[October 2008] Even though she never lays eyes on her patients, Marie E. Robert, MD, is intimately involved in their care. A surgical pathologist specializing in the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas and liver, Robert diagnoses a host of diseases, including cancer, infections, inflammatory bowel disease and problems associated with liver transplantation.
“Much of the time the pathology diagnosis that we render drives everything else that happensto the patient, including decisions about whether to begin chemotherapy, take a patient to surgery or do nothing,” she said. “On the basis of our work, patients are told what their futures may hold, and it’s a privilege for me to be entrusted with this responsibility.”
Robert enjoys communicating with other physicians regarding the diagnoses and treatment for some of the most challenging patients in the hospital. She works on unusual cases every day, such as a recent appendiceal tumor removed from an otherwise healthy patient. “It’s tricky because it is such a small organ and benign conditions can sometimes look worse than they are because of how thin the tissues are in that part of the body,” she said.
While Robert employs modern diagnostic tools, including molecular testing, she spends most of her time looking through the microscope, where the most important diagnoses are still made. Teaching at the microscope is a daily occurrence as she instructs residents and fellows in the art of histopathologic interpretation and illustrates diagnostic findings to visiting clinical teams. She gravitated toward pathology by being exposed to the scientific side of medicine through her father, a renowned gastrointestinal researcher who studied peptic ulcer disease.
Robert shares the same feelings and concerns about patients as her colleagues who have more direct contact with them. She’s delighted when there’s good news, even though she isn’t the one to deliver it. “We’re doing this because we want to help patients,” she said.
- Originally published in the August/September 2008 issue of Yale Practice.
Name: Marie E. Robert, MD
Title: Professor of pathology and associate professor of medicine (digestive diseases); Director, Program in Gastrointestinal Pathology; Director, Fellowship in Gastrointestinal Pathology.
Area of expertise: Gastrointestinal, pancreatic and liver pathology.
Place of birth: Washington D.C.
College: University of Michigan
Med School: University of Michigan
Training: Anatomic and clinical pathology residency, chief resident in surgical pathology, gastrointestinal and liver pathology fellowship, UCLA School of Medicine.
Family: Married to Earl J. Glusac, md, professor of pathology and dermatology; daughters, Katie, 13, and Tina, 11.
What is most challenging to you in academic medicine? The biggest challenge for me is balancing the demands of an active clinical and teaching program with my responsibilities to my family.
What is most rewarding? Knowing the difference my team and I make in the lives of dozens of patients every day.
What do you like most about your practice? It is a great privilege for me to work with so many outstanding and devoted clinical teams at Yale. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of complex patients and the detective work that is needed to understand and properly diagnose their illnesses.
Personal interests or pastimes: Singing, performing cabaret for fundraisers, any form of exercise, skiing and being with my family.
Last book read: Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
What would you do to improve our clinical environment if you had a magic wand? A willingness to improve communication between those of us intimately involved in patient care and those empowered to make decisions that affect patient care delivery would ultimately improve our patient environment. This happens already in many arenas, but could be improved upon.