Focus On Faculty With Kelsey Dillehay, PhD

Kelsey Dillehay, PhD, the new director of the UC Cancer Institute’s Tumor Bank and an instructor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine within the UC College of Medicine, earned her bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry from Muskingum College in 2009. As an undergraduate, she participated in a research project on hepatitis E that sparked her interest in studying human disease. Dillehay came to UC as a Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine PhD student soon afterward and joined the lab of Zhongyun Dong, MD, PhD, a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology, where her studies focused on the anti-cancer implications of a series of small molecule compounds targeting proliferating cell nuclear antigen, which is a protein fold essential for DNA replication. After graduating, she accepted her current position.

Why did you choose UC?

“Initially, I chose UC because the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine Graduate Program seemed like the perfect place to explore my interests in translational research and grow as a scientist. It wasn’t until my time as a student that I was able to truly appreciate all that UC has to offer. Aside from cutting-edge research and a thriving partnership between the UC College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, there are wonderful faculty here who are dedicated to mentoring and helping young scientists reach their full potential. It is because of this that I welcomed the opportunity to stay. I was overjoyed at the prospect of working with the UC Tumor Bank. Human biospecimens and their associated clinical information are an invaluable resource for investigators at UC. The biospecimens we collect and store play a crucial role in helping researchers understand disease pathogenesis and translate that knowledge into improvements in patient care.”

Explain a bit about your role here; what are your some of your duties?

“The purpose of the UC Tumor Bank is to collect, store and dispense high-quality, appropriately consented human tissue and biofluid specimens for research purposes. My main duties include oversight of daily operations, establishing and maintaining proper protocols, inventory and data management, and working to ensure we are meeting the needs of the UC research community. Maintaining a well-functioning biorepository is essential to supporting the mission of the Cincinnati Cancer Center and the pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation. In addition to my position as director of the UC Tumor Bank, I will soon step into the role of technical manager of the Molecular Pathology Laboratory where I will assist in establishing a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform to be used for clinical testing. I am excited at the prospect of learning more about NGS and the regulatory aspects of clinical laboratory testing.”

What are some of your goals, and what do you hope to accomplish both short term and long term?

“My immediate focus is establishing standard operating procedures for the UC Tumor Bank that will help to ensure biospecimen quality, proper accessioning of biospecimens and related clinical information into our database, and precise tracking of biospecimen storage. This will lay the groundwork that will eventually allow the UC Tumor Bank to expand into a generalized biorepository that collects, stores and dispenses all types of tissue. The success of the UC Tumor Bank relies on strong collaborations between the clinical and research communities at the UC College of Medicine; I intend to continue to cultivate these relationships in order to help them thrive. A long-term goal of the UC Tumor Bank is to achieve Biorepository Accreditation through the College of American Pathologists (CAP) which will ensure we are meeting the highest standards of quality and practice. My goals for the Molecular Pathology Laboratory are similar in that I will work to establish protocols to meet operational and quality standards for CLIA Certification and CAP Accreditation.”

What do you like to do in your spare time? Any interesting hobbies or facts about yourself?

“In my spare time, I enjoy reading fiction, trying new restaurants and breweries with my husband and taking walks with my dog. My husband and I have been compiling a list of places we’d like to travel for several years. I hope this will be the year we get to check one off the list.”

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