High on Histology

By: Kelly Mallett, HT (ASCP)

The excitement and energy from attending the NSH annual convention this year was electrifying! It was so nice to learn that I am not the only one that feels like a stranger in Laboratory Land in the tiny town of Histology. But soon after I arrived back home, the sense of feeling connected, and belonging to a world where people speak my language soon dwindled.

The scene in the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs resonated in my mind, lunch sack in hand, singing, although not excitedly,

“Heigh ho, heigh ho,

it’s off to work I go…

I keep on singing all day long

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho

Got to make your troubles go away

Well, you keep on singing all day long

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho”

I intentionally left out several parts of the song – “it ain’t no trick to get rich quick…it’s what we like to do in our mine where a million diamonds shine…We got to dig from the morning till the night. Dig up everything in sight…We dig up diamonds by the score, a thousand rubies, and sometimes more, but we don’t know what we are diggin’ for”

We certainly aren’t getting rich quick in the world of histology! However, it must be what we like to do, or we wouldn’t still be here doing it! We like to “dig in our mine”, or lab, where “a million diamonds shine” – I expect we all have different ideas about what diamonds could be symbolic of…people, technicians, our specialty within the lab– everyone has something they deem precious, and it’s likely as individual as we are! We certainly work from morning until night – usually more than an eight-hour shift. “We dig up everything in sight” (who won’t do whatever their beloved pathologist/Medical director asks them to do?). And then, when it’s all said and done – “what are we diggin’ for” when we can’t even get the attention of the administrators, PIs, or directors who can make a difference for our profession?

So once again, I felt like a foreigner speaking a language no one understood, until last week. One of our pathologists from the UK was visiting. I was invited to have dinner with him and two other veterinary pathologists, as well as one of our Assistant Directors, an internal medicine DVM. As I raced home, about 35 minutes away, I almost talked myself out of going.

I was tired. I rarely ever want to leave once I get back home, but I pushed through. If they were considerate enough to invite me, then I must at least make an appearance. I got home, cleaned up, changed clothes, and came back to town.

Dinner was amazing, but that’s not even the best part! We spent 2 1/2 hours talking about histology, pathology, how we got into the field, reasons why we chose our field of choice, and what kept us here. That evolved into what the future of histology looks like and the workforce situation…so forth, and so on!

Once again, I was high on histology! I think I even heard angels singing in the heavens above! What a glorious evening it was to sit amongst people that speak histology, yet also admit, that as pathologists, sometimes they realize they don’t know enough of what happens within the lab. They typically, not always, but usually, ask for something and they get it! Oh, there’s that “We dig up everything in sight” again!

The science of histology is truly a specialized niche! It was nice to hear someone else say that besides myself. Few people realize just how unique it is! Unless one is directly involved as either a technician, pathologist, or some other advocate, the word sounds familiar, but that’s about it. Dr. Priestnall, our visiting pathologist from the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, went on to express what we all know. If we fail to introduce the rest of the world to histology with education and advocacy on all levels – high school, college, medical students, veterinary students, elected officials from the local level all the way to national levels, the profession will lose valued information and expertise as each one of us retires. We ALL have something to contribute!

Furthermore, as tired and busy as we may be, we have a duty to new colleagues entering the profession. We need to advance the specialization of histology! We may not get to experience the recognition of our professional importance and difference we make in the lab. But we have a legacy to leave! Unless we are vigilant, and do our part on whatever level we can, valuable information will leave our labs and retire as each of us move on. We are histology! We are saving lives one slide at a time!

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