Güliz A. Barkan, MD
ASC President

Hello everyone and Happy New Year to All!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be the President of the ASC! This Society is one of the reasons why I became a pathologist. In this first The Bulletin of 2021, I will be discussing a bit about myself and the initiatives I have for this year. I hope you will be able to see the important role and effect the ASC had in my career. This year’s theme is Mentorship, Innovation and Teamwork. Read on and find out why this is the chosen theme for this year, along with our plan for how to tackle and achieve it together.

The first initiative is mentorship. Why Mentorship?

Mentorship and paying it forward tie in closely with my personal journey and how and why I chose cytopathology as a career.

As you may know, I am originally from Turkey and I went to Marmara University School of Medicine in Istanbul. In Turkey, medical school is six years – the first three years is basic sciences and the last three is clinical sciences. As I was finishing the third year of medical school – the year we learned about pathology – I had a discussion with Dr. Sevgi Küllü, the former chair of pathology in my medical school. During our conversation, I expressed my interest in pathology to her and asked where I could gain some hands on experience. Interestingly, several years prior to my discussion with her, she had contacted the ASC in order to learn about cytopathology since at the time of her inquiry, cytopathology training was not offered in Turkey. Through the ASC, Dr. Küllü had met Dr. Bernard Naylor, and she did an observership under him at the University of Michigan. Working with Dr. Naylor and learning cytopathology had been such a great experience that she recommended contacting him to ask whether I could do a summer student observership under him in cytopathology. I was delighted that I got my wish and was able to work with Dr. Naylor in the summer of 1992. Learning cytopathology from Dr. Naylor, who as it turned out was a former ASC President (1983-1984), was an incredible experience. He had an infectious enthusiasm and amazing teaching skills. Every case became a story – it was like cells were talking to him. I was in awe. He quickly became a wonderful role model and mentor.

After graduating from medical school, I applied to the pathology residency programs in the United States and matched to the University of Michigan Anatomic and Clinical Pathology residency program. During my residency, Dr. Naylor was an emeritus professor, but he still offered lectures and continued to mentor me. After residency and a surgical pathology fellowship at the University of Michigan, I went to the MD Anderson Cancer Center for my cytopathology fellowship, where I had the honor and privilege to work with more cytology giants including Drs. Nour Sneige, Ruth Katz, Tina Fanning, Greg Staerkel, and Nancy Caraway. I must say my cytopathology fellowship year was my favorite training year. What a treat it was to focus on cytopathology and learn from leaders in the field!

After my training, I went back to Turkey for two years, where I practiced cytopathology and surgical pathology. When I came back to America in 2006, I joined Loyola University Medical Center. Since then, I have been working with Dr. Eva Wojcik, who has been my mentor and current chair. As you may know, Dr. Wojcik served as the ASC President in 2015-2016. I have been blessed with another mentor at Loyola University, Dr. Stefan Pambuccian, who recently passed away in December.  He was a brilliant pathologist and a wonderful human being. You may read about Dr. Stefan Pambuccian and his accomplishments in the Journal of the American Society of Cytopathology’s January 2021 issue, which is dedicated to him. Both Dr. Wojcik and Dr. Pambuccian have been very supportive of my career and personal growth all these years.  In addition to both of these extraordinary people, I was lucky to have another role model and mentor nearby at Northwestern University, Dr. Ritu Nayar, who is also a past President of the ASC (in 2013-2014). I have had the honor and pleasure not only to learn from her overtime, but also to serve with Dr. Nayar in various committees.  As you can see, it takes a village to raise a cytopathologist. Mentorship is important in one’s academic and personal life. And I want to pay it forward. We need to pay it forward. We need to mentor and create opportunities for everyone. I have charged the Ambassador and Social Media Committee to create a mentorship program for the ASC this year. I hope to fill you in about the details in the future issues of The Bulletin. In addition, I have created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, and I was thrilled to receive many applications for this committee. The DEI committee had their first meeting and are off to a great start with their projects.

