Friday, November 22, 2013

Best Post of August 2013: Profile of Wash U NP Fellow Dr. PJ Cimino

The next in our "Best of the Month" series is from August 1, 2013, when I profiled Dr. PJ Cimino, a prominent first-year neuropathology fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. After a short biographical sketch, Dr. Cimino answers a few of my questions:

Dr. PJ Cimino

P.J. Cimino grew up in Seattle, WA, where he did both his undergraduate studies (double major in neurobiology and biochemistry) and Medical Scientist Training Program (combined MD/PhD program) at the University of Washington. He earned his PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior while working in the laboratory of Tom Montine MD, PhD in the Department of Pathology. His graduate work mainly focused on the biology of microglia related to prostaglandin signaling and neurodegenerative disease. He graduated in 2011 and moved his family from Seattle to the Midwest to train in the combined Anatomic Pathology (AP)/Neuropathology (NP) program at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He has completed hist first two years of AP training and is now in the NP fellowship portion. During his time in St. Louis he has also developed a budding interest in molecular neuro-oncology. In addition to gaining experience in diagnostic neuropathology, he plans to return to the laboratory bench in order to continue on his track to become an independent physician-scientist in investigative neuropathology. P.J. is married to Heather, and they have three children: Sadie, Dominic, and Francis.
1.       What does the PJ stand for?
Patrick Joseph.
2.       Why did you decide to become a neuropathologist?
The short answer is that neuropathology just fits with my personality and interests. As an undergraduate I was fascinated by neurologic disease and worked in a laboratory that studied the genetics of inherited neurological disorders. After making the decision to become a physician-scientist, I knew that I was drawn to the field of neurology. As many people of my ilk do, I spent time exploring neurosurgery, neurology, psychiatry, neuropathology, etc. I was fortunate enough as a graduate student to join the lab of a great neuropathologist, who showed me what neuropathology was like. After exploring all of those 'neuro' options, neuropathology was the right fit for me. I think it will afford me the opportunity to study the mechanism of neurologic disease while having a hand in patient care.
3.       Name a couple of important professional mentors. Why were they important to you?
Beginning in chronological order, I first have to recognize my undergraduate research mentor at the University of Washington, Wendy Raskind MD, PhD. She was the first person to inspire me to become a physician-scientist. I saw how she managed patients clinically as well as ran a basic science research lab, and used these two endeavors to complement and enhance one another. The next important mentor has to be Tom Montine MD,PhD, as mentioned above. He initially got me interested in neuropathology, and essentially helped me to solidify my career goals. He has helped me tremendously over the past several years and still provides much needed sound guidance. In the past couple of years I have gained some newer and emerging professional mentors at Washington University in St. Louis, including BobSchmidt MD, PhD and David Gutmann MD, PhD. I do want to acknowledge that this list is not comprehensive and I am a product of several other great professional mentors that I have met along the way.
4.       What advice would you give to a pathology resident interested in doing a neuropathology fellowship?
Do it! I have met academic neuropathologists and private practice pathologists who have completed neuropathology training. So there appears to be many career choices for those with neuropathology fellowship training. I think that the vast majority of neuropathologists (again in my experience) need to have a skill in addition to neuropathology. So in addition to NP training, you should consider either doing another pathology fellowship (clinical track) or a post-doctoral fellowship/mentored research (research track).  You just have to take into consideration your personal and professional goals and plan your training appropriately. For full disclosure to residents, I cannot provide comprehensive advice about neuropathology and what lies beyond fellowship training, because I am still in training myself. Hopefully, I will get a 'real job' someday as an academic neuropathologist and I can add to this advice in the future.
5.       What city would you like a future American Association of Neuropathologists meeting to be held and why?
I think that any city in the Pacific Northwest or Mountain region would be a good place to hold a national meeting that takes place in the end of June. These include: Denver, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake, etc. I think that the end of June is a good time to head North and West to cool down for a few days while looking at posters, going to talks, and attending the diagnostic slide session. The organizers must have anticipated my response to this question, as they have preemptively scheduled the 2014 meeting to take place in Portland, OR.

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