As we continue our Path to Pathology series, we’d like to introduce you to guest blogger and international medical school graduate Dr. Farzana Arab (@Farzanarab). Dr. Arab attended C.U. Shah Medical College in Gujarat, India and Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois where she earned her Master of Public Health degree. She is currently completing her senior year as a graduate student in Medical Laboratory Science at Loyola University in Chicago. She is a 2021 pathology residency applicant interested in hematology and cytopathology. Let’s give Dr. Arab a warm welcome as we read her path to pathology.
Thanks to my #PathTwitter friends, Monica Miyakawa-Liu (@Patho_mon) and Dr. Syeda Qasim (@syeda_qasim), I felt inspired to write about my path to pathology because, unlike them, mine wasn’t as straightforward. A lot of introspection, exploration of multiple specialties, work and research experience guided me towards pathology. As a child, whenever I was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (you get that a lot where I come from) my answer would be “I want to be a doctor!” The conversation then mostly focused on my interest in medicine. “What kind of doctor?” I felt I needed to sound impressive, so I’d blurt out “I want to be a cardiologist.” I would receive a nod of approval. And so, that’s what I thought I'd be when I grew up – a cardiologist.
While in medical school, unlike my peers, I loved histology. I enjoyed using the H&E pencils to sketch basic histology slides on paper. It was soothing as the intricate patterns portray a world of their own and it helped make sense of the gross anatomy that sometimes felt quite overwhelming. Histology was a portal into what is, not just what could be. As someone who learns visually, I really admired histology. I could visualize information. Eventually, during the second year of medical school, I encountered pathology in its full form. Because I enjoyed histology so much, the vast expanse of pathophysiology of the entire human body began making sense. My instructors were very passionate about teaching pathology and would spend time after class allowing us the opportunity to appreciate the collection of slides at our own pace. Personally, I enjoyed the laboratory environment and the sharp intellect required to read and interpret pathology slides. I credit my teachers for instilling a love for learning pathology. Even so, I was determined to pursue internal medicine and specialize as a cardiologist.
I scored highest in the final clinical exam, especially the cardiology portion. A one-year clerkship in different clinical specialties affirmed my interest in internal medicine. You see, I could never pick one body system or specialty. I was always interested in learning about the entire system, and internal medicine deals with the entire health system. Like internal medicine, pathology covers the entire health system from head to toe as well. Since there were no pathology electives during clerkship, I couldn’t go back to it after completing my second year of medical school.
Soon after graduating from medical school, I got married and relocated to the United States with the goal to train in internal medicine and specialize in cardiology. As time went on and I gathered experience performing several clinical rotations at multiple specialties and working as a medical assistant, I realized I did not enjoy the direct patient care routine. Don’t get me wrong, I loved helping patients within my capacity, but it wasn’t gratifying. Being an empath, I felt emotionally drained. Since I was planning to apply for residency programs, I realized I lacked clinical research experience. So, I applied to a few master’s programs that had an emphasis on research. I was fortunate to be accepted in a cellular and molecular oncology program at Loyola University. With no molecular biology background, it was extremely challenging. Yet, experience in the cancer research lab reaffirmed my liking for pathology. I realized I'm a visual learner who enjoys working with my hands, and I’m comfortable working in a laboratory environment. I switched to the Medical Laboratory Science master’s program on the same campus. Currently, I'm a senior graduate student, an opportunity which I’m very grateful for. I learn from experienced laboratory professionals every day and eventually hope to train as a pathology resident. I'm still unable to pick one specific field in pathology, but I know I enjoy hematology, histology and cytopathology. What I know for sure: the field of pathology is expansive and is highly rewarding for students of knowledge.
Our sincerest thanks to Dr. Arab for sharing her personal story. Be sure to read part one, part two and part three of Path to Pathology as an International Medical School Graduate. Are you an international medical school student or graduate? Would you like to share your path to pathology? We want to hear from you! Just email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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