“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
This call to action has always been an inspiration to me. Rather than waiting for authorities to make change and improve the world, it compels me to do something to improve the lives of others myself – one at a time, person to person. We are asked to ignore obstacles, to be tenacious, and to move forward to face challenges – alone. It’s a very bold idea.
My pursuit of medicine began with a desire to work in global health. My career choice – pathology and laboratory medicine (PALM) – was a natural conclusion once I learned that it is the cornerstone of modern healthcare. It made sense to me that, globally, PALM would need to improve as we advance care for both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
As a medical student on the pathology program interview trail, my inquiries about global health opportunities in residency left me slightly dismayed. It wasn’t that programs were opposed to the idea; rather, not many were aware of the concept or simply did not consider it a priority. I was naïve to the reality that roles in global health were anomalous for pathologists – a fact that, when I realized it, surprised and confused me. How could the global health community be working to improve healthcare in low-resource settings if PALM was nowhere to be found?
As it turns out, not a single program that I interviewed with had opportunities for global health in the field of pathology – and no program other than the one I matched to was willing to explore the idea. Once residency began, my program allowed me to build a global health elective – a task I began in my first year of residency and continued at the start of my second year by completing a month-long anatomic pathology elective in a laboratory in Uganda under the supervision of a visiting pathologist from the US.
Finding that opportunity was difficult. Finding pathologists who had worked in global health was difficult. Finding out what I need to learn to lead global pathology development was difficult. I often wished that there was an easier way to make connections, learn, and get involved in the global pathology community. At the time, there was minimal information on the Internet about how to get involved as a trainee or graduate pathologist – but I had learned so much through the process of creating and completing the elective that I wanted to make it easier for any interested pathologist at any career stage to get involved in global health.
It was networking that made this dream a reality. Within weeks of my return from Uganda, I attended the 2017 ASCP annual meeting, where I met several wonderful pathologists who had also worked globally – Danny Milner, Sara Jiang, Christina Arnold, Kamran Mirza, and Jerad Gardner. We talked, brainstormed, and eventually came up with the idea to launch a webpage unique to global health opportunities. Jerad Gardner, the founder of the Pathology Resident Wiki (1), offered to host the page on that site – and that is where it all began!
The launch of the Global Health Opportunities for Pathologists Wiki page (2) has expanded the opportunities available to connect with others working in global pathology. With my colleagues’ mentorship and advice from years of international pathology service, I continue to learn what it takes to improve laboratories internationally. I also had the chance to travel again to Africa in 2018 – this time as an ASCP Trainee Global Health Fellow working in a laboratory in Ethiopia – and benefited enormously by taking an active part in the ASCP’s quality improvement initiatives there (3).
With every morsel of knowledge gained from my experiences both traveling internationally and seeking out opportunities to do so, I continually add to the Wiki page. There are many resources and opportunities available for both trainees and practicing pathologists, and I try to list each one of them on the site. Interested laboratory medicine professionals can also find sources of funding, education, and interviews with PALM members working in global health. And for those who are particularly enthusiastic, there’s even a survey at the end of the page to learn more about your interest in global pathology!
Whatever your passion to improve the world around you, I urge you to take your ideas and turn them into reality. Do not wait for leaders – do it alone. Take charge and make changes, whether in your local community or the one you share with the world.
- J Gardner, “Pathology Resident Wiki” (2019). Available at: bit.ly/2FKyceL. Accessed July 1, 2019.
- D Razzano, “Global Health Opportunities for Pathologists” (2019). Available at: bit.ly/2FJwt9A. Accessed July 1, 2019.
- D Razzano, “ASCP’s Inaugural Global Health Trainee Fellowship – My Experience in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia” (2019). Available at: bit.ly/2LrDD61. Accessed July 1, 2019.
Dana Razzano is a Cytopathology Fellow at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.