Path At Last! From Prague to Pathology: Part Two

I don’t regret any of what came before, and much of what I learned along the way in those other pursuits has been more useful and valuable to me than anything I’ve gotten out of a book or lecture.

We first met Dr. Martin during Match Week 2021. She was counting down the hours until she found out where she matched for pathology residency. After learning about her path to pathology, we were inspired to begin a new blog series which we have dubbed Path At Last! Pathologists from around the globe (yes, we’re going international!) and at all stages of their careers will be sharing their stories about how they found pathology, or in many cases, how pathology found them. (Keep an eye on your Twitter DMs -- we might just be searching for you!) Welcome to part two of Dr. Martin’s story as she takes us back to school. Again, let’s dive right in! (Get caught up on part one here.)


Since I needed to take almost all the medical school pre-reqs and remediate my GPA, I signed up for a second bachelor's degree in biochemistry at a state school. For 2 years I studied, got the grades, powered through the pre-reqs, and completed all the pre-med stuff. I also shadowed hospital pathologists and had the opportunity to intern with a medical examiner’s office as an autopsy tech, which further solidified my determination. Then I applied to medical school during the third and final year of that degree…and I did not get in. I applied to over 30 schools and didn’t get a single interview. It was pretty crushing to hear “no” so many times. It felt like every time I opened my email or mailbox there was another rejection. In the early spring, when it became clear I wasn’t going to be starting medical school that fall, I began searching for my next step. I applied to the NIH’s IRTA program, interviewed with several labs, and thought I was all set up to start with one of them when they abruptly decided to pull their offer at the last minute and go with someone else. It hurt, a lot, and as I tried to figure out how to pivot yet again from this new hurdle, I kept telling myself that 2015 just wasn’t my year.


Fortunately, I had a very supportive department at my university and they not only let me sign up for their master’s program well past the deadline, but also gave me a TA slot which provided a stipend. So, that fall I started my master’s in biology instead of medical school. In addition to my classes, I was teaching 3 sections of undergrad labs, doing research and running the lab for my PI, plus working a part time job on top of that. Then, my mother-in-law went into hospice care as her cancer had finally stopped responding to all treatments. For the rest of that semester, my husband and I spent each weekend driving 1000 miles round-trip to sit by her bedside as she slowly slid down towards the end. There are a few periods in my life where I have been just as busy, as overwhelmed and as emotionally devastated as I was at that time, but none where I’ve been all of those all at once.


The next summer I reapplied to medical school. Another 30 applications. I was mentally preparing myself for another 30 rejections, but this time it worked out. I ended up with 3 interviews, 2 acceptances and finally began medical school in the summer of 2017 at 32 years old. Medical school had its own challenges, plenty of ups and downs, but knowing that I’ve been firmly on the path to reaching the goal that I set so long ago has helped a lot along the way.


Dr. Allison Martin (far right), Graduation Day 2021


And now here I am, 4 years later, finally starting my pathology residency in Colorado. Some folks might look at all the different roads I’ve taken and see a lot of detours when I could have gotten to where I am now much more quickly, but I don’t. I don’t regret any of what came before, and much of what I learned along the way in those other pursuits has been more useful and valuable to me than anything I’ve gotten out of a book or lecture. Knowing how to get around setbacks, knowing how to teach and how to learn, knowing how to hold someone’s hand when they’ve gotten the worst news and just be present with them – these are all skills that I picked up along the way that have helped me immensely and will continue to help me as I move forward on this #path2path journey.


We’d like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Dr. Allison Martin for her time in sharing her incredible path to pathology. Want to be a part of the Path At Last! series? Just email Kristin at kmitchener@instapathbio.com to share your path to pathology. Stories from medical students, pathologists' assistants, pathology residents and fellows, pathologists at all career levels and retired pathologists are all welcome!


Built on the vision of better patient outcomes, Instapath was founded in 2017 by engineers and scientists to enable patients to immediately know their cancer diagnosis. Our team made it our mission to develop fast and easy digital pathology technology so diagnosis can be made in minutes instead of days. To learn more about Instapath and our technology, visit https://instapathbio.com/or contact us at info@instapathbio.com.