3 Question with Marsha Kinney, MD, MASCP

By Marsha Kinney, MD, MASCP - November 16, 2022

Kinney Marsha-1a  2019[1]

For the Critical Values series, “3 Questions With,” Dr. Marsha Kinney, 2022-2023 President of ASCP shares her thoughts on three questions (and a bonus question!) discussing her priorities during her term as president, who she turns to for inspiration, and why she chose pathology as a profession.  

What is your number one priority during your term as ASCP President?  
Addressing the workforce shortage is the main priority for the upcoming year. The need is critical. As chairman of an academic pathology department, I encounter difficulty in hiring staff and pathologists on a weekly basis. The response to the shortage is multi-dimensional and involves training, recruitment and retention, and diversity, equity and inclusion.  

In April 2021 Edna C. Garcia, MPH, Iman Kundu, MPH, and Melissa A. Kelly, PhD, in collaboration with Grace A. Guenther, MPA, and others at the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle authored a 76-page blueprint for action (The Clinical Laboratory Workforce: Understanding the Challenges to Meeting Current and Future Needs). An ad hoc committee chaired by Susan Harrington, PhD, the former chair of the ASCP Board of Certification, has prioritized the recommendations and instituted concrete steps to address the shortage including recruitment of students at all levels beginning with middle school and high school STEM students and supporting education and clinical training programs. I am particularly excited about the energy and knowledge our new CLMA members have brought to ASCP with their local grass roots chapters that will support efforts to reach out at the local and regional level. New chapters are being planned in Chicago, Texas and California. Job satisfaction, creation of career ladders, tuition reimbursement, public visibility, and partnership with other professional organizations are other initiatives of the ad hoc committee.  

The ASCP Pathology and Career Ambassador programs serve to build awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the medical laboratory’s role in patient care and inspire college and medical students to pursue a career in the medical laboratory and pathology while cultivating relationships in their community. The success of these efforts will rely on all our ASCP councils and members to strategize, innovate, and spread the word on what a wonderful career pathology and laboratory medicine offer. 

What do you think has helped you most in leadership positions throughout your career? 
Many people have helped me define and achieve my career goals. My family valued education and a good name above all else. My mother constantly read to me when I was a toddler, and I had excellent teachers throughout my public school education, particularly in science and mathematics. My college education stimulated learning, inquisitiveness, and creativity. My husband was very supportive of a professional career and encouraged me to enter graduate school and subsequently medical school. In medicine, I learned focus and caring for others.  Multiple mentors and sponsors at all levels were encouraging, rigorous, and expected me to do my best and be known for something. Success depends on surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, being humble, working hard, giving back, and at times not taking yourself too seriously or focusing on obstacles. Don’t let the challenges get you! 

Why did you go into pathology?  
As a college student, I worked in a large clinical laboratory during the summers. With a BA in molecular biology, my original intent was to become a scientist. After graduation, marriage to an Air Force pilot led to a move to a small West Texas town. At that time and place, there was no opportunity to use my molecular biology skills, so I worked in a preschool, the water treatment plant, and a business college, and as a Red Cross volunteer in the local hospital laboratory. After receiving a master's degree in general biology, I went to medical school to become an internist because I loved patient care.  The decision to become a pathologist was the most challenging decision of all in my career. If you don’t write prescriptions or “heal with steel” many people, including friends and relatives, may think you are not a “real” doctor.  More importantly, not having direct patient contact was a tough decision since taking care of patients is very gratifying. But I had always loved and was well-trained in science, and pathology is a discipline where you can practice science and have an immediate impact on an individual patient’s care. I realized the best thing I could do for patients was make the proper diagnosis and push the boundaries of disease classification, pathogenesis, and treatment. Becoming a pathologist, particularly a hematopathologist, has been the most fulfilling decision of my professional career.   

"I realized the best thing I could do for patients was make the proper diagnosis and push the boundaries of disease classification, pathogenesis, and treatment."
—Marsha Kinney, MD, FASCP

Who in the field of pathology inspires you? 
The first person who immediately comes to mind is Robert D. Collins, MD, my mentor who opened my eyes to the world of hematopathology and taught me discipline in diagnosis, the importance of clinical information and the “low magnification lens” in forming a differential diagnosis, and how to teach.  William H. Hartmann, MD, who was my first chair of pathology and taught me valuable leadership skills (there are few circumstances when an “emergent” quick decision has to be made; the value of a team and goal setting, and not responding to “threats” from individuals to leave). He told me he would fund my “counting snails on the Mediterranean” if I gave him a good reason. He later funded a trip to Berlin to study with Harald Stein, the German pathologist who led the discovery of anaplastic large cell lymphoma and spurred my lifelong interest in T-cell lymphoma. Drs. Elaine S. Jaffe and Steven H. Swerdlow for their academic leadership in hematopathology. Fred G. Silva, MD, former chair of Pathology at the University of Oklahoma and executive director of the USCAP, was my sponsor in all things at the national level. Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, a Black woman trailblazer pathologist, who as an only child in rural Virginia went to college at Wellesley, medical school at the University of Virginia, and did residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Pinn became the Chair of Pathology at Howard University and the inaugural Director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the NIH, 1991-2011. Pinn Hall at the University of Virginia School of Medicine was renamed to honor her.  

Many ASCP presidents have inspired me, particularly Melissa Upton, MD, who is such an amazing, nurturing, and thoughtful leader who along with Dana Baker, Tiffany Channer, Tanya Norwood, Aaron Odegard, Stephanie Whitehead, and Tywauna Wilson lead our DEI initiatives. Too numerous to count are other MLS colleagues on the BOC and others who have been inspirational and constant movers and shakers at ASCP.  Finally, our young pathologists and trainees inspire me every day to keep my knowledge base current, recognize the power of social media, and think to the future, not only how we did it 30 years ago.