Meet two more members of the LMP team!

10 Questions for Dr.  Jacob Pendergrast

pendergrastWhat is your position?

Transfusion medicine specialist

What do you do here?

Along with Dr. Cserti-Gazdewich, I serve as associate medical director of UHN’s Blood Transfusion Service.  I also provide Medical Directorship of the Blood Transfusion Services of several community hospitals within Ontario who have contracts with UHN’s Laboratory Medicine Program.  Finally, I have a cross appointment in the Department of Medicine where I attend in the Red Blood Cell Disorders program at  TGH and provide coverage to the hematology consult service within UHN and Mount Sinai Hospital

Why did you get into lab medicine?

When I decided to go into medicine, I was motivated by the idea of all patients having access to the same, high quality health care regardless of the particular circumstances of where they lived or even who their doctor happened to be. When I decided to pursue subspecialty training in clinical hematology, after completing my internal medicine residency, it was with the plan that I would follow that with further training in transfusion medicine, an area I thought this principle would be especially relevant.

How did you get started at UHN?

I’m from Toronto and, although my undergraduate studies were in Montreal and Halifax, my post-graduate medical training was here and seemed like a natural progression

How long have you worked here?

My residency training in Toronto started in 1999 and I took a staff position at UHN in 2006.

What is the favorite part of your job?

The incredible variety of experience!  The blood transfusion service reaches into areas of clinical practice that I might otherwise have little exposure to. There is also a wonderful amount of “cross-talk” between the blood bank and other laboratories, particularly the coagulation, HLA and microbiology labs.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Having patience.  There are always so many people affected by even the smallest of changes, and there are definitely days when I wonder if I can sit through one more meeting or conference call!

What value would you say you add to patient care?

I think I bring an unwillingness to accept mediocre patient care. I’m sure many people agree that there are so many things we do here that are maybe good enough to avoid major catastrophes, but which we aren’t actually very happy about.  These things, even the little ones, tend to itch at me.

The overall mission of LMP is to advance lab medicine in its three functional pillars: research, education and clinical service. How would you say you support this mission?

I probably spend at least a third of my time teaching or preparing the remainder of my time is mostly clinical service.  I am at a stage in my career where I want to start carving out more time for research activities. Toronto has the capacity to become the country’s pre-eminent research centre in transfusion medicine.

In LMP, we often talk about serving as “global leaders” – what do you do to serve as a “global leader”?

Patients have benefited from the highly sub-specialized expertise that has emerged within the modern medical system, but the flip side of this is that there is always a risk of our becoming completely pre-occupied with what is going on within our own little silos. Those times I have felt like I was leading, it was when I convinced people to venture outside of their “safe zones” and start collaborating with people on the other side of the fence.


10 Questions for Sarah James

sarah jamesWhat is your position?

Senior Pathologists’ Assistant

What do you do here?

We do all the gross description, sampling and photos of clinical and surgical specimens and autopsy. We also prepare, orient and fix specimens, take samples for research banking and teach.  As the senior I also do scheduling, liaise with pathologists, and administrative work.

Why did you get into Lab medicine?

As an immigrant from England I had the wrong high school credits to get into pre-med and my school encouraged me to take engineering. I was thinking about medicine as I wanted to design artificial limbs. Engineering wasn’t for me and when I needed to pay my bills I chose lab medicine as it was the fastest route to get me into a job related to medicine.

How did you get started at UHN?

When my friend and mentor told me she was vacating her position at UHN I weighed the pros and cons of staying at or leaving my then current job. Meeting with staff at UHN made me realize what opportunity there was here and how I could excel.

How long have you worked here?

This will be my 5th year.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I love teaching residents and new PAs how to gross specimens from tiny to really complex. Watching people’s confidence grow as they learn what they are doing and why is not equaled by anything else.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Finding the balance between getting the work done and going beyond the standard of care. Sometimes it is hard not to gross the specimen down to the tiniest little vessel because it is just so fascinating. Anatomy does that to you!

What value would you say you add to patient care?

PAs allow a pathologist to diagnose disease. In cases where there is already a diagnosis, the pathologist is able to provide the rest of the medical team with information to help best manage that patient’s care.

How would you say you support the LMP mission to advance lab medicine in its three foundational pillars: research, education and clinical service?

With research, we bank samples for current or future research studies. I also spend lots of time with grossing education. Last year I worked with U of T to have the PAs present grossing techniques at summer lectures for residents coming into pathology. A colleague and I developed two online courses at the Michener institute and I am the Chair of the Conference Committee for the PA Section of the CAP-ACP. When it comes to clinical service I attend educational sessions, talk to pathologists and read papers about what is current, new and upcoming.

In LMP, we often talk about serving as “global leaders” – what do you do to serve as a global leader?

I support the PAs at our partner sites helping them with grossing questions, dragon issues and keeping them updated with new protocols. I’ll even jump on a plane to help out! Nationally, I work CAP-ACP with grand parenting criteria, continuing education requirements and certification for the PAs across Canada. I have also recently assisted the province of Alberta with setting up their provincial voice recognition program by sharing my “Dragon” experiences.


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