By Jace C. Bradshaw and M. Paige Plumley
Dr. Quick is an Associate Professor of Pathology with a clinical interest in gynecologic and obstetric pathology. He completed his residency at UAMS in anatomic and clinical pathology. He followed his residency training with a fellowship in surgical pathology at UAMS and a women’s and perinatal fellowship at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Tell me about yourself.
Well, okay. I think we think about ourselves in a bunch of different ways, so I always try to remind myself of how I self-identify. The first thing I self-identify as is a parent and a husband. I always make sure that is my priority. Then, I am a pathologist and a teacher. I think it is really easy to get swallowed whole into medicine. I think about that and try to make sure that I am a very attentive parent and husband because that’s been the most important thing in my life. I like to have fun, but my job is pretty serious because I deal with cancer a lot. So everywhere else, I like to turn the seriousness off, which can be annoying to my wife from time to time, and I understand that. And she gets it. I like being outdoors; I love playing video games and watching TV. I like to fish, but I don’t get to do it much anymore because that requires stillness and quiet: two things that don’t exist in my life. But that’s okay. I feel like I am a very lucky person. I found my way into this job—it was a total accident. I like that I get to help people even if they are unaware that I am helping them. And I enjoy my life outside of work as well.
As a pathologist, which type of cell or tissue would you be, and why?
Well tissue-wise, you could be like the liver and deal with toxic things and make them un-toxic. So, I guess I would be a hepatocyte because you would be good at dealing with problems and issues and detoxifying situations. I feel like that’s a big part of my job, not on the clinical side, but on the medical student side with all the advising I get to do. One of the pleasures that I have is talking to people who bring their problems in, and I can help find a way to take care of those problems.
How did you get here? How did you decide you wanted to be a doctor?
I don’t know. My parents will tell you that I said I wanted to be a doctor early on. I guess I always had this fascination with the body and how it worked. I also spent a fair amount of time in emergency departments and doctors’ offices, so it must have imprinted on me. Then in college, I got really interested in how we get sick. I thought microbiology was awesome. I thought it was so fascinating that a single-celled organism can take down a human. In college, that was the closest I could get to studying to disease, so I was a microbiology major who wanted to do infectious disease as I was applying to medical school. Then [in medical school], I got a C in internal medicine, which was my first C. That was a moment in my life. But what I realized was that I got that grade because I wasn’t that fired up about the subject. And someone told me, “If you want to do infectious disease, that’s a branch of internal medicine, so you should probably be good at it. And you’re not.” So they asked me if I was more interested in the lab side of medicine–more like pathology. And I said no. But I started spending more time in the microbiology lab, which led to me spending time in the surgical pathology lab, which led to me falling in love with surgical pathology, which is now what I do for a living. I don’t do any microbiology anymore. I still think it is cool, but I like it more as a friend.
Now how did I end up as a gynecological pathologist? That’s another story of failure. I wanted a heme-path fellowship and did not get it. It’s a recurring theme in my life that I think I want to do something, and the universe is like “You don’t want that.” I went to my mentor, and he said, “That’s okay. You are better at other stuff like gynecological pathology anyways.” He urged me to apply for a fellowship, and something about the field just clicked. There are so many different tumors and so much variability. Everything works together. I just found it so interesting, and it makes the job interesting. I look back, and I am happy that all of those things happened. It helps me when I am advising students because I had no clue, so I can help the students who also have no clue.
What are your strengths and weakness as a physician?
Let’s start with strengths, so I can think about weaknesses in the background. One of the strengths that a good pathologist exhibits is a very sharp eye for detail. You have to have a very inquisitive mind. I can notice small changes easily, and it drives my wife nuts. It’s the little things that set my brain off. Then wanting to know why or how helps. When you look at 50-60 cases a day, it’s easy to fall for the trap of just doing rapid-fire work without thinking. If you do that, you will miss things and miss diagnoses. So, a good pathologist has to always maintain a high level of vigilance and attention to detail. Those are my strengths due to my interest in surgical pathology. I know that applies to most specialties. I do it with glass slides; they do it with people.
My wife is going to be like, “You don’t ever talk this frankly with me.” The weakness I have is to not take things too seriously as a defense mechanism. I often think that if I don’t take things too seriously, then they aren’t too serious. Yet, what I deal with daily is incredibly serious. So those two states are constantly in conflict with each other. It makes it difficult to look at a case of a 25-year-old that you are going to diagnose cancer in and go home and feel okay at the end of the day. So, I have to have this defense mechanism, but I feel like it detaches me from my patients. And that’s tough. This way, I can go home and be a normal parent and husband, and I avoid being depressed, reserved, and quiet. So, the inability to directly deal with strife is one of my biggest weaknesses. It’s something I struggle with every day. I feel like this is one reason why a lot of doctors have problems outside of work.
What type of cookie would you be, and why?
How do you answer a question like that? I would be a chocolate chip cookie without nuts because that’s the kind that my kids like the most. When I think about cookies, I think about them being happy. It would be nice to make them happy in cookie form. If I had nuts or pecans or something like that, they would hate me, and I’m hypoallergenic this way.