15 August 2019
Dr. Carmen Wiley, AACC President and Chief Clinical Officer at Veravas, reveals her highlights from the conference and talks us through her journey within the AACC community - from member through to president. She highlights the importance of these face-to-face annual meetings in fostering both communication and collaboration within the global community of clinical chemists and healthcare professionals.
This interview was filmed at AACC 2019 – visit the SelectScience special feature for more videos from the event.
My name is Dr. Carmen Wiley and I'm the AACC President this year and next year. What I do during the day is I'm the Chief Clinical Officer at Veravas, which is a startup company and we believe we have a technology that can improve the quality of specimens prior to laboratory testing. I think there's several highlights that I've really enjoyed during the meeting.
First of all, I think the opening plenary session really set the stage. Dr. Walt took us from basic research all the way to clinical application, and I thought that was a beautiful way to set the stage for the meeting. The expo floor has been amazing. It's been a record year for us.
We have 835 people exhibiting, which is a record, which is fantastic. We have nearly 20,000 attendees, so all of that is great. Additionally, we cover everything from point of care, infectious disease, genomics, laboratory management. I'm sure there's things that I've missed, but the topics have been extensive.
So I think that everybody's been able to find something that they can learn from and take back to them, back to their labs, and practices, and diagnostic companies. When I started my fellowship, I was encouraged to be involved in AACC and it allowed me to meet lots of people and have scientific exchange, but I've also created lifelong friendships.
Additionally, when I was at a meeting when it was in LA, I met some folks just at breakfast and we were just chatting and they decided to expand their department, and they wanted another co-director. And they picked up the phone, and they called me, and they said, "We don't know if you're really looking to make a change, but we really think you'd be a great fit for us."
And so I explored the opportunity and ultimately ended up accepting it. And that was wonderful. And then when I was ready to leave clinical practice of laboratory medicine, I had made enough connections with my diagnostic colleagues. And I said, "You know, I'd like to work in the field of diagnostics.What kind of job, you know, do you think I'd be a good fit for?" And they said, "Well, what do you think of medical scientific affairs?"
And I said, "Well, tell me about it." And so I ultimately ended up joining Roche Diagnostics and working in their medical and scientific affairs department. And then, while I was working there, someone else had noticed me through connections at AACC and said, "I'm going to be creating a startup company and I noticed your background, both as a practicing laboratorian, your background in medical and scientific affairs and diagnostics, and some of the research that you've done in your career, we think you'd be a good fit. Would you consider it?"
So I honestly believe I wouldn't be the chief clinical officer today at Veravas if I wasn't involved and interacting with all the folks here in AACC. So I think meetings like this and the face-to-face interactions are so critical. We can accomplish a lot of things by email, but we also tend to get inundated with electronic communications and email.
And you can't always express your interest and your tone in those things and so when we have face-to-face interactions, we can get excited, and we can explore and go down new, different pathways because the exchange is rapid, personal, and can just flex, and ebb and flow, you know. So I really think that having these face-to-face meetings is critical.
It leads to collaborations, new science, innovation. I just can't say enough about how important I really think it is. So I think one of the exciting technologies that came out of this meeting was through AACC's disruptive technology section, and Inflammatix presented a great solution to detecting sepsis through a multi-marker type session and a way to go forward with that.
And so that was really exciting. I think the other thing that I don't know if it's necessarily new and innovative, but what's also really exciting is that the diagnostic companies that have the very large analyzers, they're really improving their efficiencies and decreasing the blood volume that they need, which is better for patients. And then on the complete opposite spectrum are the near-patient and point of care testing.
They're getting more accurate, more precise, getting to the point where they almost look like the core laboratory instruments. And both of those things are really going to change and improve patient care. I think what's really going to be taking off in the next few years is artificial intelligence, data analytics, and machine learning. Obviously, there will be improvements in instrumentation, but I really think where we're going to see huge leaps and bounds is in how we use those tools to better diagnose patients and have faster diagnosis.
And it's actually part of AACC's strategic plan is to figure out how to educate our membership on this topic and how to collaborate with people who are already experts in this field. Because data analytics and machine intelligence, they're used in a lot of different areas, and now we really want to see how it's going to grow in the field of lab medicine.
For our early-career clinical laboratory scientists and clinical chemists, I think the best words of advice are to get out there, meet other people, find out what they have done in their careers, and then reflect on what you really want to do because we all spend so much time in our careers, you need to find something that you love.
The second piece of advice if they allowed me to give that to them, is just know that you can try something and if you don't like it, you can move on to something else, or perhaps your life changes, and you want to do something different and it's okay to try multiple careers and really find the fit that fits you for your time in your life and know that there's just so many opportunities out there in lab medicine that you should find something you love.