GMS Faculty Spotlight: Christopher Andry, MPhil, PhD

Christopher Andry, MPhil, PhD, is the Chief of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine. Dr. Andry’s career at BMC and BU has spanned more than 40 years, during which time he has demonstrated a deep-rooted commitment to and passion for the mission of the BMC Health System, the Medical Campus, Boston University and the Boston community at large.

Learn more about Dr. Andry and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine below!

Tell us a bit about your journey to Boston University. How long have you been involved with the Pathology program?

I emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1982 and worked as a landscape gardener on the South shore.  That fall, I came up and volunteered in the Mallory Institute of Pathology at Boston City Hospital. Shortly thereafter, I was employed as technician partially funded through the Boston University Pathology department. I completed my master’s degree part-time and was admitted into the BU Pathology Department PhD Program by then-Chair Leonard Gottlieb, MD, MPH (Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Pathology) and Adrianne Rogers, MD (Emeritus Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, former Associate Chair of the department, and my mentor).

I graduated in 1994 and joined the faculty as an instructor.  I worked as an administrator, educator and research scientist, mentored by Michael O’Brien, MD (Emeritus Professor and Chair of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine) and Dan Remick, MD (Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and former Chair).  We launched the BMC-BU Biospecimen Archive Research Core (BARC) in 2006 and that became the foundation of my scientific interest in biospecimen science.  I became a Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in 2018, with a secondary appointment in Family Medicine, and became Chair in 2019.  BU has always been a home for me, filled with wonderful colleagues, interesting work and bountiful opportunities.  My wife, Virginia, and son, Conor, are also BU alumni.

What drew you to working at Boston University?

It’s a terrific University, incredibly diverse in terms of opportunity, along with a strong institutional passion for creating opportunities for people who have been historically underrepresented in science and medicine.  The culture of the University is one of strong academic work combined with a collegial and collaborative environment.  The BU Medical Campus is a lovely setting in the South End of Boston.

Tell us about your current role in the Master of Science in Pathology Laboratory Sciences program at BU.  

I worked with Adrianne Rogers, MD, to found our Masters in Pathology Laboratory Sciences program in 2003. The program is now directed by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Duffy, MA. I have great fun teaching in a variety of fora.  My colleague Liz Duffy and I co-teach and direct our Histopathology course, a core course in our master’s program. We both have taught undergraduate Pathology classes to introduce our field to high school and undergraduate students.  I also give lectures in the Pathology course at the BU Goldman School of Dental Medicine and in the Introduction to Pathology course in  Graduate Medical Sciences at the Medical School.  I’ve always enjoyed teaching and sharing information while learning about new topics to present.  Our research in biospecimen science has led to a successful run of NCI funding to interrogate how to optimally collect and assay specimens both for our own research and for others, particularly the BU-BMC Cancer Center.

My clinical service work has always been important to me.  Serving our vulnerable patient population is a passion of mine. While I am not a pathologist, I have served as a senior administrator at BMC and BU over the years helping advance testing technology and supporting the development and growth of our staff.  I am particularly committed to providing services to our affiliated Community Health Centers. A recent partnership with Codman Square Health Center in South Dorchester has fostered a very important relationship in the Boston Community.  I also worked as the Executive Director in the BMC Cancer Center and really enjoyed getting to know and help our patients and their families.

Tell us more about the MS in Pathology Laboratory Sciences program. Can you talk about the program’s history, some of its highlights, and a brief description of the curriculum?

We came up with the concept of a Master’s degree in Pathology to provide academic opportunities for people who wanted to take the next step and open the window into our field.  Initially, the idea was to develop advanced scientific research staff at the technical level; but quickly, the program also developed into an important steppingstone for people who want to pursue tertiary degrees, such as a PhD, MD, DMD or DO.

We also recruit globally and find real value in a diverse class. We have had students from Africa, Europe, Asia and North & South America.  The program’s highlight is that we are relatively small (10-12 students per cohort) and flexible. Our aim is to mentor and support our students in their academic journey. Some students opt to pursue the degree part-time while they work, and we offer a one-year or two-year course of study.  Our classes offer foundational knowledge in pathology, neuroscience, cancer biology, immunology and biostatistics. All the students complete a thesis based on wet-lab bench work.  This affords them an opportunity to develop both technical skills and the ability to understand how science works through experimental design and data analysis. We have a welcoming faculty involved in many different fields of research.

What is the value of pursuing a master’s degree in pathology? What is exciting about working in the field?

We have seen all our students advance in their careers, and a good number have gone on into PhD programs both at BU and elsewhere. We have had students go to medical and dental school, and a good number of our graduates have moved into well-paid positions in biotech.  We have also developed a local and regional network that helps our students take the next step in their career path.  The field of pathology is exciting because of its diversity and adaptability.  Nearly every field of study has roots in the study of disease pathology, be it molecular or biomarker studies, biochemical analysis or histopathology.

What aspects of the BU MS in Pathology Laboratory Sciences program make it stand out?

A great student body that forms a very welcoming community. Engaged and enthusiastic faculty who embrace the program and the aspirations of the students. A strong mentorship and guidance program and a wonderful, exciting campus with so much going on in an amazing city next to the ocean!

Can you describe some graduate outcomes of the master’s program?

The degree creates opportunities to work as a research associate in academia while deciding next steps, but also an important steppingstone for people who want to pursue tertiary degrees such as a PhD, MD, DMD or DO.  Excellent, well-paid scientific positions in Biotech Industry have also been an attraction for our graduating students.

Can you speak to your program’s efforts to recruit and train scientists from underrepresented communities?

Recruiting and training scientists from historically underrepresented groups is a personal passion of mine and an important mission for our department. Our program Director, Liz Duffy, MA and her admissions committee also embraces this mission.  We are actively engaged in offering opportunities to high school students from communities of color, and we love recruiting a diverse graduate student body which brings a richness to the program.  We also partner with our colleagues in Graduate Medical Sciences who offer many resources for professional development.  We work to ensure that every student feels comfortable, safe and has an equal opportunity to succeed. This is very important to us.  We have a diverse faculty as well, and a rich history of tolerance and support for our students.

What is your favorite part about being a faculty member within the Pathology program? 

The staff, the students, the faculty and the fact that we are integrated into nearly every aspect of the activities going on at the Medical Campus: research, clinical service, teaching, mentoring and committee service work.  I’ve worked at BU for over 40 years. Every day is different and interesting.

What advice or words of wisdom would you give to individuals who are considering pursuing an advanced degree in pathology?

Go for it!  I had a biology degree and didn’t know what pathology was until I arrived at BU and the Mallory. I was instantly fascinated with the science, histopathology, biochemistry, molecular biology and all the opportunities to recognize and understand how disease impacts the human condition.