The second initiative is innovation. Why Innovation?

Innovation has become a necessity, especially in the face of adversity, this year. Many of us have had to find ways to adjust to a new normal. As Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.”  We at the ASC, strive to be leaders in our field. As you may know, we have posted educational resources such as lectures and panels on our to help the trainees and practicing pathologists and cytotechnologists. In 2021, we will post more educational sessions and provide an opportunity to hear from the ASC committees. We are kicking off this year with our first session on January 20, 2021 – “To Match or Not to Match Thoughts on a Potential Match for Cytopathology Fellowship Programs” which is brought to us by the Cytopathology Program Directors Committee and moderated by Dr. Sara E. Monaco. You can also check out our upcoming free educational sessions at: https://cytopathology.org/page/liveseries

We are also in the process of overhauling the Cytology Education Learning Lab (C.E.L.L.) website that will have many resources for cytology education. Many more educational and technological activities are under way in the ASC. Follow us on social media (Twitter handle @cytopathology), to find out more about our educational initiatives and updates.

Another innovation initiative is the new ASC podcast “CytoPath Pod.” You might ask: “Why have an ASC podcast?”  Well, podcasts are easily accessible, portable, entertaining, and a quick and yet memorable way to relay information. In the age of technology and innovation, podcasts are a great way to build and foster a community! Our hope is to bring the ASC to our listeners and inform medical professionals as well as non-medical listeners. In the podcast, we will talk about our patient advocacy activities and give updates on what is new in our field and regulatory changes that are coming our way. We will talk to mentors and mentees to find out how and why they chose cytopathology or cytotechnology as a profession. We will also cover topics like wellness and resilience.  We encourage you to tune in and become a member of our wonderful community. We would love to receive feedback from you to improve our content and get your input on the topics we should cover in our podcasts. I am honored and delighted to be hosting the very first episode of our ASC podcast – and I am quite excited for it to air soon. https://cytopathpod.podbean.com/

The third initiative is Teamwork! Why Teamwork?

Teamwork is essential in any successful endeavor. Goals cannot be scored without a good assist; players cannot win without solid coaching. Teamwork is important!

I have been attending all conference calls for the committees and I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am to meet everyone and see their enthusiasm for the ASC. It is so refreshing to see members come up with projects to pursue, and ways to improve our Society and the cytology community. In fact, not only within the committees, but also between them I see lots of cross pollination and a flurry of exciting activities, such as the eJournal Committee working with the Product Innovation Committee for a new an interactive format for our journal clubs. This is an exciting time to be an ASC member and see things happen right before our eyes.

This past year has been a difficult year for us all. Some have lost family members and loved ones to COVID-19, some have lost their job and their livelihood, and most have experienced mental distress. Perhaps one of the good things about this difficult year was that scientists all around the globe worked together to come up with solutions to prevent the disease – now we have several vaccines and management strategies for those inflicted with the disease. This year, we could not travel, see loved ones or attend conferences, but technology enabled us to work remotely and attend gatherings and meetings virtually. This pandemic can be a reminder to pause for a minute and reflect. For me, I am grateful for being healthy, having a supportive family (and work family) and being a member of our active cytopathology community. I am grateful that despite all adversity we are able to serve our patients, continue teaching our trainees, and partake in the advancement of our field. I am grateful that we were able to have our Annual Scientific Meeting, albeit virtually, thanks to our hardworking National Office Staff. And I am grateful that we are resilient, #cytologystrong. More importantly, I am hopeful that the advancement in science will bring an end to this pandemic, and the lessons learned from this experience will make the humankind not only smarter, but kinder and empathetic to others.

May the 2021 be kinder to all of us and may the New Year bring you hope, joy, and peace!

You can reach Dr. Güliz Barkan on Twitter from the handle @barkanga or via email at gbarkan@lumc.edu.