WBU alum at front of medical research at Mayo Clinic

ROCHESTER, MINN. – Genetic testing and counseling is at the forefront of medical care today, as scientists continue to screen human DNA and determine which genes lead to certain diseases or conditions. Though controversial at some levels, the same testing is also helping families prepare for their medical futures and determine the most aggressive treatment to combat various conditions.

For Wayland Baptist University graduate Chancey Thompson, that field is just part of his everyday work. As a clinical lab technologist in the molecular genetics division of the Mayo Clinic, Thompson completes the testing and lab work to analyze a patient’s DNA for mutations specific to certain genes that cause hereditary diseases.

A native of Alaska, Thompson earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2006 and immediately began an intensive one-year master’s degree program at Texas Tech University, earning a Master of Science in Molecular Pathology in May 2007. He first came to Mayo Clinic as an intern toward the end of his master’s degree work, jumping at the chance to apply.

“It was a great opportunity,” he said. “Mayo is the gold standard in healthcare, so I felt like it was an important career move.”

Before the internship was over, he had a job offer. Though the job meant a move to Rochester, Minn., far from home and family, Chancey and wife Marianne knew it was a wise choice. As someone who has always found the research and laboratory side of medicine a collaborative effort in patient health care, Thompson knew Mayo would provide the ultimate experience for his future in the field.

In his daily work, Thompson interacts with expensive equipment and state-of-the-art technology, much of which he never used until coming to Mayo. He works closely with genetic counselors and consulting physicians who finalize the interpretations of the test results and consult with patients on the next steps.

“Everything is a shared effort here, and everyone works together in this lab. You don’t deal too much with the individual patient, but your job is of utmost importance because you’re dealing with life altering issues,” Thompson said. “Sometimes I look at what patients are going through, and I look at their family history to know for myself what complications are associated with these genetic disorders. I get to see some pretty rare cases that only happen here at Mayo.”

Thompson said the experience is invaluable and he finds it quite exciting to be part of one of the largest genetics testing laboratory in the United States. The future holds possibilities for further education, work in other labs or starting his own lab, though advancement at Mayo is also quite possible.

He said his experience at Wayland was also valuable toward preparing him for this work.

“Dr. Reinhart and Dr. Boyd offered me great research experience and exposure to common techniques that are the foundation of what I do everyday,” he said. “The science department really taught me to utilize my study time, and that helped me in my master’s work since it was so intense. Wayland also supplied the opportunity to experience science, while offering personal guidance and professional interaction.”

“But one of the greatest things WBU offered me was a great challenge. I was just a long-haired kid who skateboarded around and played guitar, and the professors had compassion for me and encouraged me, and that’s what helped me along,” he added.

“My personal interest in science and the complexity of human design is what drives me, even to this very day.”