Summer marks the beginning of a new academic year as we welcome a new class of residents taking the first step in their professional exploration.
In many ways, relationships – with peers, mentors, and even subspecialties – are what truly fuel the experience for our department’s residency program.
Notably, our training opportunities reflect the same growth we see in daily clinical workload; there are 20 total spots and opportunities to customize one’s training to AP, CP, or research. Our department also offers an impressive slate of 10 post-residency fellowships.
This sort of growth, both of the program and opportunities for our pathologists-in-training, does not happen in a vacuum. Linda Schiffhauer, who has served as program director since 2019 after five years as associate director, says being actively involved in the process is extremely rewarding.
“My favorite part of the job is seeing them come and develop their passion throughout those years,” Schiffhauer said. “Being a part of that process as a mentor, and watching them grow is so satisfying.”
We have been able to accommodate more trainees thanks to an explosion in surgical volumes and successful administrative lobbying. In 1992, the ACGME gave our department the green light to host 21 residents, but URMC consistently capped this around 16 for many years. That changed in 2020, when the department’s request to expand that number to 20 over four years was approved.
More people in the program means more access to expert training alongside faculty who are leaders in their area of interest. Residency is a time of exploration, and the program is structured to maximize their exposure to different specialties. Making that experience customizable is crucial in steering trainees toward a fulfilling career, Schiffhauer explains.
“Our mission is not to create academic pathologists out of everybody,” she said. “Our whole philosophy is that we want a personalized experience to usher them along in any path they choose.”
One recent addition to the training experience is a boot camp rotation for all incoming PGY-1’s that includes eight weeks of immersive experiences in both AP and CP before they begin their regular rotations. This kind of early exposure is one way residents can learn what captures their interest before choosing something specific to pursue later on.
Bahadir Yildiz is a second-year resident who says he came into the program with an open mind. After finishing his first year, he’s set on doing forensics after residency with the goal of working in a medical examiner’s office someday.
He was drawn to URMC because of the specimen volume, abundance of PA’s and supportive environment. “The thing that made it shine for me was seeing the close relationship between the residents, attendings and other staff,” said Yildiz. “They really looked like family and I felt like I could easily get along with the people here.”
Others who have come through the program echo these sentiments years later. Diana Agostini-Vulaj was chief resident (2015-16) and joined our GI faculty after staying to complete her fellowship at URMC. For her, staying in Rochester was an exciting next step as she joined the ranks alongside her longtime teachers and mentors.
She noted several facets of training that made URMC attractive – including robust clinical service and ample research opportunities – but was impressed with the emphasis on the individual resident’s needs instead of the other way around. As a result, our graduates come out of the program feeling energized about their work, and do remarkably well wherever they land.
“I think our education program really puts the emphasis on what the trainees need and ensuring these needs are met,” said Agostini-Vulaj. “They allow a particular trainee’s curriculum to be tailored to their specific interests and career goals, with a very successful mentoring program.”
Taking Wellness to Heart
Earlier this year, the program was pleased to open the doors to a new resident room in the 2-2100 suite at Strong Hospital. The newly renovated space has a mixture of individual and group space where trainees can work or simply socialize during their downtime.
The new room was designed after obtaining survey input – not only from our own residents, but more than 30 residency programs across the U.S. Their findings pointed to the need for a space that mixed individual and group space. Then chief resident, Anna-Karoline Israel, was successful in publishing an abstract on this topic, co-authored with several faculty, that was accepted to USCAP 2020.
This data-driven decision to create a workspace comes as we prepare to move certain AP services offsite to the central laboratory on Bailey Road in the next few years, and it made sense to create a space at URMC while plans continue to take shape. The space not only helps residents get work done, but gives them an informal setting to enjoy each other’s company along the way.
“It’s about wellness,” said Schiffhauer. “For them to just relax from the pressures of work and build bonds that will last after they leave the program not only helps them, but ultimately impacts their care of patients,” she said. “We are deeply invested in both of those things.”
Congratulations to our Graduates!
Outgoing Residents: Where They're Headed
Bennett Wilson Buffalo VA, faculty
Anna-Karoline Israel Cleveland Clinic, H&N fellowship
Chelsea Milito ME – Philadelphia, Forensic fellow
Numbereye Numbere URMC, Surgical Pathology fellow
Michael Karasick NYC Blood Bank Center, TM fellow
Outgoing Fellows: Where They're Headed
Hani Katerji: URMC, Breast faculty
Roula Katerji URMC, GI faculty
Alexandra Danakas URMC Breast fellow, then URMC faculty
Cynthia Reyes Barron Dermatopathology faculty, El Paso, TX
Andrew Cameron URMC, Microbiology faculty
Nivedita Suresh General pathologist at Cancer Institution Hospital, India
Meet our New Residents
Hometown: Hyderabad, India
Medical school: Deccan College of Medical Sciences
Fun fact about you? I know five different languages.
Hometown: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Medical school: American University of the Caribbean
Fun fact about you? In the four years of medical school I lived in four countries (Saint Martin, England, Canada, U.S.) and four states (NY, TX, MD, AZ).
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Medical school: Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
Fun fact about you? My most memorable summer is the one I spent studying abroad in Santiago de Compostela.
Hometown: Ridgefield, WA
Medical school: UR School of Medicine and Dentistry
Fun fact about you? Ran a 100-miler during my time as post-sophomore fellow at URMC Pathology.
Hometown: Izmir, Turkey
Medical school: Ege University School of Medicine
Fun fact about you? I have a goal to start a URMC Pathology basketball team and start an informal tournament! I’m always up for sports or activities and love any kind of physical challenge.
