Interview with a Pathologist: Dr. Ben Stueben

Pathologist

Ben has been a Pathologist for 3 years and specializes in transfusions.

We’re celebrating International Pathology Day by sharing this interview with our very own pathologist, Dr. Ben Stueben. 

1. What advice do you have for aspiring pathologists?

Answer: Try to strive to become more detail-oriented, the slightest error in pathology can alter the proper approach to patient care.

2. What do you like most about being a pathologist?

Answer: I enjoy the exposure to a variety of fields of medicine.

3. If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a pathologist? What would you do differently?

Answer: I had a surgery spot and almost went into surgery.  It was a hard decision and if I went back I could have just as easily chosen surgery rather than pathology. Surgeons typically have a more difficult temperament than the laid-back pathologists so I went with pathology.

4. What surprised you most about pathology?
Answer: The late hours was surprising. In medical school, my pathology rotations were from 9 AM-5 PM, but that is just not the case with a pathology residency. During residency, most days we went until 9 or 10 PM. I worked fast though and sometimes people stayed a lot later than I would. Autopsy’s take 3-4 hours, so whenever I worked on one it would push back my other tasks and result in longer days.
5. Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you began your career in pathology?

Answer: The effects of daily exposure to formalin is one thing. A lot of the specimens have to be placed in formalin during the grossing of the specimens.  Our program had unacceptably high levels for a long time and I could feel physically sick from being around it.

6. What do you do to destress?
Pathologist

Ben fishing in Dulac, Louisiana.

Answer: I enjoy going to the gym and long fishing trips.

7. What was your biggest obstacle on your journey to becoming a pathologist?

Answer: Probably my residency program director and senior residents at the time.  They were just under a lot of stress and would take things out on the newer residents, which made it harder to perform my own tasks.

8. What is the most unusual case you have ever encountered?
Answer: I worked on a case of Bombay phenotype during one of my transfusion medicine rotations. Bombay phenotype patients don’t have Type A, B or O blood, so transfusions are particularly difficult because you need to find the appropriate Bombay phenotype match.
Being in New York was particularly important in this case because being in smaller cities, physicians don’t have access to as many resources, and would be struggling with Bombay patients.
Learn more about cases like this with this video: What the H?
9. What do you want people to know when it comes to pathology?
Answer: Pathology is very difficult and time-consuming, though in the end, it is rewarding. 
10. What is the biggest misconception about pathology?
Answer: The are certain physicians who don’t view pathologist as real doctors, however, without pathologists, medical care cannot function due to the lack of a diagnosis and adequate testing.