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Diagnosis of disease has always been my passion. It is what attracted me to a career in medicine. For me there has been nothing more exciting than the challenge involved in unraveling the mysteries of the human body. I was introduced to Pathology in the second year of my medical school and had also begun my clinical rotations in Internal Medicine and Surgery. These rotations provided great opportunity to be involved in clinico-pathological correlation. My job as a medical student began as carrying histopathology samples to the Pathology department and bring back reports. The Pathology resident that helped me with this was very enthusiastic and always made it a point to show me the interesting slides. Up until then histopathology slides had been a jumble of pink and blue colors for me. As I saw more and more slides all these colors started making sense. Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle started falling together to reveal the larger picture. During these clinical rotations I realized the tremendous impact these tiny sections on pieces of glass have on the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
After completing medical school I joined a Pathology residency at General Hospitals in my hometown of India. Residency for me was both enlightening and rewarding. We did major rotations in histopathology, hematology, and autopsy and short rotations in blood banking, microbiology and immunology. Each rotation provided plenty of opportunity to be involved in disease diagnosis and was very fulfilling. What our hospital lacked in advanced techniques in Pathology, it made up in patient volume. Being the only truly free tertiary care center in my city, we had patients coming from varied economic and social backgrounds. This provided me opportunity to see a wide array of pathologies. Our institute also had a good teaching program and encouraged participation in journal clubs, slide quizzes, and clinicopathological correlation conferences. As a resident I was also involved in teaching pathology to medical school students. During the 3 years of my residency I completed a research project and dissertation. My dissertation topic was to study the pathologies seen at autopsy in AIDS patients in Indian population. During my work on this project and also the rotations during my residency I came to realize that pathology was a field at the cross roads of clinical medicine and medical research, both paths ultimately leading to the holy grail that we physicians strive for; that of improving health by fighting disease. By the time I finished my residency, I had developed an avid interest in research. The options in front of me then were to start practicing as a pathologist or to further my education. I chose to pursue the latter.
I applied for Ph.D. training in the United States and got accepted in the Pathophysiology program at the University of State. For the past 3 years I have worked on the study of mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis to the skeleton. My background as a pathologist, both theoretical as well as practical, has helped me immensely while working on this project. I have learned new techniques including tissue culture, PCR, immunoflurorescence, design and execution of in vivo experiments in animal models. I have written protocols, grants and research papers based on my project and have had the opportunity to present my work at many national and international conferences. During this time, my interactions with many clinicians and Pathologists involved in research has helped me see the field of Pathology in a different light. It has made me realize that a career in Pathology can provide me with many avenues to fulfill my ultimate goal. It will provide a unique opportunity to improve the health of my patients both directly via disease diagnosis and indirectly through information and knowledge gained from basic research.
The thought of doing residency in Pathology in the United States is very exciting. It will give me an opportunity to learn and practice those skills that were lacking in my home country. At the same time I can bring to the program the clinical knowledge that I have acquired during my residency in India as well as the research experience that I have gained during my Ph.D. I plan to pursue a fellowship after residency. I am more inclined to pursue a career in academic practice as I feel it will provide a better platform to be involved in research.
There is no doubt in my mind that by choosing a career as a Pathologist I have chosen the right career path. There is no other ambition that I so keenly pursue and no other goal that I so passionately want to come true than being a good Pathologist.