Hometown: St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands
Name of Undergraduate Institution: Boston University
Major in College: Biology
Name of Medical School: Boston University School of Medicine
Residency Program: Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at Boston City Hospital
Favorite Quote: This is one I usually repeat every time to mentees – “Do everything in your power to maximize your potential.”
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?
I enjoyed a 34-year career in Pathology during which time I was an Associate Professor in Pathology at the Northeastern Ohio Medical University, Chairman of the Department of Pathology and Pathology Residency Program Director at Akron City Hospital (Summa Health System). I am currently retired and following my newly found passion of childhood education. My wife and I are currently involved in the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brother and Big Sister, elementary education (we are 3rd and 4th grade teaching assistants in underserved schools of Winston-Salem), and I am involved with academic programs for high school students at Winston-Salem State University. I continue to stay involved in mentoring medical students at Wake Forest School of Medicine and recently became president of the Black Medical Society (Twin City Medical Society) in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
As for why I decided to pursue a career in pathology, it was a great fit for a young person whose interest in medicine was based more on scientific inquisitiveness than on hands-on care of patients. While I was blessed with a easy-going personality with skills as a caregiver, I looked at medicine as a scientist looking to solve a problem. Being a visual learner, I took to pathology because of the pattern recognition that is needed. I was fortunate enough to learn early that pathology had very little to do with autopsies and forensic work, and a lot to do with making diagnoses and directing treatment and prognosis for every piece of patient tissue that was surgically removed. I took great pleasure in knowing a lot about every part of the human anatomy, the normal and abnormal histological picture and all the mimickers. I also took great pleasure in knowing that no other physician other than a Pathologist could interpret a histological slide, and so many treatment plans were entirely based on your interpretation and diagnosis. Along with that obviously came a great responsibility to be right for all the patients you served, and yes you were part of the medical team taking care of the patient.
It is hard for me to contain my enthusiasm for pathology. You have an awesome responsibility but you have an incredible opportunity to teach others. You are compensated well and have the time to have a wonderful family life. Many shy away from pathology because of the volume of information that is required to master, but that in and of itself should make you proud.
If you could go back and have a chat with your 1st year postgraduate self, what would you tell him/her?
A career as lengthy and stressful as one in medicine requires a passion and a clarity of where you want to take your life. Personally, I started medical school with no other thought than it sounded good and I was a good student interested in being a veterinarian. I was promptly was asked to leave medical school. I returned 6 months later with a focus and an understanding of why I wanted to do this. Take your time to find that passion and path to a fulfilling career. Even if this means taking a year off to decide without question that this is what you want to do. I tell this to college students and medical students as well; if you are in medical school you can make the grades but can you find the passion that makes it exciting to learn and move on?
What was your favorite memory in your career?
While I was Chair of the Pathology Department, what made me stand out and gave me the most satisfaction was having the ability to teach pathology to medical students and residents in a manner that enthused them in the specialty and taught them the responsibilities of being a true professional. I am blessed for having so many talented trainees graduate and show by their action that they too are even better teachers and mentors.
What is a major challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do so?
My biggest challenge that I had to personally overcome was the fear that everyone in my medical school class was smarter than I was. You suddenly realize on day 1 that these kids were all probably number one in their high school and had very high college GPAs and don’t look much like you. You have to remember that you were accepted into medical school. That means you fulfilled all the requirements and the school accepted you because they believe that you will succeed at their school. No one wants to bring in a student and watch them fail.
Realize you have the talent. Medical School is not that hard. Yes it is a lot of volume but there is enough hours in a day to digest the material if you are willing to work. You are smart enough and can do this. Remember that you are not competing with anyone anymore. This is about you and you bringing a clarity of purpose each and every day knowing that you are able to do the work.
All the above rests on the premise that you are committed and passionate about being a professional. That has to form the basis for your willingness to put forth the effort and avoid the doubts and stresses that are inevitable in any professional school.
What do you feel is the easiest part of medical school?
The easiest part of medical school for me was the third and fourth years. In these years you could use your people-skills to navigate the role of patient care. You treat all the staff from the janitor on up to the staff physicians who are involved as a team to care for the patient. In this setting you are able to show empathy, a basic knowledge of disease processes and the patient condition, follow up testing, etc. that will show all members of the team that you belong. The volumes of information to learn is somewhat less at this point. If you want to be a professional caregiver, now is your time to shine.
This is incredibly wonderful Dr. Clarke! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your passion of pathology with us as well as imparting a large amount of wisdom to us! And its awesome to see how involved you’ve stayed with the community even in retirement! I’m certain that you’ll be able to touch even more lives with this feature!
Posted on March 3rd, 2017