Speakers' Bureau Directory: Bartkus

Joanne Bartkus
Degree: PhD
Employer: Minnesota Department of Health
Minneapolis, Minnesota  55164


Primary Employer: Agricultural/Veterinary; Other N/A
Scientific Specialty: Public Health; Other N/A
Job Title: Public Health Laboratory Director
Years in position: 6
Presentation Type: N/A
Video Call Type:N/A
Day to day responsibilities:
I oversee a laboratory of approximately 135 employees that perform testing to provide data to monitor infectious disease, environmental contaminants, and provide screening for congenital and hereditary disorders of newborns. My day to day responsibilities include supervising 7 direct reports, providing quality system oversight as CLIA director, reviewing technical SOPs and test method validations, designing quality improvement projects, developing policies and strategic plans, implementing Department of Health policies, participate as a member of the Health Steering Team, and serve as incident manager in the Department Operations Center in the event of a public health emergency.

What do you love about your job?
I love the variety of scientific areas that I oversee and am particularly proud of our laboratory’s role in helping ensure the health of the people who live in Minnesota. In addition to microbiology, I am responsible for environmental chemistry, newborn screening, and environmental laboratory accreditation. Being involved in outbreak or chemical contamination investigations can be very fast-paced and exciting. And there is nothing more rewarding than the thank you notes that we get from parents whose babies lives have been saved or greatly improved through newborn screening.

Degrees, experience, license(s), and skills required for position:
I act as the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) director for the laboratory. The requirements for CLIA director include a PhD (or MD) and a board certification. My PhD is in Microbiology and I am board certified in medical microbiology by the American Board of Medical Microbiology and as a high-complexity laboratory director by the American Board of Bioanalysis. CLIA also requires that I have experience supervising high-complexity diagnostic testing. While my position has a technical component, it is very much an administrative position. This requires leadership and management skills. I do a lot of interacting with a wide variety of people in different fields and at different levels which requires good interpersonal skills. I speak frequently, and testify at the state legislature and I am involved in drafting policies, procedures, and, occasionally, legislation, so good oral and written communication skills are also essential.

Tips/Advice for how to secure a job in microbiology upon graduation:
I would advise getting as much experience working in a laboratory as possible and make sure that the work you do is of the highest possible quality. This will help cultivate mentors that can speak to your skills and should be willing to act as a reference. Mentors can also be a good source for job leads. Develop a network of contacts in areas that interest you and I would not hesitate to send a resume to prospective employers. Even if they don’t have a job available, they make keep the information on file, or could refer it to a colleague who does have an opening. Develop and emphasize skills that you have in emerging fields, for example bioinformatics, which may have a greater number of job openings. Keep an open mind about job openings in an area that might not interest you (e.g. specimen receiving) that may eventually lead to other jobs. It happens all the time in our laboratory.