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“Our work is like solving diagnostic puzzles”

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11th April, 2024

Meet Dr Leili Moayed Alaei, an Anatomical Pathology Registrar at our Royal Prince Alfred Hospital laboratory.

Leili works at our new­ly rede­vel­oped Tis­sue Pathol­o­gy and Diag­nos­tic Oncol­o­gy Depart­ment at RPA and has been with NSW Health Pathol­o­gy for five years.

“Our work is like solv­ing diag­nos­tic puz­zles. We have a cru­cial role in patient care, even though we are often hid­den behind closed doors,” she says.

“We pro­vide crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion on diag­no­sis, dis­ease pro­gres­sion and prog­no­sis that directs clin­i­cal care.”

She says her typ­i­cal day begins with attend­ing a morn­ing tuto­r­i­al, dur­ing which the con­sul­tants share inter­est­ing cases.

“As reg­is­trars, we have three dif­fer­ent duties: macro­scop­ic exam­i­na­tion and dis­sec­tion of spec­i­mens, hold­ing the fresh/frozen phone and report­ing cas­es. Each day, I’ll be assigned to one of these duties.”

On cut days, reg­is­trars are deal­ing with a wide range of spec­i­mens from small biop­sies to more com­pli­cat­ed cas­es like pelvic exen­ter­a­tion or leg amputation.

“Han­dling the spec­i­mens requires knowl­edge of anato­my and pathol­o­gy, along with an under­stand­ing of stag­ing and prog­nos­tic fea­tures to ensure that sam­pled tis­sue ade­quate­ly demon­strates these aspects,” Leili explains.

“On our report­ing days we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to report these cas­es along­side our consultants.”

What is a frozen sec­tion? We’re glad you asked!

“Frozen sec­tions are often per­formed dur­ing sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures to pro­vide rapid diag­nos­tic infor­ma­tion to guide the sur­geon’s next steps such as assess­ing mar­gin sta­tus or mak­ing diag­noses. The tis­sue is quick­ly frozen, processed, and eval­u­at­ed short­ly after­ward. This is all hap­pen­ing while the patient is still under­go­ing surgery.”

A woman in a laboratory wearing a lab coat and protective eye glasses smiles at Health Minister Ryan Park who is looking at the workspace.
Leili met the NSW Min­is­ter for Health Ryan Park when he toured the new lab­o­ra­to­ry at RPA in March 2024.

Leili says she loves the vari­ety of tasks, as well as work­ing along­side con­sul­tants and attend­ing mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary team meetings.

“I love the cama­raderie with­in our pathol­o­gy team – we are like a fam­i­ly, always ready to sup­port each oth­er,” she said.

“The sense of being part of a team that plays such a vital role in health­care is deeply reward­ing and fulfilling.”

The team at the lab even takes time out to socialise after work.

“We have a What­sApp group for our RPA crew, which includes some of our con­sul­tants, sci­en­tists, and reg­is­trars. We reg­u­lar­ly organ­ise out­ings for din­ner, movies, and oth­er recre­ation­al activ­i­ties together.”

Leili says one of the hard­est parts of the job is prepar­ing for anatom­ic pathol­o­gy spe­cial­ist exams, along­side her clin­i­cal duties.

“It’s one of the trick­i­est parts of the job. How­ev­er, with a sol­id team to sup­port each oth­er, it becomes much more manageable.”

Leili says if she could learn some­thing new, it would be work­ing with elec­tron microscopy!


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