Learn more about Debbie Smith, CT(ASCP), our Member Spotlight of the month, from her conversation with Membership Committee member Maren Y. Fuller, MD.
Debbie Smith, CT(ASCP)
Cytology Chief Tech
Houston Methodist Hospital
Interviewed by: Maren Y. Fuller, MD
Houston Methodist Hospital
- How did you first find out about cytology?
There was a med tech at my high school career day, and the back of the brochure had a short blurb about cytology. I was already interested in the microscope. The brochure had descriptions of jobs in the medical profession such as med techs, radiology techs, and the last description was about cytotechnologists. The short paragraph was about how a cytotechnologist looked in the microscope and made diagnoses based on individual cells. The brochure had a phone number for the University of Texas/MD Anderson School of Cytotechnology. I called the school to find out the prerequisite courses I needed to take at the University of Houston to apply for the school.
- What drew you to this profession?
The world of the microscope. I had a microscope set as a kid and would go in the backyard and look at bugs under the microscope. My kit even included slides, coverslips, and stains. My favorite part of the microscope set was being able to see things with the microscope that I could not see otherwise. I had very poor eyesight as a child, so I felt like I could see things more clearly in the microscope. I frequently had all of the children in our neighborhood over to our house to look at bugs, flowers, and other things under the microscope.
- Tell us about an interesting case or situation that you’ve encountered in your practice.
I was at a Chamber of Commerce meeting giving a talk about the Pap Test. After the talk, one of the ladies came up and was asking about her “positive” Pap Test a few years ago that her doctor hadn’t ever followed up. I encouraged her to talk to her doctor about the results, but after more discussion, we figured out that her Pap Test was “positive” for fungus. I was able to offer her some reassurance about her Pap Test.
Also, a few years ago, I went to Cusco, Peru, to volunteer in reading Paps with CerviCusco. We read about 2,000 Paps, including a few high-grades. It was a great experience.
- What do you like best about being a cytotechnologist?
Feeling like you’re helping women and working with wonderful people in cytology. I have had the privilege to work with great cytologists such as Ibrahim Ramzy, Dina Mody, Mary Schwartz, and many other dedicated cytotechnologists and pathologists here at Houston Methodist Hospital. They are so committed to cytology, patient care, and teaching. They have been a great inspiration to all whose lives have been touched by them.
- What is the most rewarding thing that has happened to you in cytology?
Being involved with ASC committees as well as teaching fellows and residents, participating in workshops, and presenting posters. I have really enjoyed being on the Art for Advocacy Committee. I fish all summer, so I am always looking for the perfect fish to imprint for the art auction. I am amazed by the artistic talent of cytologists within the Society.
- What do you value most about your membership in the ASC?
I should say learning, but really, networking! We get a lot of learning at our busy hospital, but the value of the ASC is working with the most brilliant people in cytology in this country. The networking that I value the most is talking with cytotechnologists from all across the country. We share our similar experiences and discuss commonly shared challenges. There are many wonderfully dedicated cytotechnologists who every day quietly go about changing lives, one cell at a time.
- Do you have a memory from the ASC that you would like to share?
Art for Advocacy at the Annual Meetings – seeing the art that cytologists produce. I’m an artist, and I like seeing other art. (Editor’s note: you may have seen Debbie’s amazing fish imprints at previous Art for Advocacy exhibits)
- What advice would you give to students coming into the profession?
Join organizations where you can learn and have fellowship with others in your field, especially if you’re working in a lab by yourself.