Dr. Gregory Tsongalis is the recipient of the 2019 American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) Robbins Distinguished Educator Award. This award is named in honor of Stanley L. Robbins (1915-2003), a true leader in pathology education.
Dr. Tsongalis serves as Director of the Laboratory for Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technology (CGAT) at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) in Lebanon, New Hampshire, as well as a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He is a member of the NCCC Molecular Therapeutics Program and the gastrointestinal and breast cancer clinical oncology groups.
Throughout his career, Dr. Tsongalis has endeavored to apply molecular techniques to diagnostic questions not adequately addressed by traditional methods and has challenged the boundaries between clinical and anatomic pathology. His early work described methods for localized in situ amplification of DNA and RNA targets in tissue sections as well as the identification of mutation carriers in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer risk genes. He described some of the first applications of molecular methods in identity testing of clinical specimens when mislabeling or a mix-up was suspected. His laboratory was an early adopter of automation for high-volume molecular infectious disease testing and active in the development of molecular techniques for use with unconventional specimen types. Currently, his laboratory is working on applying state-of-the-art molecular techniques to improve patient management, i.e., routine use of nanotechnologies in the clinical setting.
According to Dr. Tsongalis, “The impact these technologies have had over the years has been tremendous with respect to personalized medicine as this can include genetic counseling efforts for an individual and their family, tailored therapy for the virus infected patient, and the most recent targeted therapies for patients with specific tumor types.”
Dr. Tsongalis’ innovative, fundamental and translational research has resulted in over 220 original research publications, over 40 book chapters, and 12 books, including Molecular Diagnostics for the Clinical Laboratorian (two editions), The Molecular Basis of Human Cancer (two editions), Molecular Diagnostics: A Training and Study Guide, Molecular Pathology: The Molecular Basis of Human Diseases (two editions), Essential Concepts in Molecular Pathology, and Diagnostic Molecular Pathology: A Guide to Applied Molecular Testing.
With regard to teaching, Dr. Tsongalis not only supervises and mentors students by providing hands-on training in his laboratory, he also reinforces those experiences with courses and programs he has developed in molecular diagnostics, pathology, translational research, and advanced technology. Additionally, he directs sessions and educational programs for professional societies, including a very well received session on pathobiology for basic scientists that he has organized and presented at several ASIP meetings.
Dr. Tsongalis earned his BS from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1984. He then earned an MHS in Pathology from Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Connecticut, during which he came to appreciate the role of the pathologist in studying disease and making diagnoses. He received his PhD in Pathology in 1990 from Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (formerly the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, UMDNJ) under the direction of Dr. W. Clark Lambert. There, he studied human DNA repair mechanisms in xeroderma pigmentosum and Fanconi anemia. Later in 1990, he accepted a postdoctoral research associate position in the Department of Pathology at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill in the laboratory of David Kaufman, MD PhD, where he investigated the intricacies of the nuclear matrix and its role in the regulation of DNA replication. At UNC, Dr. Tsongalis was introduced to Dr. Robert Cross, who was heading up the only clinical chemistry training program at the time to offer PhDs training in molecular diagnostics. Dr. Tsongalis was accepted into the new training program, where he developed assays for in situ amplification and diagnostic testing for fragile X. With the support of Dr. Cross and Dr. Larry Silverman, Dr. Tsongalis found his calling in molecular diagnostics, which was confirmed when he was selected as the first AACC Young Investigator.
In 1994, Dr. Tsongalis was appointed Director of Molecular Pathology and Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry for Hartford Pathology Associates and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Hartford Hospital. He also accepted a position as adjunct assistant professor of pathobiology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and adjunct assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pediatrics at the University of Connecticut’s Farmington campus. In 2002, he was named adjunct associate professor of pathobiology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, a position he retained until 2014. In 2004, he accepted a position as assistant professor of pathology at Dartmouth Medical School, where he remains, currently as a professor of pathology. In 2016, Dr. Tsongalis became a member of Dartmouth College’s Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine (PEMM).
Dr. Tsongalis is certified as a High Complexity Clinical Laboratory Director (HCLD, American Board of Bioanalysis), Clinical Laboratory Specialist in Molecular Biology (National Certification Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel), Fellow of the Academy of Clinical Biochemistry, and Clinical Consultant (American Board of Bioanalysis). He serves on several corporate scientific advisory boards, including the Health Care Genetics Professional Science Master’s Degree Program at the University of Connecticut and is an active member of many professional organizations, including ASIP, the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, the American Association of Bioanalysts, and the Association for Molecular Pathology, for which he served as President. He is also on the editorial boards of numerous journals including Clinical Chemistry, Experimental and Molecular Pathology, and The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.
Dr. Tsongalis’ work has been recognized with numerous awards throughout his career, including an ASIP Experimental Pathologist-in-Training merit award in 1993, the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists (ACLPS) Young Investigator Award (1994), the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) George Grannis Award (1995), the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS) Young Scientist Award (1996), the first International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC)-AVL National Award for Significant Advances in Critical Care Testing (1996), the American Association of Clinical Chemistry-National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (AACC-NACB) Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research (2013), and the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) Jeffrey A. Kant Leadership Award in 2017. In addition, he has been recognized with many outstanding speaker, mentor, and lectureship awards.
In the words of Dr. Avrum I. Gotlieb, Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto, “[Dr. Tsongalis] has had a distinguished career as a dedicated and innovative teacher whose efforts have had a major impact on the teaching of pathobiology and laboratory medicine, especially in the important area of clinical molecular diagnostics.”
Dr. Tsongalis will be presented the Robbins Award at the 2019 ASIP Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology, to be held in Orlando, Florida, April 6-10, 2019.