||New chair for Discipline of Laboratory Medicine
Dr. Desmond Robb, professor of laboratory medicine, is the new chair of the Discipline of Laboratory Medicine. He has been interim chair since Sept. 2, 2002.
Dr. Robb brings extensive administrative and research experience to the position. He joined the faculty at Memorial in 1988, having trained as a resident at Memorial the year previously. His original education includes a B.Sc. (Hons) in chemistry from Belfast in 1965 and a PhD in chemistry from Cambridge University in 1969. He worked as a research fellow from 1969-72 at Reading University in England, and for the next four years as a research biochemist for the Ulster Curers Association in Belfast.
Not content with a research career, Dr. Robb entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1976 as an undergraduate medical student and following graduation in 1981 he interned out of Adelaide Hospital in Dublin.
Why the change in careers? “I always had an interest in the biological sciences, so that’s why I moved,” he explained. “The fact that medicine provided training in both the clinical and biological sciences provided me with both intellectual fulfillment and the prospect of a practical, useful career as a physician.”
From 1982-86 Dr. Robb completed a pathology residency at Trinity College, Dublin, and then applied for jobs on both coasts of Canada. Newfoundland won out and he arrived in July 1986. During his time in faculty he has served as residency program director for the Discipline of Laboratory Medicine and is currently a board member of the Medical Research Foundation.
Besides his faculty appointment, Dr. Robb also holds an appointment with the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s as an anatomic pathologist and as divisional chief for the Division of Immunology, Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics in the Laboratory Medicine Program. He is particularly proud of his work in setting up this division in the Health Care Corporation. “A good laboratory service in clinical genetics was badly needed. It took quite a lot of hard work to get it up and running, but it was well worth the effort.”
In terms of future plans, Dr. Robb would like to see a move to a combined university hospital system based on a single salary structure for both university and hospital physicians within unified academic disciplines. In this system, termed alternative funding, each discipline receives a block of funding. Each member of staff would have a basic salary scale with additional financial rewards relating to academic performance and extra administrative duties. “Such a system would do much to strengthen and integrate clinical and academic activities within the faculty.”
Dr. Robb said there is a lot of support among other disciplines for the idea of unified academic disciplines and both the past dean, Dr. Ian Bowmer, and the incoming dean, Dr. James Rourke, are supportive of the idea.
Dr. Robb has an impressive research career. He is a member of the Colorectal Cancer Interdisciplinary Health Research Team which involves researchers at Memorial University and the University of Toronto working together to develop and strengthen resources for colorectal cancer research in Ontario and Newfoundland. Dr. Robb is specifically studying DNA abnormalities in mismatch repair genes in colorectal cancer, which he believes may have an important bearing both on patient survival and the need to effectively screen for certain types of colorectal cancer.