Match Week 2022 (#Match2022) was undoubtedly the most difficult week of my young medical career. Finding out that I did not match into what I then thought was my desired residency choice left me hurt, distraught and lost as I saw the celebratory social media posts of my classmates who successfully matched into the residencies which they worked so hard to achieve. While others were surrounded by the villages which had supported them during the beginning of their medical journeys, my then village had crumbled and fallen apart as I stopped hearing from individuals who had once supported me. Although I was blessed to have matched into an excellent transitional year internship program and was still on track to graduate with my Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, the ensuing weeks became a period of deep reflection as I pondered my medical future beyond 2023.
Dr. Casey P. Schukow (right) embraced by his older brother, Dr. Alex Schukow (left), after being hooded by him during graduation from DO school.
During this time period, I stepped back and thought about what I enjoyed learning the most in all of medicine and surgery. As days and nights passed, I began thinking about Dr. Paul Kowalski, a pathologist affiliated with my medical school (Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, or MSUCOM). Throughout my first two (“pre-clerkship”) years at MSUCOM, Dr. Kowalski gave pathology lectures integrated throughout the various systems courses (e.g., neurology, cardiology). The way he articulated and deciphered fundamental concepts of various disease pathologies resonated with me during my time at MSUCOM. I thoroughly appreciated learning from him, just as I appreciated learning from Pathoma’s Dr. Husain Sattar during my dedicated USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1 studying.
It eventually dawned on me that what I loved learning the most in medical school was pathology and understanding how diseases of the body manifest. As if an internal lightbulb finally turned on, I reached out to Dr. Kowalski for advice and guidance on how to pursue a career in pathology. After meeting with him several weeks after my dreaded Match 2022, the clouds which diminished my enthusiasm from the weeks prior became uplifted, and light gratefully shined down on the weeks (and months) ahead. He validated the difficulties I faced throughout this time and reassured me that pathology is a warm, welcoming and positive specialty. His words motivated me to be resilient and keep pushing forward. With Dr. Kowalski’s support, I finally had the courage to begin the path towards building my new village.
Excited for this new beginning, I must admit I was terrified as well, as I had no idea how to get involved in pathology. As the faculty mentor for Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine-College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSU CHM-COM) Pathology Interest Group (@CPathig) Dr. Kowalski directed me to the group’s president, Meredith Herman (@MeredithKHerman), for assistance. After her second year of medical school, she completed a post-sophomore fellowship with the University of Toledo Pathology Residency Program. Meredith has since worked tirelessly to help spread the word about pathology throughout MSU-CHM and MSU-COM. When I explained my story to her, Meredith echoed Dr. Kowalski’s warmth and support, and she began getting me involved in the MSU CHM-COM Pathology Interest Group.
Dr. Willy Kemp leading a cardiac and neuropathology review presentation for MSU CHM-COM Pathology Interest Group members. From left to right on the top of the screen: Meredith Herman, Dr. Kemp, Curtiss Johnson, Dr. Schukow.
Through this group I have been able to:
Help lead Pathology Jeopardy boards review sessions
Engage in research planning with Co-President Basma Al Masraf (@al_masraf)
Present posters alongside Academic Outreach Coordinator Lauren Pelkey (@LJPelkey) at a local osteopathic conference last May.
Dr. Schukow (right) posing with Lauren Pelkey (left) in front of her poster on Mesonephric Endometrial Adenocarcinoma.
While this represents only a glimpse of the pathology activities I have been able to engage in with Meredith and the rest of the group, I finally feel like I am a part of a team again. After hanging up the football pads after my last college football game during my 2017 senior season, this “being a part of a team” aspect of my professional life was sincerely missed until now. Just like that, my village expanded from Dr. Kowalski, to Meredith, and to the entire MSU CHM-COM Pathology Interest Group.
Dr Schukow (#98) playing his final senior season for the Hillsdale (MI) College Chargers. (Right) Dr. Schukow posing with his Chargers defensive line unit after a big win.
My village expanded further after Meredith helped me establish a Twitter account (@CaseyPSchukow) and introduced me to the world of #PathTwitter, too. While I never created a social media account (nor a Twitter account, for that matter) for professional purposes before, I was blown away by the community of #PathTwitter. Its welcomeness and positivity mirrored everything I had experienced from Dr. Kowalski, Meredith, and the rest of the MSU CHM-COM Pathology Interest Group. Over the course of only a few weeks, #PathTwitter allowed me to connect and network with hundreds of pathology residents, faculty, residency programs, and other pathology-interested medical students/graduates (like myself) throughout the United States and world. From attending Zoom sessions on hematology/hematopathology led by Dr. Kamran Mirza (@KMirza) to working alongside Dr. Aadil Ahmed (@AadilAhmedMD) as Co-Ambassador for the Pathology Outreach Program (@pathoutprogram), my pathology exposure has increased 1000-fold. The question of how to get involved in the specialty is non-existent, now, as my village seems never-ending.
Dr. Schukow (standing) leading a Pathology Outreach Program session at his alma mater of Saline High School in Saline, MI.
With my faith, fiancé, family, and friends by my side every step of the way, my pathology village is set, and my journey ahead appears much clearer. Feelings of fear, worry, not belonging, intrigue, confidence, excitement, and, finally, belonging have roller-coastered in me over the past three months since beginning my #path2path and the path to finding my village. In my village now, I no longer feel the need or pressure to change who I am, which is important as medical students and/or prospective residents need to find the villages which best fits them and embraces them for who they are. Be yourselves, your genuine selves, and allow yourselves to be vulnerable as you build your villages, too. Although #Match2022 may have not been the fairy tale ending I hoped for, everything happens for a reason. I know now I am with the village I was meant to be in all along, and I can see better days looking ahead at #PathMatch2023.
Dr. Casey P. Schukow is an incoming PGY1 transitional year resident at ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital in Monroe, MI, applying for pathology. He graduated from Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, MI) in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, and received his DO degree from MSUCOM (Detroit, MI) in May 2022. He now serves as the Alumni Education and Research Coordinator for the MSU CHM-COM Pathology Interest Group, and was recently awarded an Annual Meeting Travel Grant to attend ASCP100 this September. In his free time, Casey enjoys sports, exercising, spending time with his friends and family, watching anime with his fiancé, and taking care of their plants and dwarf shrimp.