7 June 2019: Meet the editor – Dr. Raul S. Gonzalez
Please introduce yourself
I am a surgical pathologist specializing in gastrointestinal pathology. I’m an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Director of Gastrointestinal Pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I’m also the Membership Chair for the Rodger C. Haggitt Gastrointestinal Pathology Society (GIPS).
Why did you become a pathologist?
I shadowed physicians in several different specialties while in medical school, and everything clicked during my day with a pathologist. I had considered other fields, but after that experience, my mind was made up.
What do you like most about being a pathologist?
I enjoy the pace of pathology. In general, if I need to spend a lot of time on a difficult case, I can do that. I can grab a textbook off the shelf, get opinions from colleagues, and ponder as I put my report together. This naturally lends itself to academic inquiry and teaching opportunities as well.
What is special about your subspecialty?
I love both the variety and the volume of gastrointestinal pathology. It’s one of the busiest services in our department, so there is always plenty of material to tackle and learn from. Plus, we deal with about a dozen organs, and each has interesting neoplastic and non-neoplastic pathology. Nothing keeps you on your toes quite like spending 5 seconds signing out a tubular adenoma, then counting mitotic figures in a GIST resection, then wrestling with a complex medical liver biopsy for 30 minutes!
How does your typical day go?
Once I get to work, I spend 30 to 60 minutes in the morning catching up on all the emails that pour in at the start of the day. If I am on signout, that will fill my next several hours, usually with a resident and/or fellow (which allows me to teach as I go). Afternoon is when I can work on whatever else tops my to-do list, whether that’s collecting research data, writing or revising a manuscript, putting together a lecture, photographing interesting cases, or tackling paperwork.
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had at work?
Last year, I posted a “Tweetorial” about gastrointestinal neuroendocrine neoplasms on Twitter. It was about 50 short posts, with photographs, discussing current understanding of the disease topic. I had aimed the posts at pathologists, but in addition, I was contacted by several patients who had follow-up questions and who expressed gratitude for the information. I was even contacted by the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to interact with the people truly impacted by our work.
What most surprised you about being a pathologist?
I admit that before entering the field, I had braced myself to prepare for the stereotypes I’d heard – that pathologists are just nerdy weirdos that hide in their office and never talk to anyone. Fortunately, this has absolutely not been my experience at all! Pathologists come in as many varieties as any other group of people – you have athletes, musicians, chefs, extroverts – anything and everything. Plus, I spend plenty of time outside my office, interacting with other pathologists, support staff, and physicians in other fields.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I spent some time as a section editor and copy editor for my college newspaper, so that was on my mind for a while. Luckily, I still get to do editing now and then, including through Pathology Outlines.
Could you say a few words about your association with PathologyOutlines?
I am the gastrointestinal pathology editor for the website. My responsibilities include editing any updated GI/liver/pancreas topic, seeking out skilled authors to update important topics, and reviewing chapters to make sure everything is organized properly. I also update topics myself when I can find time. By working with Pathology Outlines, I can keep hundreds (if not thousands) of pathologists up to date on the newest information and diagnostic criteria. In that way, it’s more efficient than one-one-one teaching with a resident at the scope! I also relied heavily on Pathology Outlines when I was a resident, so I enjoy being able to give back to the website.