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Live, Love, Lab

5 tips for resident success in pathology by Walter Oliveira, MASCP, MLS(ASCP) SI

The voice of the laboratory professional is not often heard and we are rarely seen. Laboratory professionals work in unison with pathologists to provide care and healing for patients, and there are multiple ways pathology residents can engage with and learn from the laboratory team. I have worked with residents for many years and cannot stress enough that laboratory professionals are the most valuable resource for pathologists. It is key to model this to fellows and residents in training by having a visible presence in the lab every day. Here are five ways pathologists can connect with the lab team to experience success in residency:

1. Be a member of the lab team and not a visitor. This means cultivating the habit of venturing into the lab on a daily basis during each rotation discipline and not only when you need something. Engage with the laboratory professionals and take time to learn what they are doing. This practice will build relationships that will serve you well.

2. Learn the names of the dynamic laboratory professionals who labor behind the scenes to generate results, slides, blocks, gels, and data to assist you and care for patients. They know what is going on and are your most valuable resource. Their role is to heal patients and they want you to be part of this rewarding work.

3. Be inclusive when you pursue scholarly work like abstracts, papers, and posters by including the name of the laboratory professional who assisted you by cutting and staining extra slides, running additional samples, locating past data or re-gating plots. You do not succeed on your own so recognizing the team that is supporting you is the right thing to do. A number of years ago two technologists worked tirelessly to analyze samples for HCG as part of a large study. The PI published a paper in a prestigious journal based on the data, printed a copy of the article and wrote on the front, “Thanks to the HCG Gals” and had it delivered to the lab. Avoid this error!

4. Ask members of the laboratory team what they think about a case. They are experts in test methodologies, troubleshooting, processes, result interpretation and correlation. And don’t forget to close the loop by providing feedback on the patient. The laboratory team appreciates the follow up because it reinforces the truth that what we do matters every day.

5. Timely communication is important. Many lab tests have cut-off times when a specimen needs to be in the lab to meet defined turnaround times. We also know there are many things outside our control; STAT cases happen. Call the laboratory and see if they have some flexibility to hold a run to give you time to get the sample to them. The lab team is invested in healing the patient and will work with you as long as you communicate. And remember these key words and phrases: please, thank you, I appreciate you, I understand, thanks for being willing to help, you made a difference.

Meet our guest blogger

As an ASCP certified medical laboratory scientist with 39 years of experience in pathology and laboratory medicine, Walter Oliveira, MASCP, MLS(ASCP)CMSI, manages the specialty laboratories (Immunology, Flow Cytometry, NGS Genomics, Cytogenetics, Toxicology, Biochemical Genetics) at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Virginia. Specialty labs represent esoteric or novel testing that is separate from the main clinical disciplines of Blood Bank, Chemistry, Hematology, Microbiology and often operate one shift with on-call coverage.

Inquisitive by nature, Walter grew up enjoying science and the relationship between cells, systems, function, and disease. “I’m in the generation that remembers watching Quincy, M.E., which starred Jack Klugman as a medical examiner and forensic pathologist. The challenge of discovery, the innovative advancements, and the knowledge to put diagnostic puzzle pieces together to gain a clear picture of the problem led me to the field of Medical Technology. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) provided the path to becoming certified and advancing my career.”

Walter emphasized, “The laboratory is a place where I make a difference every day in the life of a patient and produce critical results as part of a team to facilitate healing. It is rewarding to serve those in need and know what you do matters. Watching the advancements in laboratory medicine as we correlate cell morphology with chromosomal karyotype to next generation sequence for gene disruptions is incredible and keeps me excited and involved.”

Do you have tips for pathology residency success? Let’s hear them! Just email Kristin at or DM us on Twitter @instapathbio to be a guest blogger for our Road to Residency series.

To learn more about Luci, visit our Products page or email Instapath was founded in 2017 by the same engineers and scientists who developed the original prototypes. Our vision is to enable patients to immediately know their cancer diagnosis instead of waiting days or weeks for the results. Instapath builds microscopy platforms to improve patient care in the form of faster turnaround times and prevention of high risk and costly repeat biopsy procedures. Further, our goal is to provide users with a seamless, modernized digital pathology workflow with tools to complete all pathology evaluations needed to provide the most precise and efficient diagnoses for patients.

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