|William L. Roberts, MD, PhD
William L. Roberts, MD, PhD, 52, a professor of pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and medical director of the automated core lab at ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City, died July 26 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.
At the time of his death, Dr. Roberts was chair of the CAP Chemistry Resource Committee, of which he had been a member since 2006. He was posthumously awarded the CAP Distinguished Service Award at CAP ’12
He was immediate past president of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists (and recipient in 2006 of its outstanding leadership and service award) and active in the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. A gifted investigator and prolific author with a scholarly interest in chemical pathology, Dr. Roberts had been awarded 34 federal and industry grants for scientific projects. He reviewed manuscripts for 13 journals and served on the editorial boards of Clinical Chemistry and Clinica Chimica Acta.
Edward Ashwood, MD, ARUP’s president and CEO and a professor of pathology at the University of Utah, said at Dr. Roberts’ memorial service: “Bill flourished at ARUP, and ARUP and the pathology department flourished because of Bill. He worked with amazing efficiency, accomplishing more in a day than most of us. He became recognized as an expert in tests such as hemoglobin A1c, and his projects validated and improved many of ARUP’s lab tests.”
Dr. Roberts devoted hundreds of hours to committees of the school of medicine, Dr. Ashwood said, and he was a mentor to residents and fellows. Each year, he sponsored two to five trainees so they could attend the academy and AACC annual meetings.
Dr. Roberts joined ARUP in 1998 to run the automated core laboratory and bring total automation of that lab to fruition. For two years beginning in 1999, he served also as medical director of the metabolic laboratory, and then in 2001, he added to his roles assistant medical director of the biochemical genetics lab and medical director of the chemistry group. Dr. Roberts was an executive member of the ARUP Research Institute.
James D. Faix, MD, a clinical professor of pathology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and member of the CAP Council on Scientific Affairs who served with Dr. Roberts on the Chemistry Resource Committee, remembered his expertise in the interferences that hemoglobinopathies can cause in HbA1c testing. Dr. Roberts, he said, was a model researcher, clinician, and teacher. “You might meet someone who is good in one of these areas,” he said. “He was good in all of them.”
Anthony A. Killeen, MD, PhD, an associate professor of pathology and director of clinical laboratories at the University of Minnesota who chairs the CAP Instrumentation Committee, collaborated with Dr. Roberts on the CAP accuracy-based Surveys. “I think he got great satisfaction out of his work and his life,” Dr. Killeen said. “He was such a decent guy.”
One time, Dr. Killeen said, the two were boarding a train to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after a CAP meeting in Chicago when Dr. Roberts realized he had no cash. “I gave him $5 for a fare card and didn’t think twice about it,” Dr. Killeen said. “Within two days of getting home, there was a letter from Bill, thanking me for lending him the money and returning the $5.” Dr. Killeen had forgotten about the money. “It was totally unexpected,” he said, “and nobody writes letters anymore. He was such a terrific guy.”
Dr. Roberts met his wife, Wendy, a registered dietitian, while he was in the NIH medical scientist trainee program at Case Western Reserve University. “He liked hiking in the mountains, biking, and hanging out as a family,” Wendy Roberts said of her husband. The couple has two children. “His faith was very important to him. He was a member of the choir and he was leader for the Royal Rangers,” a youth group at their church.
“What mattered most to him were God, family, and work,” she said. “He loved the CAP and he loved being a pathologist. When he found out there was a career in it, that just made his day. It was really perfect for him.”