Learn more about Elizabeth Cullen, MD, MPH, a Medical Member of the ASC and our Member Spotlight of the month, from her conversation with Membership Committee member Nicole C. Williams, MD.

Elizabeth Cullen, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Penn State Health, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster and Lititz Hospitals

Interviewed by:
Nicole C. Williams, MD
Penn State Health, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

  1. How did you first find out about cytology?

I first found cytology during my third rotation of my pathology residency.  I was immediately drawn to the attention given to individual cells and enjoyed looking at that level of detail.

  1. What drew you to this profession?

I trained with mentors who loved cytology and were wonderful teachers who encouraged my interest in this field. I enjoy being a general pathologist because of the diversity of specimens and cytology is as diverse as you can get.  Moreover, cytology is just fun!

  1. Tell us about an interesting case or situation that you’ve encountered in your practice.

There have been so many interesting cases that I really can’t think of just one.  I continue to be amazed by the many times I look at a specimen and think, “Well, I did not expect that.”

  1. What do you like best about being a cytopathologist?

What I like about being a cytopathologist is the interaction I have with my clinical colleagues, the diversity of cases I evaluate, and the challenge of generating a diagnosis based on individual cells.

  1. What is the most rewarding thing that has happened to you in cytology?

What I find most rewarding is rendering a diagnosis for a patient with a minimally invasive technique and sparing them from more invasive surgical procedures.

  1. What do you value most about your membership in the ASC?

I value the educational opportunities available through membership in ASC.  The educational content offered by ASC includes a diversity of topics and presenters from various institutions.  It is helpful to see various practice models, recent research topics, and new criteria all in one place.  Having a journal devoted to cytology is also important to me.

  1. Do you have a memory from the ASC that you would like to share?

What I like most about the ASC is the Annual Scientific Meeting.  It is a wonderful opportunity for networking with mentors, former educators, and colleagues. The ASC members are so helpful. I remember taking slides to an ASC meeting and having the ability to discuss an issue in my laboratory with the content expert at the meeting.

  1. What advice would you give to students coming into the profession?

My advice would be to maintain flexibility.  Cytology requires flexibility and many students are not comfortable with uncertainty.  Something unexpected is always happening.  Sometimes you will have to accept that you don’t know the answer and that it is ok to ask for help.  And sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how much you know, you will be wrong.  It will happen.  Take it as a teachable moment, but don’t let it make you lose faith in yourself.  Also, no matter what dire predictions are circulating, cytopathologists will still have a place in the future.  Molecular testing is a wonderful tool, but it is still only a tool, not a miracle.  Morphologic evaluation is still vital for diagnosis and decision making.

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