Road to pathology took him to Mobile
Posted on March 25, 2021 by Lindsay Lyle
Throughout a patient’s diagnostic process, Zan Ahmed, M.D., still heeds the words of his mentor: “evidence-based practice.”
This approach to medicine is part of what attracted Ahmed, a second-year resident in pathology, to his chosen field.
After graduating from Dow International Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan, Ahmed envisioned following a path similar to his fellow medical school graduates, who conventionally pursued careers in internal medicine, surgery or primary care.
Instead, he took on a research instructor position at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He became immersed in learning about chronic constriction injury and the effect the blood-brain barrier plays in administration of therapeutic drugs.
During his time at SUNY, Ahmed came in contact with a pathologist who later became his mentor, Fazlollah Loghmanee, M.D. Under Loghmanee’s tutelage, he witnessed an autopsy for the first time.
“I remember leaning over the dissection table and inspecting an individual’s heart first-hand, appreciating findings I had once only seen in textbooks,” Ahmed said. “Connecting these thoughts together energized me more and more. It was these small experiences that fueled an excitement and attraction into the field of pathology.”
Loghmanee often reminded Ahmed of the concept of evidence-based practice. “His words serve as a backbone to me in the diagnostic management of a patient,” Ahmed said.
As a pathologist, Ahmed’s role is to provide visual and nonvisual information about patients through high-complexity testing, assisting physicians to provide personalized healthcare.
“The field of pathology is one that is rapidly expanding, positioned at the crossroads of research and technology innovation,” he said.
While in Buffalo, Ahmed discovered more than his future specialty. He also learned quickly he is not a cold weather person. Having grown up in California, he loved being surrounded by water and the fresh ocean breeze – quite a contrast to Buffalo’s average snowfall of 95 inches a year.
Ahmed started researching pathology residency programs in warmer climates. “I was intrigued with finding an institution not too large where I would not be able to balance an efficient time learning about each case, but not too small where the potential exposure to a variety of pathologies could be lacking,” he said.
USA Health fit the bill in more ways than one. In addition to Mobile’s mild winter weather, the academic health system provides Ahmed with well-rounded pathology training and education.
As part of that training, resident physicians in the pathology department are tasked with curating, developing and executing quality improvement projects. One opportunity for improvement they identified relates to the labeling of collection tubes entering the core chemistry laboratory. The goal is to generate lab reports in a timely manner by improving the turnaround time of samples run on the analyzer machines.
While working on the project, Ahmed received an email from the Office of Graduate Medical Education about an opportunity to apply for a position on a new committee – the Housestaff Quality and Safety Council. Ahmed joined the newly formed council, composed of a unique group of professionals with shared interests and goals to improve healthcare outcomes and decrease patient safety adverse events.
“The council has been a phenomenal addition to our institution and provides a vessel for those interested in executing quality improvement projects that may appear out of reach,” he said. “The council is a bridge between hospital administration and healthcare providers.”
Currently, Ahmed is involved with quality improvement projects regarding collection tube labeling, microbiology specimen packaging, utilization of blood products, and mitigating waste from improper handling of blood components.
Ahmed said the goal for the council is to have representation from all levels of the health system, including residents and fellows. If residents are interested in joining or have a project they would like to coordinate, they can reach out to the council's chair, radiology resident Jaspreet Batra, M.D., or any of the representatives on the council.
“Through our council, resident initiatives can be heard and executed,” Ahmed said. “If you have a golden idea for improvement, our team would love to connect with you.”
Although he is involved in numerous projects, Ahmed said maintaining work-life balance is an important aspect of being a resident. When he’s not working, he can be found exploring the outdoors, whether hiking, strolling on the beach, kayaking, or learning how to saltwater fish and source other food from the land. A member of the Mobile Jeep Club, he also enjoys driving his Jeep on trails around the area.
Ahmed said the pathology residency program at USA Health has proven to be the perfect fit for him.
“I am excited to be involved at this level with a like-minded institution,” he said. “Together, the future is bright.”