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Outside the Lab Profession, Training and education

Clearing Pathology’s Smokescreen – in Tweets

If you’re following The Pathologist on Twitter, then you may remember the #PathTwitter community discussion we hosted in June about the many misconceptions surrounding pathology. We asked our followers what needs to be done to combat them – and you certainly delivered! Here, we’ve collected and collated the responses for your reading pleasure.

Swikrity U Baskota (@Baskotacytopath): Increase awareness re: our specialty! Any time and every time we meet medical students! Do not hesitate to talk about the clinical implications our diagnosis makes on frozens/FNA/final diagnosis/ROSE evaluations/blood bank/microbiology/clin chem and anything and everything!

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Swikrity U Baskota (@Baskotacytopath): We can do short videos! Podcasts! Share stories from clinicians’ perspective as well as our perspective in the world outside of pathology : high school/SOME/medical schools/other specialties meetings/website/GIFs/TikToks/YouTubes! #SOME can definitely make an impact!

Interventional Ultrasound for Pathologists (@USFNA_SPAIN): Knowing the clinical implications of our diagnosis is crucial to see #pathology as a clinical specialty. I think pathologists must be more implicated in the clinical process and, sadly, there still are many colleagues who like to be in a sort of dark cave without anyone bothering [them].

Kamran Mirza (@KMirza): #PathTwitter discussion – from a #medicallaboratoryscience perspective, the field needs more exposure at the high school #STEM level and we need to attract a broader audience to the beauty of patient care in the hospital laboratory.

Kamran Mirza (@KMirza): #PathTwitter discussion – from a #medicalstudent perspective, I think the broader issue is that pathology is taught as a “basic science” and not a “clinical science” – pathologists are seen in didactic roles and not clinical ones.

Kamran Mirza (@KMirza): Step 1 would be exposure to the clinical field of medicine and seeing pathologists in their patient care roles (again, this is just for medical students and not the entire field at large). Many, including myself, have written about this: https://bit.ly/3vWAPkI.

Shu, RMT (@anueru432): Yes!! Pathology education should no longer just target the few who show interest, but EVERYONE! We need to start fixing the leaky pipeline and start reinforcing it even from the undergraduate/high school level!!

Path Pal (@squeeeble): On an individual level, teach medical students the absolute basics, like focusing a scope properly. Teach pathologists how to chair meetings so they lead in the MDT meetings. We’re pretty much involved in every case, we’re in an excellent position to chair!

People of Pathology (@peopleofpath): #PathTwitter Discussion – Part of it is that the patients don’t see us. The public needs to know that those lab results and path reports don’t come from machines. They come from us.

Interventional Ultrasound for Pathologists (@USFNA_SPAIN): Absolutely. In our experience, during our consult in #interventionalpathology practice with patients, they get more confident on the #diagnosis and really appreciate seeing the face of the one who will make it.

Phillip Templo Jr (@thejourneymate): Among the specialties, the pandemic has actually highlighted the very crucial roles of pathology and lab medicine in healthcare, and so professionals in these fields should join and continue their presence to educate in many social media platforms so this awareness is sustained.

Rodney E. Rohde (@RodneyRohde): #Visibility MATTERS! The #SARSCoV2 #pandemic has brought that light to us. NOW, we must carry the TORCH forward & long after the pandemic ends!

Rodney E. Rohde (@RodneyRohde): ABSOLUTELY we have both a downstream AND upstream problem! Upstream = junior high/high school & early college very few know about our major & profession. Downstream = we are not seen by patients, family, & other #healthcare professionals!

Balan L. Gaspar (@louis_balan): We need to involve med students (undergrads/MBBS) in routine reporting sessions. Emphasize the importance of clinical history when interpreting patient sample and make them understand the implications of final signout. These are problems at the grassroots level.

Hayley Pincott (@HayleyPincott): I think it’s important for other healthcare professionals to be aware along with students. It’s important that we make everybody aware of the role of both pathology and lab medicine.

Hayley Pincott (@HayleyPincott): We could carry out a similar engagement to #HarveysGang, with lab tours to ped patients. Could path offer tours or a short placement to students & healthcare professionals? Or why not include a placement in path during rotations around other depts?

Hayley Pincott (@HayleyPincott): Another thought, could lab scientists or pathologists become more involved with grand rounds and either present unusual cases, discuss new techniques, or talk about how a new piece of equipment will improve the service for the users??

Cory Nash (@iplaywithorgans): Pfffftttt… great question. The easy answer is we need to get more people out there advocating for pathology. How do you do that? No idea. I just know it needs to be in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. Explain things like you are talking to a 5th grader.

