Fellow-in-Training Series: Patience and Perseverance Pays Off on the Road to Laboratory Leadership

Aug 27, 2018

Medical leadership is becoming more important in order to succeed in the current practice environment. While medical schools are increasingly adding leadership into their curricula, there are many ways that medical students, residents and fellows in training can develop their management and leadership skills.  

For Eric Gehrie, MD, FASCP, it meant seeking out outstanding mentors and training in a number of different practice settings.

Just three years out of his pathology fellowship, he is now the medical director at the Johns Hopkins Hospital blood bank and associate director of the pathology residency program. He is also an assistant professor of pathology with a joint appointment in surgery at Johns Hopkins University.

Gehrie’s advice to current pathology fellows? Stay true to your actual interests. “It is easy, in the context of medical training, to select projects or specialties just because one might feel that that is what they ought to do to be successful,” he says.

His career path began as a medical student at Vanderbilt University, where he “fell in love with blood banking” during a rotation. Supportive of his interest, the program director and department chair encouraged him to become a clinical pathology-only resident.

While finishing his first year at Vanderbilt, the apheresis clinic was transferred from the department of hematology into the pathology department, giving him a close-up perspective of how decisions were made during a transition.

During the middle of his residency, he completed a post-doc under the guidance of Pampee Young, MD, PhD, now Chief Medical Officer of the American Red Cross. “Dr. Young was running a stem cell laboratory at Vanderbilt,” he says, adding, “It would have been easy for me to integrate myself into one of those projects, not because it was my passion, but because that’s what was already going on. I was fortunate that she allowed me to design my own project. By staying on a transfusion medicine focus, it helped me to develop my skill set.”

He finished his clinical pathology residency at Yale under several extraordinary mentors. They included Henry Rinder, MD, FASCP, professor of laboratory medicine and of medicine (hematology), associate director of the pathology residency program and director of the clinical hematology laboratory; former American Association of Blood Banks President Ed Snyder, MD, professor of laboratory medicine and director of the apheresis/transfusion service, and Chris Tormey, MD, FASCP, associate professor of laboratory medicine and director of the transfusion medicine fellowship. Dr. Gehrie remained at Yale for his fellowship, working with another “rock star,” Jeanne Hendrickson, MD, associate professor of laboratory medicine and pediatrics, and associate director of the transfusion medicine service.

After his fellowship, he remained on the faculty at Yale and worked with Dr. Snyder on a clinical trial. His goal was to become the medical director of a blood bank someday. When Johns Hopkins University posted a job notice for a junior faculty member, in anticipation that its longtime blood bank medical director would eventually retire, Gehrie applied and got the job.

A year and a half later, he is the director of Johns Hopkins’ blood bank.

Reflecting back, Gehrie is grateful for the opportunities he has had. “I have had this all-star team of mentors that you never could have planned for, but stumbled into,” he says with amazement. And that made all the difference.