I am delighted to welcome you to the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. I joined this department 27 years ago as an Assistant Professor, fresh from my fellowship training, new to California, and as a new mother learning to balance the demands of an academic career with the needs of a busy growing family. Over the years, I have served in many roles and enjoyed a wonderful career. Now, as Chair, I strive to make our department a place where faculty, staff, students and trainees can similarly thrive in all aspects of life, feel enriched by serving others, and find opportunities to be creative and achieve their career dreams.

My goal is to ensure that every member of our department has the opportunity to use their strengths to fulfill our vision of leading through innovation and to meet our health system’s mission of improving lives and transforming healthcare. I’m pleased to share the following exciting areas in which we’re working to achieve this goal:

  • Growing our talented multi-disciplinary team: 17 new faculty have joined our department in the past four years, including new clinical subspecialists and researchers. We also have new chief administrators, and staff at all levels. All bring fresh perspectives, energy, and greater diversity to our department. Recruitments currently in progress for 2014 will further enrich our team.
  • Driving innovation: Since 2012, faculty PIs have received $9 million in new research awards to study Alzheimer's disease, autism, and infectious diseases, develop vaccines, create new diagnostic tests, and more. Our faculty are also key collaborators important to major research programs throughout UC Davis.
  • Leading clinical outcomes research: Vice Chair of Information Services, Dr. Mike Hogarth, is UC Davis site PI for a new clinical data research network. Nick Anderson, Cardiff professor in research informatics, is co-PI on a new patient-powered research network. Both networks are funded through the new PCORnet.
  • Developing new research infrastructure: Vice Chair of Research, Dr. Yvonne Wan, is also the Director of Health Biorepositories and has developed a UC Davis biorepository master plan. She serves as site leader for UC system-wide biorepository efforts, and is developing a new GI biobank to serve as a template for new biorepositories.
  • Creating new clinical efficiencies: Over the past two years, we’ve saved UC Davis Health over $500,000 through careful test management. To drive further efficiencies necessary to healthcare reform, we’ve created a new transfusion registry, we’re participating in new test utilization committees, and executing a diagnostic services integration plan developed collaboratively with the Department of Radiology.
  • Implementing new test platforms to expand testing and improve quality: We’re excited about our new instrumentation, including mass spectroscopy for microbiology, molecular testing for virology, and new targeted genomic sequencing to improve cancer prognostication. Our trainees learn on the newest and best equipment, including our robotic automation line.
  • Training in leading-edge topics: Our new molecular diagnostics resident curriculum has three times the recommended content. We’re also educating content experts through subspecialty fellowship training, and supporting participation in the UCD informatics certificate program. 
  • Meeting the need for laboratory professionals: Our clinical lab scientist training program, one of the best in the nation, now includes inter-professional educational sessions with the health system’s family nurse practitioner/physician assistant program. We’ve also become a clinical training site for pathology assistant and cytotechnology students through recent partnerships with other universities.
  • Defining new standards to increase faculty satisfaction: I am personally committed to exploring new paradigms that allow faculty to be more productive and happy by better integrating their work and family life as co-PI for an NIH-funded project examining career flexibility in academic medicine, and project leader for an Innovation Award from the American Council on Education and the Sloan Foundation.

These activities represent just a few of our many efforts to shape the future of our profession. Please explore our website, check us out on Facebook, and visit us in person, too. I welcome the opportunity to discuss all the incredible work here.

Lydia Pleotis Howell, M.D.

Professor and Chair
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine