Learn more about Barbara E. McGahey Frain MS,SCT(ASCP), a Cytotechnologist Member of the ASC and our Member Spotlight of the month.
How did you first find out about cytology?
I first learned about cytology at a career fair one evening at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. When then-Program Director Roger Wall explained that each slide was like a mystery and we had to figure out what was going on with the patient, I was hooked!
What drew you to this profession?
My dad, and his dad, were dentists. I worked in my dad’s office summers and Saturday mornings through high school. I wish I had wanted to be a dentist and follow in his footsteps, but the oral cavity and the practice did not intrigue me. I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure what-until I learned about cytology.
Tell us about an interesting case or situation that you have encountered in your practice.
With over thirty years in practice, it is really difficult to choose a single case or situation. One case we recently discussed was the unexpected finding of a low malignant potential ovarian tumor first identified on a Pap test. The patient was in her 30s, we kept seeing psammoma bodies and atypical glandular groupings. Her gynecologist biopsied the endocervix and endometrium, both showed no pathologic findings. The doctor even visited the lab to review the Pap tests (there were several over a two year period) with us at the multi-headed scope. Finally, the patient had a laparotomy and the gynecologist sent us a pelvic washing. It was loaded with the same cells and groupings we had been seeing on the Pap tests. My heart sank, thinking this was a terminal diagnosis for the patient. In true “low malignant potential” footsteps, however, the patient has been alive and disease free for many years after that surgery.
What do you like best about being a cytotechnologist?
Helping patients in ways they will never know about-and the ever changing science behind the cells.
What is the most rewarding thing that has happened to you in cytology?
Traveling with a team assembled by the ASCP to screen a backlog of conventional Paps in Botswana, Africa in 2014 was definitely a career highlight.
What do you value most about your membership in the ASC?
The relationships I’ve made with cytotechnologists, cytotechnology educators, and pathologists are invaluable to me. We’re spread across the country but connected by phone, email, listserve….I know they’re willing to answer a question for me or help tackle a challenge, no matter how big or small. The same can be said about the ASC staff, as well!
Do you have a memory from the ASC that you would like to share?
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many ASC meetings, but I vividly remember my first one-I had never seen so many cytologists in one place, learning so many interesting things together. The poster sessions were amazing to look at; the fast pace of the platform presentations was exciting and the opportunity to hear lectures from the leaders in our field made a huge impression on me.