3 Questions with Viharkumar Patel, MD

By Team Critical Values - May 01, 2024

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What Viharkumar Patel, MD, didn’t realize about pathology was that he had been unknowingly exposed to it during his undergraduate years at the University of California, Davis. He was always fascinated by physiology, biochemistry, and learning about how cells communicate with each other and how the human body functions, and in medical school, he finally saw where this all came together in his pathology courses. He realized, he says, that patients present with clinical symptoms because of underlying abnormalities within organs, tissues, and cells, and through pathology, he could actually study those abnormalities that give rise to a patient’s symptoms.  

An Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology in the Neuropathology Division in the University of California Davis Health System, Dr. Patel shares more of his thoughts on his decision to go into pathology, the mentors he’s met along the way, and lessons learned through volunteering. 

Can you share a specific experience or moment that solidified your decision to choose a career in the laboratory?

During my third year as a medical student, I had already decided that I wanted to pursue pathology as a career in medicine, but I did not have adequate exposure of what it would be like to actually practice pathology. My first exposure to pathology as a career was during my pathology rotation as a medical student where I was able to rotate with a practicing surgical pathologist. I was able to observe and eventually participate in grossing various surgical specimens. It was at this time I was reminded by my initial curiosity that drew into pathology, as I was able to integrate anatomy through grossing and histology through microscopic examination. The experience itself solidified my decision as I pursued my career.   

Who are the mentors who have influenced your career choice?  

There are three major mentors who have influenced my career choice; all of them are pathologists. The first is Dr. Robert Corliss, a Forensic pathologist at University of Wisconsin, Madison. I first was introduced to Dr. Corliss who was a visiting professor at my medical school who taught a portion of the pathology course. I enjoyed his teaching style, he was incredibly knowledgeable, and approachable. When I was a third-year medical student, I reached out to him for advice in pursuing pathology as a career. I took his advice and applied to pathology residency. When I had to provide my rank order list for pathology residency match, I chose University of Wisconsin, Madison as my top program because I felt I would not get another opportunity to train with someone who inspired me.  

The second mentor is Dr. Shahriar Salamat, a neuropathologist, who I met at University of Wisconsin, Madison during my pathology residency. To my surprise, Dr. Salamat had graduated from the same medical school that I had attended and was also a neuropathology fellow at the University of California Davis, where I had attended college. Once I had informed Dr. Salamat of my interest to pursue neuropathology, he was extremely supportive in my endeavor. He provided me with access to all of the materials and resources he had available to learn neuropathology. He often showed me cases early on in my training and provided me with ample opportunities to take graduated responsibility in neuropathology. The mentorship Dr. Salamat provided was invaluable. I am extremely grateful for his support in guiding me to my career in neuropathology. 

The third mentor is Dr. Paul Weissman, a surgical pathologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Weissman is an excellent teacher, and he has an uncanny ability to teach pathology, often making complex topics easily digestible. Dr. Weissman was influential in my growth as a pathologist, as he often provided me with guidance and reassurance in my training. Pathology is quite distinct from the rest of medicine, and medical school does little to prepare for a pathology residency. Dr. Weissman’s support and guidance were instrumental in my growth as a surgical pathologist. 

What are some of the lessons you've learned through the different volunteer roles you’ve taken on, in or out of ASCP? 

Through my volunteering roles at ASCP, from Career Ambassadors to being a former member of the ASCP Resident Council, and current member of the ASCP Pathologist Council, I have gained invaluable experiences in volunteering, advocacy, and mentorship. The experiences I’ve had are rewarding and motivate me further to continue my advocacy to provide more exposure to pathology and laboratory medicine as a career for young students. I am currently working on a number of projects to provide educational exposure and opportunities in pathology and laboratory medicine for students because I often see that students do not have adequate exposure to our field, even during medical school. 

Team Critical Values

Team Critical Values