The pathologist—no longer the mysterious doctor behind the microscope. Pathologists are increasingly becoming more visible through patient-pathologist consultations, high profile research collaborations and social media like Twitter and YouTube. We wanted to further highlight the importance of pathology and the pathologist in a series titled Spotlight. We kicked off the series with Veterinary Pathologist Dr. Nicola Parry. Now we’d like to introduce you to Dr. David Suster (@MdSuster). His areas of specialty include bone and soft tissue pathology, pulmonary pathology and molecular genetic pathology.
Dr. David Suster is a new assistant professor at Rutgers University/New Jersey Medical School. “This has been an interesting and difficult time to make a transition from training to a staff pathologist as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant delays in securing medical licenses and the credentialing process for hospital privileges,” he told us. He attended Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana and decided on pathology during his fourth year of medical school. His residency and fellowship were completed within the Harvard system. He completed his residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts. This was followed by a selective pathology fellowship, with a focus in pulmonary and bone and soft tissue pathology, at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. We were curious how Dr. Suster became interested in pathology as well as his thoughts on pathology as a career, the future of digital pathology and his idea for the next best test.
In undergrad, what did you see as your career path?
I did not really know what I wanted to know to do in undergrad to be honest. My major was American Studies (similar to a major in sociology but with a focus on American politics/culture) with a minor in comparative religion. Coming out of high school I really enjoyed history, however after a few years in college I decided I was unclear what my career path would be. I completed my undergraduate studies in those fields but pivoted into medicine in my final year.
When did you decide on your specialty, and how?
My father is a pathologist (Dr. Saul Suster), so I had plenty of exposure to pathology through him – I was looking at glass sides even as a little kid, granted I had no idea what I was looking at or what medicine was at that point. However, he encouraged me to explore every different type of medical specialty available to me and never pushed me towards pathology. I was very interested in radiology, pathology and pediatrics during medical school and I scheduled one-month rotations in each. By the end of the three months, I had decided on pathology as I found it to be the most challenging and interesting.
What qualities do you believe make an excellent pathologist?
The standard core qualities of any physician apply here: Honesty, Integrity, Beneficence, etc. However, I think pathologists should also have inquisitive minds and be able to think outside the box when presented with difficult cases. In a lot of ways pathology can be related to detective work where you are presented with a difficult problem or case and you do your best to find out the answer.
What is the biggest challenge you encounter in your day to day workflow?
Staying organized and handling large amounts of paperwork (even if it is all digital). Having multiple different cases during the day forces you to develop a system for how you handle each case and make sure that all required orders and ancillary tests are put in properly. Performing all of this requires a great attention to detail.
How can medical school education be improved to bring pathology into the limelight as a great career option?
Given how critical pathology is to nearly every aspect of medicine, I find it to be disheartening that there is such minimal exposure in most medical schools. In my opinion it should be included as a core rotation along with surgery, OBGYN, pediatrics, etc. rather than as an elective. Most of the medical school training I received in pathology was from the first-year pathology course that focuses on the basic pathology knowledge that all physicians should have – but it is not at all related to the actual practice of pathology.
What are your thoughts on digital pathology?
I believe one day most pathology will be conducted digitally. I think it will take several years before it becomes the standard practice, and different institutions will move at different speeds. Converting a department to digital pathology takes a lot of support systems, informatics, equipment, and the creation of new operating procedures. It also requires buy-in from the faculty, some of whom have spent their entire careers looking at glass slides. As more departments begin to “go digital”, as some have already begun to do, more and more will begin to see some of the advantages and look into converting over.
What is the next laboratory test that should be invented?
I think a great laboratory test would be point-of-care genetic tests. Although currently expensive and requiring large instruments and multiple days to run sequencing assays, it would be great if one day the technology evolved or developed into smaller, faster systems that could be automated and run quickly. This would have to take into consideration the large validations and quality control measures that are required for tests like these, however it would be of great advantage to patients to be able to receive results almost immediately rather than the time it takes now.
A huge thank you goes out to Dr. David Suster for his time in answering our questions and being a part of this series. We’d love to feature you in our next Spotlight article. Just email Kristin at email@example.com. Stay tuned because we are spotlighting more pathologists in the weeks to come including a Veterinary and Toxicologic Pathologist.
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, visithttps://instapathbio.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.