I was a fourth-year medical student, doing a rotation in medical genetics. In a few months I would be graduating, eager to begin my residency in pathology. When I shared my specialty selection with my genetics professor he was quite pleased by my revelation.
“Very good!” The twinkle in his eyes informed me that he was genuinely interested in my career choice. “I also thought of being a pathologist.”
Now, I was intrigued. Most physicians chose specialties with direct patient care. I had never met a physician who once considered pathology before their current specialty. I pressed closer. “Why didn’t you pursue it?”
“Oh…I was ready to put in my applications to the residency programs. But before that happened, I did a formal elective in pathology, just to make sure.”
“And you didn’t like it?”
My professor shook his head. “I did like it…at least the pathology and science. I loved the intellectual challenge of solving problems no other physician could. But do you know what the problem is?” Now I was shaking my head.
“The laboratory is the problem!”
“I don’t understand. Pathology IS the laboratory.”
“Yes.” He was nodding his head in anticipation of my question. “Pathology is the laboratory. But it is not the medicine that is the problem, it is managing hundreds of personnel. There are the phlebotomists, the medical technologists, the clinical lab scientists, the Ph.D. consultants, the supervisors. Pathology was more of an exercise in people management rather than practicing medicine. I didn’t like that.”
His words reverberated in my memory as I trained for the next six years in my chosen specialty. Training at three different universities, I worked with hundreds of laboratory personnel. When I entered private practice, I was on staff at four different hospitals and two reference laboratories, allowing me the opportunity to work with hundreds of more personnel. In my current company, in addition to my employees, I interact with dozens of personnel from other reference laboratories. Through all of these interactions, I have become friends with many of my colleagues. I attended weddings, baby showers, and birthday celebrations. I learned from experts in their respective fields who unselfishly gave of their time to educate me about the diagnostic nuances that are not written in textbooks. I received valuable assistance and snacks at 3 AM when I was on call. Countless extra hours were unselfishly given by many to help me resolve a vexing clinical test that was ordered stat when a work shift was ending. Countless tears, laughter, hugs, and smiles have been shared. The laboratory became and still is, my family.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
All of us are in different families-biologic, workplace, and spiritual. In each setting that God places us, He desires for us to learn from one another, always encouraging and comforting, and demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ to all whom we meet. The laboratory is one of my families and I am grateful to God for His providence by guiding me to this career.
After over thirty years in pathology, I can state with confidence and respectfully address my former professor.
The laboratory is not the problem.
The laboratory is the reward!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.