The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Shanedelle Norford

Dr. Shanedelle Norford discusses her experience in forensic pathology, COVID-19 pathology, & advice to students in pathology rotations.

Why Pathology?

Dr. Norford chose to specialize in pathology to have a deeper understanding of diseases. Early on, she realized that clinical medicine is primarily concerned with diagnoses and how to treat them. However, she was much more interested in the why and how behind the development of illnesses. It was in pathology that she found most of the answers to her burning questions.

How to Get Exposure to Pathology

Very few medical students choose to specialize in pathology¾this may be due in part to the lack of exposure to the field. Students must purposefully seek out opportunities to know more about this specialization. Fortunately, most medical schools have electives in general and forensic pathology. Feel free to approach doctors or administrative staff to ask about available programs or rotations in pathology at your own school.

Tips to Succeed on a Pathology Rotation

Show genuine interest by asking questions, arriving on time, and doing more of what’s asked of you. Doctors can tell the difference between enthusiastic and uninterested students. Pathology classes help in building a good foundation in medicine. Likewise, view the pathology rotation as a learning experience to maximize what you can get out of it. As a future doctor, this knowledge may be useful to you someday.

How COVID-19 Has Affected Forensic Pathology

As an associate medical examiner, Dr. Norford has seen an increase in her case load by 50% compared to last year. The sustained influx of cases brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on the resources and personnel of the medical examiner’s office. Their team has lost staff members from resignations and from the coronavirus itself.

Not much is known about the pathophysiology of COVID-19. What we do know is that the virus can affect several organs and body systems all at once. Its effects may linger months after it has been contracted. This novel coronavirus has taken countless of lives, as seen in the number of cases that Dr. Norford handles every day. She urges everyone to continue practicing safety measures like wearing masks¾a simple precaution that saves lives.

Why Pursue an MBA

Dr. Norford dreams of becoming a chief medical examiner someday. Her pursuit of an MBA degree will help her transition into that role in the future. Currently, she recognizes that she lacks sufficient knowledge and experience in business, administration, and leadership. Pursuing an MBA makes sense because she eventually wants to shift to a more administrative role. It is also worth knowing the business side of medicine because it gives insight as to how it affects her as a physician as well as her patients.

Dr. Norford’s Advice to Pre-Meds and Medical Students

Instead of following the trends, go after what you want. Don’t let your decision be swayed by the opinion of others. It takes years and years of medical school to become a doctor. Don’t waste all those periods of training to enter a career path you don’t like. Time is your most limited asset, so invest it in a career you are passionate about. The road to becoming a doctor is paved with challenges, but just stay on course because your hard work will pay off in the end.

Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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