As I young child, I distinctly remember being fascinated by my dad’s career in medical technology. Watching the centrifuge separate blood components within a test tube was pretty cool, but I found mounting slides, looking through a microscope, and identifying different cell types to be way more interesting. In retrospect, it really was the first time I glimpsed into pursuing medicine (without even knowing it).
Fast forward to my third month of residency, and I’ve taken on a similar role. Working on the hematology/oncology service has been very reminiscent of my times peering through the microscope as a child. This time, however, technology has come such a long way into identifying cell lines using techniques like flow cytometry and immunofluorescence. Still, there’s something gratifying about looking across a slide and saying: “Oh, look, an eosinophil! And that’s a whopping neutrophil! And look at that other neutrophil… chemotaxin’ away.” Oh the nerdiness. 🙂
The oncology component of this rotation has been very humbling. I’ve been fortunate that none of my immediate family has had to battle cancer. Because of this lack of experience, I was always curious exactly how oncologists explain terminal prognoses to patients with metastatic diseases in addition to offering therapeutic and palliative options for care. It really takes a special kind of person who can empathize with patients, maintain professional boundaries, and frankly, keep their emotional sanity when going home each day. I’m very lucky to be working with some great attendings this month, but the patients continue to be my best teachers. 🙂