Creating an Inspirational Legacy

By Sanjay Mukhopadhyay - May 05, 2022

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Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, MD, is the director of Thoracic Pathology at the Cleveland Clinic. A prolific writer and educator, Dr. Mukhopadhyay is the Associate Editor for pulmonary/thoracic pathology section of AJCP, and has a robust, diverse, and dedicated social media presence and following. Here he shares his insight on challenges around diversity in healthcare and what keeps him inspired in pathology.  

How did you learn about Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and what do you enjoy the most about working in this field? Why did you pick the areas in which you focus in your professional life? What do you hope to leave as a legacy from your professional life?  
I first learned about pathology and laboratory medicine when I was applying for a residency position at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India around 1998, after trying to do a few years of internal medicine. Before I jumped into pathology, I confess that I knew little or nothing about this specialty other than the vague notion that it would allow me to continue my interest in hematology. As I went through the daily routine of a junior resident in pathology, I realized that I greatly enjoyed the vast variety of complex diagnoses that could be made by pathologists with a degree of certainty that was impossible in clinical medicine. My jump into pulmonary pathology, which I currently practice, was influenced by one of my teachers in my second residency program, Dr. Anna-Luise Katzenstein. I hope to leave a legacy of education and research. It gives me great joy to learn that my various educational endeavors—whether teaching residents directly, teaching pathologists online, writing articles, or writing textbooks—help other pathologists throughout the world in their daily practice. It is also my hope that some of my research efforts will have helped to advance the field in a small way.  

What challenges have you encountered around increasing diversity and inclusion in healthcare?  
I think the United States is—by and large—a role model in terms of diversity and inclusion, at least when you compare the situation here with many other countries. Although the playing field is not completely level (perhaps it can never be), at least there are opportunities to enter healthcare, work hard, and excel.  

However, even here, people have a very stereotypical notion of what a leader should look and sound like. In the workplace, it is difficult for people from cultural backgrounds other than the dominant majority to look and sound the way people expect them to. I think the inability to meet cultural expectations works against minorities of all types in the workplace. 

What obstacles do Asian Americans and/or Pacific Islanders face in healthcare?   
I must say I have never really understood the odd grouping of Asian Americans with Pacific Islanders. I am pretty sure the background and experiences of a Pacific Islander are quite distinct from someone from China or Vietnam, and the struggles of someone from Japan or Cambodia are quite different from someone from India or Pakistan. I don’t think this odd grouping faces any challenges in healthcare that are different from any other immigrant non-White community, and many people from this group have successful careers in healthcare. In the healthcare system in the United States, I think the major obstacle is to take people who sound and look very different from you, and do not share your cultural background, practices and assumptions, and integrate them into your workplace. It’s a very difficult thing to do, especially with first-generation immigrants, but it does get progressively better with successive generations who grow up within the system.