Marissa Spencer, board-certified pathologists’ assistant, joined the Tulane Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Faculty in August as an Instructor. Marissa has bachelor’s degrees in forensic science and biology from the University of New Haven and a master’s degree in pathologists’ assistant studies from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Marissa has experience in surgical and autopsy pathology, as well as leadership and management experience as a previous supervisor of autopsy and surgical pathology. Marissa is passionate about education. She has taught an introduction to anatomic pathology course and a basic histology course as an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven, and has taught pathology residents, PA students, and medical students in both surgical and autopsy pathology. Marissa is also passionate about advocating for the pathologists’ assistant profession. She serves as the External Marketing Subcommittee Chair for the American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants (AAPA), through which she is able to travel to various conferences, write articles, and educate others about the pathologists’ assistant profession. At Tulane, Marissa will be teaching in both didactic and clinical settings for our pathologists’ assistant program, residency program, graduate programs, as well as grossing and performing autopsies and intraoperative consultations.
We wanted to get to know more about Marissa, so here are some fun questions that Marissa answered for us. We can’t wait to continue to get to know Marissa more and learn from her!
What made you decide to become a pathologists’ assistant?
When I was in undergrad I was first exposed to the PA profession when I had a professor who was a PA teach a forensic pathology course. I immediately knew that rather than becoming a medical examiner (which was my plan at the time) that being a PA seemed like a better fit for me - I was more interested in grossing and autopsy than I was looking at slides.
What do you love the most about pathology?
I really love that we are behind the scenes health care professionals. The work we do is so critical for patient care but is not really understood by those outside of our profession. I enjoy knowing the value of the work we provide, as well as the opportunity to expose and educate others about it.
Is there a particular case or specimen type that stands out to you as your favorite or most memorable? How about least favorite?
I have a hard time saying an overall favorite because I love so many specimens! I love grossing as well as anatomy so larger, complex specimens are the most fun to me. If I had to choose I would have to pick whipples, bladders, and breast specimens. For benign specimens, I love gallbladders because I have a serious obsession with gallstones. I love the crystalized ones that almost resemble geodes! If I really have to choose a least favorite I would say sebaceous skin cysts.
What do you hope to bring to Tulane’s program?
I hope that my passion for pathology, anatomy, and education allows for students to be engaged and enthusiastic. I get so excited talking about anatomy, pathology, and patient care - I hope to get the students equally as enthused! Working at multiple institutions and in different roles over the years has allowed me to learn different ways of approaching grossing and handling specimens, as well as other aspects of the PA profession like management and teaching. Sharing those experiences in conjunction with the experiences of the other faculty members will provide a wider variety of information to our students as to what our profession is all about.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
I have been to 43 of the 50 states in the US!
What’s been the biggest adjustment from Connecticut to New Orleans so far?
I have been fortunate to live coast to coast and experience different lifestyles the United States has to offer, so adjusting to a new region has thankfully not been difficult. The one big adjustment so far has been recovering from hurricane Ida and knowing that hurricanes like Ida can and will happen again during my time here. Ensuring my family and I are fully prepared for storms like that in the future is really important and something we did not have to do in Connecticut, as hurricanes are definitely not as frequent and not as aggressive there.
Favorite movie? Color? Type of music?
My favorite movies are “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Bad Teacher”. I love the colors green and gray and most genres of music! But these days I listen to true crime podcasts more often than I do the radio.
Do you have any pets?
I have three pets! I have a French Bulldog named Autumn, an Icelandic Sheepdog/Collie mix named Bailey, and a tabby cat named Cheddar!
Anything else you want us/whoever reads the blog to know about you?
Pathology is a critical part of medicine and is frequently misunderstood and underappreciated because it is not patient facing. Being able to expose students (and those who want to learn outside of the classroom) to anatomic pathology and get them interested and excited about it makes me beam with happiness! I am so excited to be here and share my experiences, knowledge, and passion with the future of our profession! I am proud to be a member of the Tulane Department of Pathology and look forward to getting to know all of you!