Clinical Lab Science and Health Care

Clinical chemistry instructor Dr. Thomas Kampfrath shares how he got into the field

Clinical laboratory scientist.
Laboratory technologist.
Pharmacist.
Physician.

No matter what career path you are on, clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine cover many health-related touchpoints that serve patients and support patient care.

“As the role of the laboratory becomes increasingly important as a partner to all health care providers, laboratory professionals will be more incorporated in the overall process of delivering quality care, which includes making the right decision for test selection, providing accurate and timely results, and supporting the result interpretation,” says Dr. Thomas Kampfrath, instructor for Quantitative Analysis: Applications in Clinical Chemistry and medical officer at Siemens Healthineers.

A core course in the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Preparatory Program, Quantitative Analysis: Applications in Clinical Chemistry was taught first in our in-person classroom setting and then developed for our Start Anytime format by Thomas. The program and coursework is designed to make you a more competitive applicant to formal CLS training programs.

Let’s learn more about Thomas’ background and why clinical chemistry is the science that touches it all.

The Applied Sciences

“Relatively early on in college, I had a strong interest in applied science,” Thomas tells me, of his time at Technical University of Dresden in Germany. “I wanted to know how I can impact and serve patients directly.”

He continued at that school to earn a master’s degree in biology, with an emphasis on genetics and biochemistry before beginning his Ph.D. program.

“After completing my master’s in the field of biology and genetics, I started a Ph.D. in a laboratory investigating the cardiovascular effects of air pollution in mice,” he says. It was during this time that he met the right people who pointed him toward clinical chemistry.

Thomas completed a doctorate in biology with a specialty in biochemistry, and another in biology with a specialty in physiology. After completing his degrees in the fall of 2010, Thomas worked as a postdoctoral researcher for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the same laboratory, working on processing human blood using flow cytometric analysis for the detection of monocytes.

“Upon completion of my Ph.D. program, I learned of the field of clinical chemistry and how laboratory scientists impact patient care. My interest was sparked, and I met with current clinical chemists and interviewed at several different clinical chemistry fellowship programs,” he says.

Thomas was accepted into the American Board of Clinical Chemistry (ABCC)–accredited Clinical Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

This experience provided an opportunity to teach junior fellows, colleagues and residents.

“As a Clinical Chemistry Fellow with the Clinical Chemistry and Toxicology specialization, I was actively involved in teaching and training the new residents and fellows. Furthermore, I led several projects in the laboratory to improve the delta-check procedure in order to reduce the rate of false-positive flags, as well as on method evaluations.”

Thomas also completed a American Association for Clinical Chemistry’s online certificate program on tandem mass spectrometry in the clinical laboratory and passed both parts of the ABCC board certification exams.

In the Clinical Chemistry Field

Thomas’ experiences brought him to work in the San Francisco Bay Area in August 2013.

“After finishing my training and obtaining my board certification in clinical chemistry, I started my career as clinical chemist at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) overseeing the chemistry, toxicology and special chemistry sections,” he says.

In November of that year, he became licensed as a Clinical Chemist Scientist by the California Laboratory Field Services, and in 2016 earned a director license for the State of California. He was chief of clinical chemistry and toxicology at the medical center until late 2017. From there, Thomas became the Medical Officer for Siemens Healthineers LD and POC, where he still works today.

But teaching others about the importance of understanding clinical chemistry was also now in his blood.

Teaching Clinical Chemistry

“Through friends I learned of an open instructor position for the quantitative analysis course, which I ended up teaching for seven semesters in an in-person setting,” Thomas says.

Then, in June 2019, he began developing the online Quantitative Analysis: Applications in Clinical Chemistry course.

“Clinical pathology in a laboratory includes microbiology, hematology and clinical chemistry sections. In this course, we cover clinical chemistry, which also includes special chemistry, toxicology and urine analysis in adults, pediatrics and geriatric patients. I give students insights into a real-world laboratory throughout the entire testing process.

“I share real-world examples of my experiences; oftentimes, the things that go wrong provide the best opportunities to learn,” Thomas adds. “For example, what happens when a wrong tube type is being used for blood collection, or a blood sample sits out too long before testing?”

Thomas called on his postdoctoral instructional methods for both teaching our clinical chemistry course and for mentoring the CLS students at SCVMC, where he held weekly study sessions.

The online, asynchronous classroom works for his students who are working professionals.

“I translated the in-classroom experience to the online course by incorporating plenty of opportunities to interact with my students through email and direct feedback in quizzes. Feedback has been very positive for the self-paced course, as it allows students to study at their own pace with the freedom to accommodate a job, family obligations or other courses at the same time.

“On the course portal, I also frequently post material related to laboratory medicine to share interesting news or latest developments.”

So what exactly does quantitative analysis in clinical chemistry mean? And how does it interact with other applied sciences?

Thomas explains: “We cover human physiology to understand the underlying disease processes that ultimately lead to the testing that is performed in the laboratory. The entire testing process from the pre-analytical phase to the analytical phase to the post-analytical phase is discussed.

“As part of the preanalytical phase, we cover everything from which tests should be ordered to answer a particular clinical question, to what collection tube type should be selected to avoid interferences. Once a patient sample enters the laboratory and the analyzer, it enters the analytical phase. There the laboratorian has to take all of the proper steps to ensure timely and accurate results. After receiving the test results, we enter the post-analytical phase where we learn about the result presentation, and what constitutes a complete laboratory report. We also learn about variables that can contribute to erroneously evaluated or decreased patient results. It is important for all involved not only to interpret the test result itself, but to also understand the potential sources of error and what can go wrong.”

Why?

Many clinical laboratory scientists work in hospital laboratories performing sophisticated clinical diagnostic tests, where accuracy is of the utmost importance. But you can also find opportunities to apply your expertise in management, biotechnology, medical device sales and education.

Quantitative Analysis: Applications in Clinical Chemistry combines advanced laboratory skills with health care delivery on the front lines. By taking this core course in the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Preparatory Program, or as an elective in the Advanced Biosciences Program or the Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program, you gain valuable real-world knowledge and skills to succeed on your science academic or career path.

 

Start your journey to a career as a clinical laboratory scientist.