3 Questions With Elise Occhipinti, MD

By Team Critical Values - April 11, 2024

19-240122-JP_Journals_Critical Values_Article

Elise Occhipinti, MD, is the Chair of Clinical Pathology at Ochsner Medical Center at Ochsner Health in New Orleans. Here, she shares her thoughts on what drew her to pathology, the impact she hopes to make in the field, and more.  

What first drew you to pathology and laboratory medicine and what inspired you to choose it as a career? 

I had the strange experience of loving every minute of medical school. I enjoyed all my core classes, and especially appreciated the beauty of histology and how it was intimately interconnected with physiology, biochemistry, and microbiology. During my clinical rotations I was in awe of how a disease process could affect organ function and ultimately a patient’s quality of life. All the specialties were equally interesting to me, but I particularly enjoyed hematology oncology. During this time, targeted therapies were just being developed, and I was amazed at how the right cancer treatment could have a drastic effect on changing someone’s life. During my focus on hematology oncology, I became involved in multidisciplinary tumor boards and found the pathologist’s contribution to be the most interesting.  Looking into a tissue and isolating the exact cells that were causing illness amazed me. I was struck by the awesome responsibility of the pathologist to render the precise diagnosis that would direct therapy and potentially cure a patient.   

What aspects of laboratory medicine do you find most intriguing and fulfilling and how do these align with your personal and professional interests?  

I am an introvert by nature, so I enjoy some of the solitary aspects of studying a case and figuring out a diagnosis. However, I am also deeply fulfilled by the collaborative nature of pathology. Although it is not a patient-facing specialty, I spend a large part of my day interacting with clinical colleagues and helping them solve either patient diagnostic issues or laboratory related challenges. Being able to interact with a diverse group of physician personalities and physician specialties means my job is never boring. When someone asks my opinion on a case, and we work together to arrive at a diagnosis my brain gets a boost. I consider this to be a great honor and the best part of my job. I am a voracious reader and humbled by how complicated the world is, so every time I get to learn something new or connect with a colleague in a collaborative way it is both professionally and personally satisfying.  

What impact do you hope to make through your work in this field?

My primary passion in the field of laboratory medicine is that of appropriate laboratory utilization and how it can improve the value of care patients receive today. The amount of pure waste that our laboratories, patients, and physicians are confronted with daily is astounding. This waste takes the form of repetitive lab testing, outdated testing, and testing with no clinical indications. It contributes significantly to the overall cost of healthcare and to burnout of physicians and laboratory professionals, while offering no demonstrable  improvement in patient outcomes. I hope to make everyone in healthcare aware of this problem and promote the redirection of resources to interventions that provide true value. I would like to help raise awareness of predatory/fad laboratory testing and subsequent medical interventions that promise “wellness” yet do nothing to improve quality of life.   

Team Critical Values

Team Critical Values