Episode 22: RUSM and Hematopathology


Hematopathology or hemopathology is the study of diseases and disorders in blood cells, that affect their production, and any organs and tissues. This is a subspecialty of pathology that focuses on cancerous and non-cancerous conditions. In this episode Fellow Physician and RUSM alumnus  Dr. Olumide Odeyemi,'16 shares his journey through his medical education.

Episode 22: RUSM and Hematopathology Transcript

Milena Garcia: Welcome back future Rossies. Thanks for joining us again. In this episode, we have Dr. Olumide Odeyemi who's going to talk a little bit more about his fellowship, Dr. Odeyemi, thank you for joining us. Let's have a moment to introduce yourself.

Olumide Odeyemi: Thank you for having me. My name is Olumide, I'm a master of pathology fellow currently at the University of New Mexico. I graduated from Ross University in 2016.

Milena Garcia: Tell us a little bit more about your background.

Olumide Odeyemi: I grew up mostly in the Denver area and I did my undergrad in Kansas, Central College of Kansas. And I also did a master's degree in cell biology and immunology at Emporia State University, also in Kansas, and then I discovered Ross University and applied there in the spring of 2012, so I started at Ross In the fall of 2012 and graduated in 2016.

Milena Garcia: You eventually found your way back to Colorado for your residency.

Olumide Odeyemi: Sure, there was such a pleasure to get that opportunity because I know Colorado was tough one to get a residency in but thankfully I was able to have had some connections and everything to help get back there. So I did my residency and anytime I can click a pathology there. And then after that, just over here. Now you see hematopathology.

What is Hematopathology?

Milena Garcia: And what is hematopathology?

Olumide Odeyemi: hematopathology is a branch of pathology that focuses more on cancerous and non cancerous diseases of the blood, as well as blood producing cells. So you look at the peripheral blood, you also look at bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes, tonsils, even anything that contains or produces blood cells. So any diseases that you do a CAT, you evaluate. So overall where we get so most of our analysis at least the initial analysis will be under the microscope, for example. We're just like any other specialty pathology that handles things in an anatomic fashion. We can look at peripheral blood smears. So they draw somebody's blood to do a CBC or a complete blood count. And if they're suspecting some abnormality, you do symptoms. The patient might present with fatigue, sudden weight loss, fever, night sweats, that kind of thing. We can look at the blood numerically. It is a machine that will analyze and give you a count. But then also we can look at the cells themselves, whether it's the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, that kind of thing. And we'll decide whether there's any abnormalities to match those numbers and that'll tell us what's wrong with the patient. if the red blood cells are too small, it may mean the patient’s Anemic, and if they're too big, that actually probably means the patient gets vitamin B-12, which is an essential vitamin to produce blood cells. And so of course those can be fixed. You can either give them B-12, start taking b-12 supplements or get a B-12 shot or something like that, or iron, if you're not getting enough. However, other problems can be cancer. We can also tell because the abnormal blood cells, the cancer blood cells are usually much bigger and way more numerous. So we can say okay this is a problem, and alert the physician that ordered the test too, so we need more testing to tell us what type of cells these are, we need to do genetic testing to see if there's any mutations or any because now, in the world of personalized medicine targeted therapy, we can get certain therapies that are directly targeting the genes,  are targeting those things to make it less toxic, but more effective for the patient. So we can tell the physician that, that way they're able to treat the patient correctly and produce the best results in the picture.

Milena Garcia: And you mentioned at the beginning of this is a subspecialty of pathology. How do you get to this level.?

Olumide Odeyemi: Starting of course with med school, I did the four years and then thankfully in my third year, I was able to discover pathology during one of my rotations with the surgeons. So the surgeons pick pathologists because they depend on them for a lot of answers. Is this cancer, is it not. And when they take out the tumor they want to make sure we got all of it. The pathologist is the one that will answer that because they're looking to the microscope to see if there are tumor cells in there. Being able to do is a really interesting specialty. So my fourth year I was able to do some rotations in pathology and that's how I was able get some letters and apply to a pathology residency. Which they're not that many in the country. So I was able to get into a pathology residency and thankfully back in Colorado. And so on. That's where I discovered hematopathology. I knew about it because of the blood. Every physician,I think knows about looking at the blood. The complete blood count, that kind of thing. However, on the level that we look at it as more of giving details that can help the physician as much as possible. So discovering pathology and then discovering hematopathology was really great for me because I love blood and I love the immune system. So that was kind of how I got here.

Milena Garcia: And why did you choose pathology?

Olumide Odeyemi: I think back in med school. It's not that known. A lot of people get a little pathology exposure in their first or second year medical school, but then they kind of move on to other specialties ob-gyn and family medicine, surgery and pathology is kind of forgotten unless you end up doing surgery and focus on it in college. So if you're in the cancer service, you may get more exposure to that, but a lot of people don't get that exposure until the fourth year after they've already applied for residency. It was nice for me to be able to get some exposure to oncology earlier in gynecologic oncology, like in women's cancer, as well as in surgical oncology

And so that helped me be more like, Well, I think it's a really interesting specialty and I like being able to answer questions for the patient. They're more definitive. If I just don't always have all the answers, but I really tried to get as close to what's really really going on with the patient as possible so they can get the best treatment, that really intrigued me.