Hometown: Delran, NJ
Medical school: Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Fun fact about you? I have been skydiving three times and recently became certified in technical scuba diving and cavern diving. I love adventures and nurturing my inner child!
Members of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine gathered to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of the 2020-21 academic year. View a photo gallery from the event on June 14.
Chair's Recognition Award
Dr. Jerome Jean-Gilles
Eric Schenk Award for Excellence in Teaching
Dr. Bruce Smoller
Outstanding AP Didactics/Unknowns Award
Dr. Ellen Giampoli
Outstanding CP Didactics Award
Dr. Helene McMurray
Outstanding Faculty Grand Rounds Award
Dr. John Bennett
Outstanding Resident Grand Rounds Award
Dr. Betul Zengin
Outstanding CP Seminar Award
Dr. Anthony Cardillo
Most Interesting Case Conference Award
Dr. Numbereye Numbere
Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award
- Dr. Linda Schiffhauer
- Dr. Jennifer Findeis-Hosey
Outstanding Resident Mentor Award
Dr. Anna-Karoline Israel
Outstanding Technical Staff Award
- Sierra Kovar
- Hannah McRae
Outstanding Administrative/Clerical/Support Staff Award
Outstanding PA Educator Award
Most Helpful the Gross Room Award
Resident Helping Hand Award
Dr. Tatsiana Pukhalskaya
Faculty Helping Hand Award
Dr. Xiaoyan Liao
Stormy Weather Award
- Dr. Dongwei Zhang
- Dr. Irene Chen
Dr. W. Richard Burack
Outstanding resident oral scientific presentation:
Dr. Bennett Wilson: Negative urine cytology and the rate of diagnostic agreement between cytotechnologist and cytopathologist: Why not let cytotechnologists sign-out negative urines?
Photo contest winners
- Jill Brockman: Interstitial (cornual) ectopic pregnancy with fetus, less than 8.5 weeks
- Dr. Chauncey Syposs: En Caul Hysterectomy at Week 20
- Dr. Bahadir Yildiz: COVID Decedent Lung
- Dr. Cynthia Reyes Barron: Coccidiomycosis Endospores and Spherules
- Dr. Numbereye Numbere: Molluscum X400
Dennis Denning: Glow Worm
Dr. Hasimran Kaur: My Rural Village
Dr. Bahadir Yildiz: Glasses Mask Combo Problems
Showing “remarkable resilience,” the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Clinical Microbiology team has won a Board Excellence Award for its ongoing contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual awards recognize teams and individuals whose contributions exemplify excellence. Microbiology was one of eight URMC teams to be recognized at a virtual ceremony on Jan. 25.
Bruce Smoller, M.D., chair of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, praised the efforts Microbiology made to carry out critical testing to help patients across the region when COVID hit.
“In spite of many obstacles, this team developed and validated all available platform options to ensure capacity could meet the growing need for testing,” he said.
Lab Director, Dwight Hardy, Ph.D., said none of this would have been possible without collaboration from many UR Medicine Labs.
“In addition to congratulating staff in Micro for a job well done, I also want to thank staff from other areas, such as, Blood Bank, Chemistry, Hematology, Toxicology, Phlebotomy, and SMS, who have worked with Micro in an overall team effort to meet the needs of our hospitals and community.”
How do you move large testing equipment from one end of a hospital to the other without delaying patient care? The answer is, very carefully. After many months of meticulous planning and preparation, four clinical labs successfully relocated to newly renovated homes at Strong Memorial Hospital. For most, this was the first major workspace upgrade they have seen in 45 years.
“Little did we know that you would be moving in the middle of one of the worst pandemics of the century, and you did that without disrupting a single test for any of our inpatients or outpatients that depend on you,” said Kathy Parrinello, hospital COO, in a video message to staff recorded in lieu of a ribbon cutting. The thank-you video also features footage from the moves and greetings from Pathology & Laboratory Medicine faculty and leadership.
The moves brought these groups into hospital space in G-2100 and 1-2100, a construction project that continued through the height of the pandemic. Automated Chemistry, Specimen Management (SMS), and a new Microbiology STAT lab moved into a shared workspace in 1-2100 and, below them, Blood Bank moved into G-2100.
Each move had its own unique set of challenges, from maintaining operations through long periods of equipment downtime to rethinking how to establish daily workflow in a brand new setting. Moving SMS and Automated Chemistry required careful coordination. Starting in May, the whole front-end SMS system went manual for the next four months, which meant big changes to workflow, said Kristi VanDeWalle, chief SMS supervisor at SMH.
“The staff were willing to try anything to make us successful and that attitude and effort translated really well in the new space,” she said. “There was a really dynamic sense of teamwork through the whole process.”
The last time any of these laboratories got “new” space was 1975. Debbie Masel, chief supervisor of Blood Bank and Transfusion Medicine, has spent the last few decades watching the lab grow, in terms of staff and services that it provides to the hospital.
“We never really went through a major renovation in all that time,” said Masel. “Even though the Blood Bank changed a lot in 45 years, our space remained the same.”
One thing remains clear – having efficient inpatient testing onsite will be part of inpatient care for many years to come. And, having a permanent home for the onsite labs will allow our clinical labs to grow to meet the day-to-day needs of patient care behind the scenes.
“You were able to keep everything running smoothly and most everyone in the hospital did not even know it was happening,” said Parrinello. “It was an enormous feat for all of you, and thank you for everything you do for our organization.”