Faculty Focus

Jensen, Christopher

Chris Jensen, MD

What is your hometown?

New Hampton, Iowa

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

1999

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. I have always had a fascination with science and the natural world.

I guess medicine was a natural extension of that fascination. I wanted a career that allowed me to use science to solve problems and help people.

What interested you to pursue a career in Pathology?

I was drawn to Pathology because it gave me a view into what was happening behind the scenes in medicine. I have always been interested in how things work.

In Pathology, I could see what was happening at the tissue and cellular level. Pathology also dealt with solving problems. I enjoy helping patients and physicians understand how things work or more often, why they are not working the way they should.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

There are many teachers who shaped me along the way.

My parents, both teachers, instilled a love of learning at an early age which is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. My father was my high school chemistry and physics teacher and helped give me the foundation to pursue a career in science.

Fred Dee, Charlie Platz, Michael Cohen, and Kent Bottles were just a few of the major influences during my residency and fellowship training at Iowa.

When I came back to Iowa as a faculty member, Frank Mitros was a great mentor as well, by showing me day in and day out how true excellence in clinical service and education could coexist and thrive together, and actually were inseparable.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?

For me, joining the faculty here was coming back home.

The opportunity came at a time when, for personal/family reasons, we needed to be physically closer to our families. Iowa had been home for most of my life and coming to the University of Iowa was an opportunity to connect further to the state of Iowa and give something back as well.

The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient-centered care and education?

I try to take new knowledge and innovations and apply them to the practical diagnostic questions we encounter everyday in diagnostic pathology.

What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?

I enjoy being able to interact with outstanding physicians from many diverse specialties every day. In addition, interacting with and learning from students and residents enriches my practice.

Please describe your professional interests.

I am a surgical pathologist and cytopathologist. I have specific subspecialty interests in fine needle aspiration and gastrointestinal pathology.

What led to your interest in fine needle aspiration?

Fine needle aspiration allows me to provide diagnostic information from a minimally invasive procedure. I am still amazed that we can make diagnoses from a few drops of tissue and blood obtained with a small needle.

How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?

I love the opportunity to interact with experts and collaborators from across the spectrum of medical specialists. These colleagues teach me so much and enhance my practice.

What are some of your outside interests?

I enjoy spending time with my family and try to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Activities I enjoy include gardening, hiking, running with my dog, and cross-country skiing.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Although I don’t meet most of my patients, I always try to think about the patient (and physician) behind each biopsy. I know that the patient and physician need the best possible information to make and informed decision about treatment and care.

If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine/science), what would it be?

Equal access to quality health care seems a good place to start.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Perhaps the biggest change is the pace of change. Just the volume of information is one of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) for physicians today.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Choose a career or specialty because it is what you like to do or find interesting, not based on what someone else thinks will be needed in the future.

I have seen the future prospects of pathology rise and fall several times in my career. If it interests you and makes you happy, you will be able to find a career.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine/science?

I always say that anyone who can tell you what will happen five years from now in medicine should be treated with a great deal of skepticism. That being said, molecular diagnostics are already changing the way think about and make diagnoses in pathology. I know that trend will continue.

In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e., population-based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?

I see my involvement with medical students and resident education as perhaps my most important form of engagement with the citizens of Iowa.

Our role is not only to provide excellent health care but to train the next generation of physicians. I believe that some day when I look up from a bed in the emergency room, I will see one of my former students and smile because I know I am in good hands. In that way I am confident I am giving something back to Iowans.