Learn more about Cathy Setzer, CT(ASCP), our Member Spotlight of the month, from her conversation with Membership Committee member Guoping Cai, MD.
Yale-New Haven Hospital/Yale Medicine
Interviewed by: Guoping Cai, MD
Associate Professor of Pathology
Yale University School of Medicine
- How did you first find out about cytology?
I was working as a pathologists’ assistant at Scripp’s Hospital in San Diego and interested in continuing my education beyond my bachelor’s degree. One of the pathologists suggested cytology because in the early 90s, cytotechnologists were very sought after and employment was easy to find just about anywhere, whether it be hospital or private lab.
- What drew you to this profession?
For me, a cytology certification was just an additional year of study beyond my bachelor’s degree, so it was very reachable for me in a short time. Also, I had always been intrigued by the microscope. Geographically, it was ideal because there was a cytotechnologist training program right in San Diego, and I was able to secure a sponsorship from a local hospital where they agreed to pay my tuition in exchange for my agreement to work for them for at least one year. It was a great deal in my opinion.
- Tell us about an interesting case or situation that you’ve encountered in your practice.
To be honest, there are many interesting cases, especially in the non-gynecological arena, to be encountered every day here at Yale University, where I am employed. Some things I have only seen once in my career, like Schistosoma in a voided urine specimen, for example.
- What do you like best about being a Cytotechnologist?
As a cytotechnologist, I enjoy the diversity of working in a hospital setting where I have the opportunity to screen gynecological and non-gynecological specimens, assist with fine needle aspiration, and rotate through the molecular lab where I perform fluorescence in-situ hybridization testing as well. Variety is the spice of life!
- What is the most rewarding thing that has happened to you in Cytology?
There have been so many rewarding experiences but one comes to mind quickly. I was a QC tech reviewing an atrophic smear on a patient with no previous history or concurrent surgical specimen. The primary cytotechnologist had screened the case as negative. Upon review, just two groups of cells seemed a little strange to me, enough for me to call them atypical glandular cells. The pathologist agreed and the follow-up biopsy showed endometrial adenocarcinoma. It was one of the first times in my career that I actually felt like I had made a difference in a patient’s life.
- Do you have a memory from the ASC that you would like to share?
My favorite memory of ASC is the Annual Meetings where I had an opportunity to meet with the pathologists and cytotechnologists from previous jobs. Many of them have been mentors from my early days!
- What advice would you give to students coming into the profession?
My advice would be to do your homework before entering into the cytology profession. The field is changing due to more automation and molecular testing, which has contributed to layoffs due to downsizing recently. I would also recommend working in a hospital setting rather than a private lab where they tend to be more like “pap mills” demanding daily quotas with no room for error! With regards to education, I would also recommend taking the molecular exam for an additional certification to make yourself more marketable in this field.