My interest in pathology began on Match Day 2017. Not my own, that day was far off both temporally and to my mind as I walked towards my final interview as a medical school applicant. Distant as it was however the excitement of the fourth-years’ and the campus was inescapable as I walked under the Florida sun toward an interaction I hoped would bring my own opportunity to take the stage just a little bit closer. Entering the department of pathology, I thought little of it, another interview, another faculty member to impress, perhaps the last opportunity to achieve my lifelong dream these were the thoughts on my mind.
The interview opened like the dozen or so that had come before as the ethical scenarios poured forth and I armed with my nearly complete Masters in bioethics gave ready response to each in turn. When this familiar gauntlet abated and the more personalized section of the interaction began what commenced as yet another interview in a long and tiring cycle became the most memorable of the process. “I really enjoyed your pieces,” my interviewer opened. “Writing is clearly what makes you special, no matter what you do or where you choose to go to medical school never give that up.” In the 6 months I had been traveling the country this was the first time a faculty member interviewing me had taken the time not only to read my work but actively praise it and force me to contemplate my own potential uniqueness. As the interview concluded and I was walked back to the admissions office an unprecedented idea was seeded into this moment of unexpected warmth and support. “You should seriously consider pathology; it will really give you the time to write.” While externally polite I was internally hesitant, I had just spent months expounding on my desire to engage with patients and visions of a life in the clinic. As little as I knew of pathology then, a life behind the microscope or in a lab felt so antagonistic to these heartfelt assertions. I parted from my interviewer just as noon struck and the suggestion was lost as we had the privilege of watching the match ceremony. Later as I returned home and later accepted an acceptance to another institution my interviewer’s warmth remained vivid in my mind but their career advice assumed a quiet dormancy.
The re-emergence of the potential of pathology emerged in diametrically opposite conditions to those where it had first been introduced to me, the depth of a mid-western winter. The 9 months the possibility of exploring pathology was gestating in my mind had seen a shift in my perception of the field and myself. Contrary to the stereotypes, my pathology lecturers were among the most engaging and personable I encountered and had thoroughly convinced me of the integral role pathologists play to clinical care. In addition, as I found my place among my peers the concept of exploring a field referred to as being “a doctor’s doctor” was increasingly appealing. Lastly, though early in my medical school career the import of pathology to Step 1 was a not inconsiderable point. Motivated by all this I took the step of taking a graduate pathology elective with one of my favorite professors. Not only did this class teach me an enormous amount academically including the joy I find in pathology but it opened the door to the opportunities that have defined my medical school experience so far. From the joy I found in the class stemmed a desire to teach Block 1 histology and pathology. The pursuit of this goal ultimately resulted in my selection as Pathology Interest Group leader. In this role not only was I able to achieve my goal of teaching but play a broader role by helping to select my fellow instructors and coordinating the block. Beyond academics my engagement with pathology has offered me wonderful friendships, stronger relationships with faculty and an enhanced sense of purpose.
While my own Match Day remains only slightly less distant than at the opening of this story and there is no certainty that when it comes pathology will be my top choice there is little doubt that whatever my path pathology represents an invaluable milestone. In summary my interest in pathology largely stems from the fact that I feel as though it is the backbone of much of the rest of medicine touching upon the care of upwards of 80% of hospital patients by guiding surgical decision making, running various assays and providing increased diagnostic clarity. More personally it is a sphere in which I was able to do well at a time when I badly needed something to commit to and a sense of belonging. It also allowed me a unique degree of engagement with the M1’s by organizing block 1 histopath as well as teaching a section. So both as a field and in how it operates at my school specifically pathology has simply been among positive in my life as a medical student.