Olumide Odeyemi: You know, I know there are stereotypes about certain positions that are just included for sure. But one of the things I loved about it was that not all of them are true. You can be still relatively normal in terms of just living your life and you're not in a morgue or something like that, or in a basement, as I've discovered in fact in my residency. We're on the third floor right there with the surgeons. I really love working with other doctors and getting them the best answer.

Milena Garcia: It sounds like very investigative work. Can we maybe describe a typical day for you?

A Day in the Life of a Pathologist

In residency, for example, depending on what service you were on you could be in search of the column which is focused on diseases, have solid tumors, lung cancer, Breast cancer, colon cancer, that kind of thing, you would get this actual specimen either a biopsy that you would then process into little things you could put on a slide to look at under the microscope and you would spend your day looking through biopsy. you would look through them and as a resident of course you don't know what you're looking at a lot of the time. So you're in the books a lot, comparing those images and then you meet with your attending physicians, the ones who are fully trained and board certified. You go over those cases and you try to plug in the clinical history. So you're not practicing, because I've had people ask me, Why can't you just, you know, go into pathology with a PhD, for example, but it's because to me, to know what's going on with the patient you need to know a lot. Things can look like cancer, they're not cancer and a lot of things can look normal that are cancer. So one of the challenges, and also really thrills, of hematopathology has been finding an answer to those questions. So that's an example of an atomic pathology, another branch. Human values, kind of both. But another branch is clinical pathology, where you look at more blood values. So somebody’s potassium, for example, if it's abnormal. Now they're on drugs that you have to monitor, you can’t just give them anything. You have to know whether the dose is too high or too low. So that's part of clinical chemistry, which is a branch of clinical pathology and so that's another example of your normal day there, looking at lab values, trying to explain to physicians, why they should or why it's optimal to order a test or not, or recommend a different test because that might answer the questions better. So in hematopathology, however, what I'm currently doing is we look at bone marrow biopsies, we look at lymph node biopsies, or sometimes they can take out a whole lymph node for us to look at. Or the peripheral blood like I previously mentioned, so you're looking for abnormalities like anemia. You know what type, you don't. There's so many types of anemias. Whether it's iron deficiency or vitamin B-12, but also people can have natural issues,  what they were born with. For example, sickle cell anemia. That was senior. You want to be able to explain that. So we can get more testing done for the property. And then leukemia and lymphoma, those kinds of cancers, we look to make sure it's not that and the bone marrow can also be the site of metastatic tumors, so we can get breast cancer that spreads to the bone marrow or prostate cancer.  It's important that, even though I'm in blood, I'm trying to get all this. It's still important to know the other types of tumors so that I can send the case to another specialist that knows what they're looking at. So it's important to know what you don't know. That's kind of what we do. You do a lot of triage- what's important to handle now, and immediately tell the physicians what we can do- more tests, so we can get a more definitive answer. 

Milena Garcia: Now I want to take it back at a more personal level. And you mentioned during a previous conversation that medical school has literally been a journey for you. You started in Colorado, you moved to Kansas, you went to the Caribbean, you're back in Colorado. Now you're in New Mexico. So why Ross?

Olumide Odeyemi: So I think when I finished my master's I certainly thought about going on to do a PhD in immunology or something like that. I think in the end, at the end of day, I did my research  and that's something for everybody to kind of find out for themselves. And it's not for everybody. It wasn't for me there. So going to medical school, I realized that was still kind of where I felt like I could still apply. What I knew, my curiosity, my love for learning and teaching. And so the beauty of medicine, for example, is that you can do as much or as little research as you want. So I decided to go to med school because it was about the best way to apply myself and serve others, and Ross provided me that option. I heard a lot about the success stories. Something about Ross is it’s where you can kind of almost custom make your experience as well as what kind of physician you want to be. So that's how I felt, with the opportunity that was given and the resources that were given to me. I decided to go to go with that option. And it was certainly a journey. Like I said, besides going to the Caribbean and then being back in the States, I traveled all over the country, especially for pathology. Once I discovered topology. And I did my courses, my third year out in California, but there weren't a lot of options to do rotations there. So I went out to the east coast. Then I went to Detroit and went to Chicago for a little while. That's one of the things I love about Ross. Yes, there's more traveling involved, but I can do kind of what I want, you know, especially in my fourth year. I thought that was really a special thing. And in addition preparing us for the USMLE, the medical licensing exams. I felt at home, literally at home. And I believe it was because of the curriculum, which certainly was rigorous, but, I think it really prepared me for those exams.

Milena Garcia: Thank you. Thank you for sharing your experience. Obviously you took great advantage of the opportunity that was given to you and through your hard work and your dedication, you are so accomplished today. Congratulations and thanks for representing us out in the world. Any last advice to our future Rossies listening on how to be successful in medical school?

Olumide Odeyemi: Like I said, taking it kind of by the horns and realizing that you can really turn this into the kind of career you want to turn it into. The success stories I've heard have only gotten better, even during and after my time at Ross,  with a lot of ophthalmologists coming out, other dermatologists, people will become plastic surgeons, and everything in between. So it's a lot of hard work. It's pretty intense work, but I think counting the cost, realizing that this is how you want to serve others and change the world, if you will. I think it's a very beautiful option to apply your own trademark, if you will, to doing it. So if medicine is still something you're seriously considering I think, Ross is certainly a great option to give a try.

Milena Garcia: Doctor Odeyemi, thank you very much for joining us and taking your time to share your experience and your perspectives for everybody out there. Thank you for joining us once again, and we will see you next week.

Olumide Odeyemi: Thank you.