Cory Nash (@iplaywithorgans): As soon as you start using terminology specific to pathology, you lose your audience.

Acutis Diagnostics (@AcutisLab): Continue to educate and be a reliable source of information!

Syed T. Hoda (@01sth02): Most important 1st step would be for pathology to stop self-congratulating and realize that pathology is LESS popular than ever at the moment. Still writing an article for your magazine now about this. I am not convinced our specialty realizes it has a problem…

Hayley Pincott (@HayleyPincott): Just out of curiosity, when you say pathology is less popular, do you mean that there are fewer students choosing pathology as a career or do you mean by other professionals? Or worse still, both?

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Syed T. Hoda (@01sth02): Sadly, by both, because students eventually become attendings and they perpetuate certain ideas after. The rate of student interest is at a modern all-time low right now, even compared to 10, as well as 20, years ago…

Hayley Pincott (@HayleyPincott): I know pathology is studied whilst at uni; however, I don’t recall seeing anybody taking part in a pathology rotation. Do you think this might help?

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Syed T. Hoda (@01sth02): Definitely – but real-life person-to-person, not online.

Hayley Pincott (@HayleyPincott): That’s one positive I think we can take from the pandemic: the benefit and need for human interaction.

Michael Multan (@MultanMichael): Maybe some research on pathologists who specifically identify as being dissatisfied with their speciality/burnt out (whose opinions may influence students) to learn what systemic issues can be improved to push them into a more neutral/mostly positive experience?

Karleen Meiklejohn (@DrKMeiklejohn): more exposure in medical school!

Gemma (@Gemma52382938): Good, effective, wide-reaching communication is key, building collaborative relationships. This will aid everyone’s understanding whilst creating channels for issues to be raised and construct a way forward.

Vish Killari/Vishakha Pardeshi (@DrVish): Pathology is an exciting field; however, not many are aware [of] it. This includes many medical students. Creating awareness is one part. The other part is patient care. Patients don’t see us behind their diagnosis. We are the ones who can empower them to make the right decision.

JS Suri (@DRJSSURI): When we studied medicine, lab medicine was a small part of pathology. Today, laboratory medicine has grown far beyond pathology, medicine to diagnosis of wellness, illness; it’s quantum, prognosis, management etc. Diagnosis going beyond virus to its genome and variants.

Interventional Ultrasound for Pathologists (@USFNA_SPAIN): We have a privileged point of view of the diagnostic process, so I agree with @KMirza on giving a more clinical approach to achieve more awareness of what #pathology means. Our diagnosis is an interpretation of the cyto and tissue images of a dynamic process in the patient.

Enrique Colado (@ecoladov): I believe the greatest misconception is that we as laboratory professionals are only focused on samples or tests, when we really are focused on the patient behind them. This is definitely something that will take a generation to change.

Kelly Swails (@kellyswails): That we’re all introverts who picked laboratory professions because we don’t like people/patients. I do think pathologist/technologist presence on social media is combating this a bit.

Laura J. Tafe (@LJTafeMD): I echo what many have already said. I see overarching lack of awareness and knowledge of what we do and the value of our contributions to healthcare. I think that’s largely due to how we’ve allowed ourselves to be portrayed in ways that haven’t served our profession well. 1/2

Laura J. Tafe (@LJTafeMD): Major areas that I see need focus: Recruiting and retaining technologists/professionals; medical student exposure; view selves as clinicians; valued as part of the multidisciplinary team; patient interactions; advocacy with the greater public. 2/2

Robert Homer (@rjhomer57): Clinicians’ perceptions don’t help. Was introduced to small children (3–7) of colleague as a guy who does autopsies. Nothing else.

Laura J. Tafe (@LJTafeMD): Of course. And these perceptions won’t change unless we do better educating, representing, advocating to all, IMO.  Some people will meet us in the middle, I think. But your comment made me think how do I/would I respond in this scenario?

Satishkumar Krishnan (@ksk_ny): Once, lab scientists used to collect blood samples from patients, which enabled direct interactions &, at the time of venesection, patients were always very keen to know what happened to those samples. This was an opportunity for them to know about the lab & professionals behind their results.

Kamran Mirza (@KMirza): I think that many schools are undergoing curricular reform and this presents an amazing opportunity to correct decades of misperceptions and incorrect information about pathology and laboratory medicine.

Intrigued? Read the full thread here: tp.txp.to/tp-discuss/tweet

Tweets have been edited for readability only.

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About the Author

Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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