So You Want To Be A Pathologist
This is all well and good, but just after this momentary lapse of judgement where I reconsidered surgery, I entered a pathology lab that was run by varios pathology residents, who intended to teach us about some basic heart pathology with all sorts of gross cut out hearts. Hmm...pathology. To be honest, unlike just about every specialty I can think of, it occurred to me that I had never really considered that specialty at all. After all, the pay is decent and the lifestyle is more than reasonable (since you're often dealing with things that are already dead, there really isn't any concept of "emergency" or "stat!" in pathology). However, after enduring this lab session, I am convinced that I do not fit in with the social or psychological profile necessary to become a pathologist. What do I mean? Well let me list for you some of the character traits I've observed that appear to be requirements for the pathology specialty, and maybe you can see where I'm going with this (and maybe, just maybe, I've helped bring out the little pathologist in you):
1. Expulsions: No, I don't mean getting kicked out of school. Nor am I referring to peeing, deuce dropping, or any variation of the two. I am talking about the stuff that comes out of your mouth when you talk. Now we all spit accidentally here and there, and some more than others. Hell, I admit to having fired out a few (un)intentional spit balls now and then. But it appears that if you wish to become a pathologist, you must be able and willing to spit copious amounts of fluid out of your mouth with every word uttered. Like a machine gunner, you must mow down your students, drench them in a salty mess of loogey. How do I know this? After finishing the talk at one pathologist's station today, I literally had wet spots all over my face, my left arm, and I could notice a few water spots on my shirt. And this was after continuously moving my stool farther and farther away from the spit source. It's just awful.
2. Personal Hygiene: Do you like not taking showers? Do you like wearing clothes that expose your special areas? Well then maybe pathology is for you. I bring this trait up because of what was left down on one hapless pathologist today. Namely, his pants. Yes, as he hunched over his tray of hearts with his disheveled face fixated on the pathology items, his butt crack was so visible to passers by that the laughter was booming across the entire room. I almost felt sorry for the guy. Almost. We all have moments of butt-crackage (especially the ladies, with those lovely tight-fitting clothes), but I cannot believe it was possible that this young man did not feel an especially strong breeze blowing past his overexposed crack, leaving his actual conscious desire to expose his asscrack as the only remaining reason for why it was so out there in the first place. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people?
3. Place of Birth: You must not, I repeat, NOT, have been born in the United States if you want to become a successful pathologist in the United States (not that there's anything wrong with that - hell, given the current status of the American political climate, you might consider yourself lucky to be from somewhere else). How do I know this? Just about every one of the residents has some obscure foreign accent. No, no, not the sophisticated British accent or the temptuous French accent, we're talking incomprehensible Chinese, painfully boring and nails-on-chalkboard sounding [insert obscure Eastern European former Soviet-bloc nation]-ese, or straight up Pers-aaaaan "ehhhhhh". While this makes for an excruciatingly difficult-to-follow listening experience, it does provide moments of purely original unintentional lost in translation comedy. For example, Persian Pathologist #1 was discussing restrictive heart disease and the fibrotic hearts, which led to this gem of a statement:
"Now, ehhh, this specimeeeen here is ehhh like ehhh dried semen."
Excuse me? Yes, this actually happened. It was only a moment later when I realized he was trying to say "cement". This observation had me wondering, where do all the American-born pathologists go? I have no idea, but I am comforted with the thought that my equally neurotic Chinese/Soviet-bloc/Persian medical student counterpart is writing up something nasty about American pathololgists with horrific accents as I write this...and good for him! (OK, her.)
4. People: As in, do you like being around them? Pathology is one of the very few specialities, if not the only speciality, that has absolutely, positively ZERO patient contact (you gotta figure that even the radiologist talks to one now and then, right?). Beyond that, everything they deal with, whether it is a stained slide or a fixed organ, is absolutely, positively, 100% Grade A dead. If you like the prospect of never having the stuff you deal with talk back to you, then pathology may be for you. If this prospective specialty actually turns you on, perhaps you should seek some counseling. However, if you are also a Jewish female, I can play dead.
5. Style of Speech: Do you know how to carry on a conversation? Are you familiar with normal social cues regarding speech pauses? If so, then pathology is definitely not for you! No seriously, it's like someone took all those kids who went to speech class in elementary school, trained them in the wonders of pathology, and set them loose on unsuspecting medical students. We're talking everything from "So...umm...[this goes on for about 45 seconds of pure and unadulterated silence]...you have this lesion over here" to "HeythisistheischemiasectionI'mreallyexcitedtobeteaching youthisSothefirstthingis-woahwhatwasthatnoise? It'slikeI'mhearingthevoicesinmyheadorsomething I'mreallygladyouallheardthisotherwiseIdon'tknowwhatI'd-" (to fully appreciate the latter example, which is an almost verbatim transcription of what one resident actually said today, read it again except this time go 20 times faster than you normally would. OK then read it 100 times faster than that. OK then just imagine it being faster, and that pretty much mimics what the speed of this one guy's speech).
Anyways, this is just the beginning, based on one 2-hour pathology lab I had this afternoon, and I am sure I am leaving out many other traits that might help you decide if pathology is for you. Me, though, I'm going to have to find something else. Why, you ask? Well, as shocking as it may sound, I actually like people. Well, some people. So I will continue to search for the speciality that is right for me, and I wish you future pathologists all the best. And maybe hope that the future will bring you some better fitting pants.