?

Board certified clinical chemists make between $90,000 and $190,000, depending on if they work in academia, hospital or industry.

How much money did/do you make starting out as a Clinical Chemist?

Board certified clinical chemists have starting salaries of around $100,000

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

To do what I do you have to have an MD or PhD degree and you have to undergo several years of additional specialized post-doctoral training and then take a board examination.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Dealing with physicians who won’t admit that they don’t know everything about laboratory testing.

What is most rewarding?

The feeling when you know you have helped a patient. Also watching the students that you teach become successful.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

It is very competitive. Keep trying.

How much time off do you get/take?

I get 4 weeks of vacation.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

They think I actually perform the laboratory tests. I do not. I understand how they work and I can troubleshoot when there are problems. I know what they are used for and how to interpret results.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

Moving forward I’d like to do more philanthropic work in order to give back to the profession that has given me a lot.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

It is very rewarding and has allowed me to travel all over the world.