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My Impact on Transforming Cancer Care - Histology

Michelle, Histology Manager

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I first came across the position for a histology supervisor at Foundation Medicine at a time when I was a stay-at-home mom and wasn’t planning to return to work. I had not heard of Foundation Medicine (FMI), but after some quick research, it was clear that the company’s mission was to transform cancer care. That was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Before I “retired” from the field, I had worked in histology for over 15 years and had tried out almost every aspect of the field from clinical to big pharma to animal histology. For me, FMI was the perfect combination of helping pharmaceutical companies find life-saving treatments and helping clinicians connect those treatments with the people who needed them. I loved the fact that we could help patients in real time.

The histology team at FMI prepares samples for our comprehensive genomic profiling tests, which analyze the cancerous tumors and help identify genomic alterations. These tests can help oncologists create a treatment plan based on a patient’s unique genomic features. The hospital does its own histology work to determine the patient’s cancer type, and then oncologists send a specimen to FMI to determine the unique elements of that patient’s cancer. My team checks that specimen to confirm there is enough tumor sample for our tests, and then we prepare that sample for the testing process.

FMI’s histology team plays a crucial role in the testing process because the other teams cannot do any sequencing of paraffin specimens until we’ve completed our work. Also, any work related to histology at our Cambridge headquarters comes through us, so we get the opportunity to support many different kinds of patients and work with lots of different departments across the company. We’re there at the start of the testing process and help out in any way that we can as the specimen moves all the way through to the final report. That’s how it is across all departments here at FMI—each team needs the other to function. To see our teams pull together, especially during really busy times, is amazing.

What keeps me going each day are my colleagues, especially my histology team. As a manager, I could not ask for a friendlier, more patient-focused team. Every single day, their dedication, creativity, and constant drive for improvement makes me proud that I have the privilege of calling them my team. The environment here at FMI is also great. It’s been that way since the beginning—the support that the company gives its employees is unparalleled. It’s the only place I’ve worked that always says, “Do what you need to support your team.”

Ultimately, all of our work has a direct impact on the lives of cancer patients who have had our testing. We get notes from patients saying, “I sent my specimen to FMI and now I’m doing well,” and that is such a fantastic feeling. It is so rewarding to know that you are part of something that is transforming lives, as well as cancer care.

Learn more about our mission to transform cancer care, and explore ways to join our team!

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