Why did you become a PA?
Honestly, I had no idea that this profession existed. I dreamt of medical school to become a forensic pathologist or continuing my studies in anthropology to become a physical anthropologist. After weighing the pros and cons of each profession and length of study, I decided against both careers. I was left knowing three things: I liked a laboratory setting, I loved anatomy, and my innate curiosity for wanting to know what happens to the body after [insert various scenarios here!]. After doing some research and talking with the director of a clinical laboratory program in Chicago, my eyes were opened to the Pathologists’ Assistant profession. It was love at first sight and I immediately started on my path to becoming a PA. I found a job as an Anatomic Pathology Technician and after a couple of years and encouragement from the practicing PAs I worked with, I applied to RFUMS. Now, here I am, still in love with my profession and wanting to share it with anyone with the stomach to listen to what I do all day long!
Charlene after graduation starting her PA career in 2011
What is your favorite specimen?
I really enjoy complex bone and soft tissue cases as well as head and neck. If you can handle these specimens, you can pretty much handle anything! Plus there is the added bonus of getting creative with liquid nitrogen and the different saws in the lab to get an awesome section.
Lymph node dissections are also high on my list. It’s almost like workplace meditation; I go to my happy place, hum a little tune to myself and gently press away. It appeals to the side of me that likes to do puzzles, word finds/searches and is sort of like a hands-on pathology version of Where’s Waldo – Lymph Node edition.
Charlene and co-workers.
What do you love most about being a PA?
I have the opportunity to learn something every day due to the environment of my lab. I work at an academic institution and there are always people in and out of the lab such as vendors, environmental services, visitors/students, research investigators, IT, residents, surgeons/clinicians, etc. Each interaction is a chance to absorb a tidbit of information and to build relationships that better me as a person, a leader and a healthcare professional.
Charlene taking down shelving and checking out a lead behind a grossing station in 2017