Sarah Aziz

Tell me about your background before pathology/medical school?

Over my life I have been back and forth across Canada. I was born in Edmonton, grew up in Logy Bay, Newfoundland and returned to Edmonton for high school and my first degree at the University of Alberta. After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science with Honours in Research there, I moved to Kitchener to complete my medical degree at McMaster’s Waterloo Regional Campus.

What made you choose pathology as a career?

Throughout my medical laboratory and medical school training, I have always found the puzzle-solving aspect of the diagnostic process to be the most fascinating and rewarding aspect of caring for patients. Although when I started medical school I strongly considered other laboratory specialties such as biochemistry or medical microbiology, I came to understand that I enjoy having the opportunity to spend most of my time generating reports for specific, real patients myself (as I did as a medical laboratory technologist), rather than spending most of my time overseeing the laboratory. Although pathologists might be stereotyped as loners, another aspect that drew me to anatomical pathology specifically was the opportunity to always work within a close-knit team of other physicians in my specialty, which I might not have in a different laboratory discipline.

What attracted you to Western’s pathology program?

I had heard much praise from pathologists I had worked with about the clinical excellence, outstanding educators and nurturing environment of Western’s anatomical pathology program. I was also encouraged by the degree of support given to residents in the form of numerous practice exams, flexibility in tailoring rotation schedules to career goals, and a formal mentorship program. Also, London is a city big enough to have more than everything you need both at and outside of work, without all the headaches of living in a supersized city.

What are some specific things that you like about Western’s AP program?

Western’s greatest selling point is the supportive environment, including excellent teaching and career support from pathologists and close relationships with administrative and laboratory staff. The training in autopsy is excellent. As we perform both hospital and medicolegal cases in the University Hospital autopsy suite just downstairs from the main pathology department, you will get to take proper ownership of hospital cases and, if you are so inclined, certain medicolegal cases as well.

What are your hobbies outside of medicine?

Currently I’m working on perfecting my no-knead bread recipe. When I’m not doing that, I’m probably trying to figure out some extremely basic plush animal sewing pattern or watching the new Digimon anime with my pet rats (Speedwagon, TTF1 and p40).

What are your academic interests?

I have an interest in medical education and am currently working on a project exploring how pathologists decide what skills and abilities are essential for the practice of pathology. I’m also collaborating with my co-resident, Hao, on a qualitative project examining how pathologists use the new competency-based medical education framework to assess trainee performance. The Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry Continuing Professional Development office also hosts free workshops on improving one’s teaching skills that I often attend.

What are your career goals?

I like every part of anatomical pathology and I plan to enter community practice. It would be nice to continue to teach in some capacity, such as supervising visiting residents or being involved with a nearby medical school.

What is something you would like to tell students who may not be able to do an AP elective at Western?

I know it must be nerve-wracking to be going through CaRMS during the chaos that is COVID-19. Rank your programs in the order you want them without overthinking. Your rank order list is powerful—there are residents here (myself included) who matched without having done an elective here. I invite you to reach out to any of us with your questions about the program, and I hope that during your virtual interview tour the positive energy in our program will come across. We are a friendly group and are looking forward to meeting you!