Please introduce yourself.
Hi there! I’m a current attending pathologist at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. My main area of expertise is bone and soft tissue pathology, but I also sign out other surgical specialties, including head and neck and thoracic. Originally from Georgia, I decided to brave the arctic chill and move up to Northwestern for residency. My bone and soft tissue fellowship was completed at UCLA in 2020, and since then, I’ve moved back because the West Coast was just a little too nice. 🙂
Why did you become a pathologist?
I entered medical school relatively undifferentiated. I knew I wanted to have a stronger understanding of the underlying disease process, but I wasn’t sure where that would most apply. Going into my clinical years, I realized that I really enjoyed almost all of my rotations, which I thought would make my decision harder! But ultimately, I found that the underlying thread of interest in each of those specialties was the pathology that underpins the practice of medicine. I took a few path rotations from there and was absolutely hooked. I guess I’m also just a very visual and tactile learner, and pathology really fits my style.
What do you like most about being a pathologist?
I love so much of what I do, but if I had to pick one thing that I find most interesting, I would say it’s that moment when you’re sitting down at the scope with a resident, watching them puzzle through what they’re seeing. I get the chance to see where their mindset is at and help them to better organize the information in their head so they can have a deeper understanding of it. And next time, they’ll explain it to their co-residents or to the clinical team! That discussion and interplay at the microscope or grossing bench make it all worth it for me.
What is special about your subspecialty?
Bone and soft tissue pathology has seen a bit of a surge in popularity lately because of the growth of molecular classifications, which give the specialty a complex and rewarding day-to-day experience. It’s a lot of fun to learn about and make these extremely complicated diagnoses.
But I would say the most special thing to me about BST is that it takes a very big-picture approach to understand rather than just looking at a histology slide in isolation. I’m not a detail-oriented person (shocking, I know), and with BST, you can’t just focus on the small, high-power details. At high power, everything in BST looks “wrong”. I like that the focus is architectural and that the radiology and clinical information is often a requirement for making diagnoses.
How does your typical day go?
A typical day on my service is pretty variable, so I don’t always know what to expect when I get into work. I usually sign out with the fellows or residents for about an hour or two in the morning and the same for follow-ups in the afternoons. Throughout the day, I can expect calls from the gross room when there are complex cases and fairly consistent consultations from my colleagues. Because BST is often the wastebasket service, we’ll often be the final step after all other options have been exhausted. Depending on the day, the rest of the time is spent in prep for the next tumor board, meetings for our medical education committee that I chair, or research.
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had at work?
It’s tough to pick one particular experience or case since we get so many rare and fascinating cases on this service. Here’s one example that I found really memorable though. A consult was sent in to us for a patient with a history of breast cancer, which they treated with a mastectomy. Years later she presents with a mass in her rib underlying the previous mastectomy site, all signs pointing to recurrence. It was diffusely pankeratin positive with some GATA3 positivity, and the outside favored diagnosis was recurrent carcinoma. Looking through it, a few vacuolated cells and some vague vasoformative features popped out on my review, although the cytology was quite bland and had a prominent myxoid background. Some vascular markers confirmed and we made the diagnosis of an epithelioid hemangioma in the bone. Just reminds me to stay on my toes when it comes to IHC staining in mesenchymal tumors.
What most surprised you about being a pathologist?
The amount of talking, haha. I thought I’d just be hiding behind the scope, but I’m almost always in constant discussion with my colleagues and clinicians about the care of these patients.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you began working as a pathologist?
To myself as a resident, I would say, “Don’t be afraid of mistakes, don’t be afraid of being wrong, don’t be afraid of learning.”
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Honestly, not sure. Maybe art? I think it’d be fun to be in animation. That or a career counselor at a university. I like trying to work out with someone what their goals are and how to achieve them.
Could you say a few words about your association with PathologyOutlines.com?
I started contributing to PathologyOutlines.com back in residency through the recommendation of a friend who was an author for the site at the time. I enjoyed the process, and throughout residency, I wrote more topics and participated in the Fellow / Resident Advisory Board. Recently, I was invited to the Editorial Board as a bone and soft tissue content editor. Check out the new update on molecular analysis in BST for my latest work!
You can follow Dr. Obeidin on Twitter / Twitch @anisapling.
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Note: This interview was originally emailed to our e-newsletter subscribers on May 4, 2023.