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A Day in the Life of a Pathologist

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Welcome to “A Day in the Life,” a series spotlighting Foundation Medicine employees across all departments and locations. This frequent series will put you in the shoes of one of our employees for a day in his/her life. 

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A Day in the Life of Dr. Huang,

Senior Pathologist and Associate Medical Director, RTP Lab Operations

Sitting next to his microscope in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Dr. Huang comments, “It’s easy to look over there and just see a stack of slides. But there's a patient behind each slide waiting for the vital information from them to help guide treatment. Each slide we evaluate is literally a piece of tissue from an individual patient.”  

 

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On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Huang’s role involves examining human tissue with genomic and proteomic biomarkers. Through his interpretation of these biomarkers, Dr. Huang provides information to the treating physician on potential therapies for the patient. Dr. Huang would not be able to inform treating physicians of treatment options without the advanced tools he uses every day, which has spurred an era of personalized medicine and has opened “a new world for pathologists,” he added. “Everything is changing for pathology as a medical specialty and more importantly, the changes are providing a higher quality of care to patients. This leads to better treatment options, all which makes my role such a gratifying one. For the pathologists here, the most important thing is for us to provide the highest quality of genomic and proteomic information to treating physicians and their patients and ensure the highest standard of safety and care.”   


The work that Dr. Huang conducts under the microscope, otherwise known as pathology review, is part of his “clinical service work.” He rotates between four areas of clinical service every week: pathology review of incoming specimens, next generation sequencing (NGS) sign-out, pathology review of PD-L1 immunohistochemistry (IHC), and pathology on-call.   


When working on a pathology review for incoming specimen, a pathologist at Foundation Medicine decides if the sample is adequate for testing by evaluating the tumor content on the slide and assigning a disease ontology to the sample. The NGS sign-out service is the final quality control check to make sure the genomics from the sequencing is consistent with the disease ontology of the sample before the report is signed by the pathologists. For the PD-L1 IHC service, the pathologist reviews pieces/fragments of human tissue stained by IHC to determine the PD-L1 protein expression level in the tumor cells and/or immune cells to help guide immunotherapy treatment options. In the pathology on-call service, the pathologist on-call answers questions that the Client Services team escalate to him/her.    

 

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In addition to his clinical service work, Dr. Huang has a passion to help develop new predictive biomarkers, which fuels expanded access to CGP. Daily, Dr. Huang “works with pharmaceutical partners to create data to help bring new predictive biomarkers and therapies to patients.” He also currently sits on the clinical study plan committee at Foundation Medicine, representing pathology, and reviews clinical study plans before they are put in place. Furthermore, he is very interested in supporting the Company’s international expansion. As a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese, Dr. Huang is especially impactful in helping deliver CGP in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. In 2019, he visited the DIAN Diagnostics Group (DIAN) lab in Hangzhou, China to provide a refresher training in Mandarin Chinese to the DIAN pathologists and examined DIAN’s laboratory workflow for FMI specimens that are currently processed at the DIAN lab.   


Overall, Dr. Huang says that there is no typical day at Foundation Medicine, calling his job “dynamic and fast-paced; and most importantly, very fulfilling. We are given this precious opportunity to examine and interrogate a piece of tissue to help patients in their fight against cancer.”   

 

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