Thursday, May 10, 2018

Best Post of March 2018 - Featured Neuropathologist: Michael Punsoni, MD

The next in our "Best of the Month" series is from March 12, 2018

On occasion, we profile a prominent or rising neuropathologist. In the past, we've featured the likes of Craig HorbinskiRoger McLendonJan Leestma, and Karra Jones. Today we feature Michael Punsoni, MD, a 2016 graduate of the Brown University Neuropathology Fellowship Program and now on faculty at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. Dr. Punsoni agreed to engage in a little Q&A:

1. Why did you decide to become a neuropathologist?
I have always had a strong interest in science and medicine, particularly the neurosciences. After college I worked in two research labs, which fueled my interest in basic neuroscience but also drove me to pursue a medical degree. During my clinical years of medical school I had a strong interest in neurology but my eagerness to be involved in all facets of medical care led me to apply for a categorical residency in Internal Medicine. While I am grateful for the skills and knowledge I acquired during my medicine internship I came to the realization (on one of my 36-hour calls if I remember correctly) that clinical medicine was not for me. I went back to the specialty drawing board and ultimately found pathology somewhat by chance. One of my patients on the medical floor needed an aspiration biopsy of a neck mass. I met the cytopathologist and watched closely as she aspirated a small amount of material and looked on in awe at the squamous cell carcinoma cells on her bedside dual-head scope. I fell for pathology hard after that and, while re-applying to the match, I went back to what I knew best, another year of neuroscience research. By the time I was in pathology residency, my interest for neuropathology was cemented and there was no going back.

2. What do you like to do outside of work?
Watching old and new movies and finding great hole-in-the-wall type restaurants. I’m always looking for/open to suggestions for either one.

 Name a couple of important professional mentors. Why were they important to you?
My two PIs at Cornell Medical Center, Joe Pierce and Theresa Milner for the brilliant work they let me participate in, for teaching me to be meticulous in all things particularly bench techniques and for their good humor that stays with me today. To all four neuropathologists at Brown University who shaped the neuropathologist I would become and still hope to be one day. Dr. Suzanne de la Monte to whom I am grateful for her relentless push to make me a good presenter and for sharing her invaluable tips on manuscript writing. Dr. Douglas Anthony whose leadership skills and commitment to the scientific method were inspiring then and now. Dr. Ed Stopa who treats all his fellows like family and never stops guiding them. Dr. John Donahue who taught me that a remarkable memory is only part of what makes a good pathologist and also, that “it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!”.

 What advice would you give to a pathology resident interested in doing a neuropathology fellowship?
Do an elective at your home institution and/or elsewhere. Try it out. It’s a fascinating field and will be for years to come. As I once heard one of my mentors say, we have our own language (when describing the structures of the brain) and we like it that way. Join the group, we’d love to have you.

5. What city (other than Omaha, of course) would you like a future American Association of Neuropathologists meeting to be held and why? 
Honolulu. I’ve never been and this would be a great reason to go. Another desirable place would be Boston, which has great restaurants and a good transit system.

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