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Core Committee Spotlight: An interview with Dr. Nichole Korpi-Steiner, Chair of SYCL

By Manoj Tyagi, PhD, NRCC, FAACC posted 06-13-2017 10:59


Dear Artery members, 
I had the recent opportunity and honor to interview Dr. Nichole Korpi-Steiner, who chairs the SYCL (Society for Young Clinical Laboratorians) core committee and is director of point-of-care testing (POCT) and associate director of the core lab at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. In conversing with her I discovered that she is so calm and nature-friendly, as well as a family and fun-loving person, enjoying BBQ and campfires in her backyard and exploring the variety of foods we have here in North Carolina.

Nichole completed her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and found the field of clinical chemistry near the end of her graduate studies thanks to an inspiring presentation by Dr. Nikola (Niki) Baumann, as part of a SYCL seminar series.  

Nichole is currently working on several projects at the UNC Hospitals such as quality assurance initiatives, ongoing method validations, and POCT compliance. She finds these responsibilities pretty challenging though also rewarding because they all involve training and competency to enhance quality and patient safety practices. Nichole likes to have fun at her job but is a stickler about doing things the right way. The things she values most about her job are practicing lab medicine to achieve the best possible patient care, and participating in team-based healthcare, not only at UNC but also in collaboration with peers at other institutions, many of whom she met through AACC.

Discussing her role as a chair of the SYCL core committee, Nichole mentioned that she is honored to work with such an excellent team of colleagues and friends who serve with her on the committee. She encourages and tries to guide discussions towards the development of clear goals and objectives for current and new SYCL programs and also makes sure that they align with AACC’s strategic goals. 

Nichole went on to describe some of SYCL’s programs, including SYCL awards and SYCL360—video editions of interviews with AACC members who often share career advice and laboratory pearls. She mentioned that some committee members serve as SYCL liaisons to the editorial leadership of Clinical Chemistry, JALM, and CLN. These liaison relationships give SYCL members opportunities to share their ideas through articles and topic suggestions that support the publications’ interest in advancing laboratory medicine. 

A couple of new initiatives that she and the SYCL core committee are very excited about launching this year include the SYCL webinar series and a mentoring program. AACC SYCL webinars are presented by aspiring lab leaders who are members of SYCL and an AACC Division. One involving designer drug testing and presented by Dr. Jessica Boyd, took place in April. Another, exploring how biotin supplementation interferes with some assays, will be presented September 28 by Dr. Niki Bauman and Dr. Brooke Katzman. SYCL’s mentoring program pairs SYCL members with experienced AACC members with the goal of fostering life-long mentoring connections and collaborations.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Nichole if she had any closing remarks, or anything she would like to share with me that I hadn’t asked. She said she wanted to thank the many AACC member volunteers who contribute and collaborate on SYCL initiatives and also gave a big credit to the SYCL core committee for leading SYCL programs. She ended with advice for early career laboratorians who might be interested in getting more involved in SYCL and AACC. Nichole recommends reaching out and expressing your interest to someone who is already involved. Putting yourself forward will bring opportunities your way, she emphasized.  Nichole invites interested members to reach out on the SYCL online community, or directly to her or other committee members.  I wish now to personally collaborate with her on several programs, especially with the AACC North Carolina local section.




Thank you for this Lean In reference.  Admittedly I haven’t read this book yet, and I appreciate you sharing Sandberg’s point of view about mentoring. 

In my experience, I feel very fortunate to have mentors who kindly take time to listen, provide guidance and opportunities to help assure I am headed in a successful career path.  Mentors are key to advancing professional development, especially for individuals early in career.  I have also had times with gaps in valuable mentorship…let’s just say these experiences have strengthened my appreciation and value for mentorship even more.

Will a mentoring program be of real value?  I think it likely depends on the mentoring program structure and goals of the mentors and mentees.  This past year I had the opportunity to participate as a mentor in the pilot study for the SYCL Mentoring Connections Program.  While there are a few requirements and expectations for participation in this program, it is designed to be flexible and allow mentor-mentee relationships to evolve organically and adapt to mentoring needs which change throughout one’s training and career.  I have truly enjoyed this fruitful and rewarding experience and hope you will join me in participating as a mentor or mentee. 😊
Thanks for a great blog @Manoj Tyagi, PhD, NRCC, FAACC!

I think the mentoring program initiative is interesting. I recently read the book Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. In it, she makes a strong contrarian point about mentors; “Don’t Ask Anyone to be Your Mentor,” is the title of one of the chapters in which Sandberg discusses how mentoring programs usually have little to no effect. Instead, she advocates asking people both senior and junior to you for specific advice to solve a problem. This will engender much more productive relationships than a simplistic, general plea for mentoring.

What do others think of this point of view? Do you think a mentoring program will have real value?